Editor's Note: Uncanny X-Men #499 arrives in stores tomorrow, June 25.
As we reach the end of yet another era in the X-universe, with the disbanded X-Men beginning to pull themselves back together for the momentus 500th issue, we are treated to one of the things that made the X-Men so popular in the first place: lots of action with flashy powers and clever banter. Honestly, while the "outcasts protecting a world that hates them" is a great ideal to follow for the book, one of the things I have always loved about the X-Men was that you could do almost anything with the roster in terms of powers, which usually ends with you having a pretty good time in the action sequences. In this one book we some of the classic X-Men, many of the international X-Men reincarnation, and some from the newest members to join Marvel's merry mutants. This provides the reader with an implicit overview of how far the team has come and how it has evolved, and I am pretty sure that this was one of the reasons the characters in the story were chosen. They not only represent the current and past X-Men, but I am sure that many of these people will play key roles in the near future.
There are two story arcs that are coming to a close. First is the mysterious hippy party going on in San Francisco. I have to admit, this storyline kind of tickled me. It is the kind of ridiculous thing that you can get away with in very few mediums. All the people in San Francisco are hippies. This happened because of Lady Mastermind, for no other reason than she wanted the attention. That kind of gave me a smile. No sinister motives, no taking over the world: she just wanted to do it. A great move by Brubaker given that way too much has been dark and dreary in the X-universe lately.
This story proceeds as one might expect; Mastermind sends out the X-hippies to take out Emma and Scott*. Exceptionally rendered action sequences flow in this story line, with good relationship style banter between Scott and Emma. I particularly liked the moment where Emma asks Scott if Warpath is indestructible or not and he also can't remember. This is a cute moment and a bit of a parting shot at the constantly evolving mutant community that is present in comics these days. This reader is waiting for the "tertiary" mutations to make an appearance soon the way things are going. Credit needs to be given to the art team who rendered the entire sequence of panels for this story in glorious detail. Characters look distinct, with the costumes from the hippy era being as distinct as X-Men costumes. I particularly like the way the colourist did Emma Frost's diamond form, which is less blue and more colourless and transparent. I would like to reiterate that Mike Choi and Ben Oliver turn in the most gorgeous sketches of Emma we have had recently. She is sexy and scantily dressed, but she has a unique elegance about her in this book. Kudos to everyone for the transformation scenes when the illusion of the 60s fades. It was extremely convincing, and you could almost see this on a movie screen in motion.
The other story involves Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler trying to escape a Russian prison. No one really seems to know why they are there, nor is this ever really established. They do encounter Omega Red who seems to talk about experiments and the like; however, even though Colossus was particularly enraged about what was going on in mother Russia, he did not seem to care by the end of the book. He and his two pals pick up and take off after vanquishing Omega Red. They didn't really follow up on what was going on in the prison. Perhaps there was nothing to investigate, but this just seemed unfinished to me.
This storyline once again depicts the comraderie between these three X-Men. And aside from Colossus once again acting like a bit of a boob during the fight (I mean really ... how many times do you have to fight Omega Red before you remember that he can drain energy from you?), the action sequences remind you of the old days when they first joined the X-Men together. This is the second time, the first being in the "Messiah Complex" storyline, where Brubaker has recaptured the fun flair of Nightcrawler, the brutishness of Colossus and the methodical warrior that's Wolverine. And he did it all, with the help of the art team, without massive gore (a la the current Wolverine title). Brubaker and the art team need to be held up as examples of how to do writing and art with action without turning it into mindless violence.
The book in itself does not tread new ground; it is pretty standard stuff. However, it is one of the more fun books I have read recently, with a good pace and a fun narrative line throughout. Gorgeous art and spot on characterizations raise this book beyond the mediocre into an excellent example of how good the X-titles can be.
*Interestingly I typed Jean and Scott in my first draft without realizing it. This can be seen as a compliment to the writing team for recreating the old-school X-Men comic dynamic in this issue. Of course, it might also mean that it is time to bring Jean back from the dead.
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