Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Billy Tan
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ed Brubaker kicks off his year-long arc, "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire," with your basic introductory issue: the main players are assembled, the premise of the storyline is revealed, and the ball starts rolling.
Plot-wise, not much happens beyond the set-up. But Brubaker manages to accomplish quite a bit with his cast, so much so that I wonder if part of his agenda was to administer as many correctives as he could within reasonable limits. What he does here is strip away the more excessively ludicrous developments to order to make Polaris sane, Havok competent, and Rachel's power levels consistent. What's more there's not a single hairy Canadian in sight. It makes the whole bunch slightly less cartoonish, definitely a good thing if we're expected to take them seriously. We're also reminded that these X-Men have all made mistakes in the past, not unlike Xavier himself, and that gives the whole group a sense of cohesion: they all want a second chance.
The interplay between teammates really drives this issue. Nightcrawler's profession of loyalty to Xavier ("you will always be the man who saved my life") makes a nice counterbalance to the closing scene of Deadly Genesis. Reintroducing Warpath is also an interesting move, given that James Proudstar has better reason than most to hold a grudge against the Professor. Brubaker once again demonstrates the proper way to use continuity: it's clear that there's a history between these various heroes, but there's no need to actively revisit the past (or force the reader to do so) in order to understand those connections.
I never would've thought a writer who specialized in the urban crime genre (Catwoman, The Fall) could pull off an X-Men story so well. But "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire" is off to an excellent start, with a mix of well-paced action and solid characterization. If consistency is maintained, this could shape up to be one of the better runs of Uncanny X-Men in recent memory.
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