Uncanny X-Men Issue 534.1

By Vince

Despite being the flagship title for the franchise, Uncanny X-Men has been a bit inconsistent over the past few years. It’s not that Matt Fraction is a bad writer; I’m a fan of his work on Immortal Iron Fist and Invincible Iron Man. There’s just something about this title that doesn’t quite click with his style of writing. Perhaps it’s the ensemble cast or the position the story was in when he took over, but the whole San Francisco era of the X-Men just hasn’t worked for me so far. There have been some highlights, but there have also been some weak stories.

With Issue 531, Kieron Gillen (Generation Hope, Thor) joined Fraction as co-writer for the “Quarantine” storyline. The core story was fun and interesting, but overall the issues were bogged down with having to tie up some of Fraction’s outstanding storylines. Still, there was a noticeable shift in tone once Gillen joined the writing staff. With “Quarantine” done, Fraction has moved off the title to focus on his other work, such as the big Fear Itself miniseries, leaving Gillen as the sole writer for Uncanny.

Gillen’s first solo issue is one of Marvel’s “Point One” issues; stand-alone stories taking place in between the normal numbered issues intended to be “jumping on points” for new readers. Overall, the whole initiative has been a bit of a flop. Of the few issues I’ve read, some of them have been quite good, but didn’t satisfy the “jumping on point” criteria. As great as Invincible Iron Man 500.1 was, a new reader would have no idea what’s going on in issue 501. The only total success I’ve seen so far is Hulk 30.1. It was a damn good issue, and set up the direction of the comic for some time to come.

Uncanny X-Men 534.1 falls somewhere in the middle. It’s a strong issue and, while it may not set anything up for the next story arc, it establishes a solid idea for how Gillen will be writing the title in the future.

The story revolves around the X-Men’s Public Relations specialist, Kate Kildare, and her attempt to make the public feel safe around the mutants when Magneto, a known terrorist, is revealed to be part of the team. I loved it when Fraction brought Magneto to Utopia, especially when he recognized Cyclops as the leader of the mutant race. It was a strong story element, but Magneto has been a bit lost since. Mike Carey is doing great work with him in X-Men Legacy, but I’m glad to see Gillen picking him up for some more development here.

The problem with Magneto is he’s still very much the same person he was before. Though his extremist methods and ideology may have shifted some, he still has the same unforgiving personality. Magneto and public relations go together as well as Wolverine and metal detectors. He would much rather be feared than loved, but fear from normal people is the last thing the X-Men need right now.

Meanwhile, Cyclops, Wolverine and the team are called away on a mission by the mayor of San Francisco. Crooks posing as AIM scientists have been causing small earthquakes to extort money from local companies wishing to protect their interests. However, it turns out they were merely predicting the earthquakes and San Francisco is due for a major jolt, endangering countless lives. At the last minute, the Master of Magnetism steps in to protect the citizens in a stunning display of power.

In one motion, Magneto started down the path of earning the trust of San Francisco’s populace. Slowly, their fear of what he’s capable of will become respect for his power. Nothing will change overnight, but I thought it was a great way to make Magneto more acceptable without compromising his character, something Fraction was never able to do.

Art for this issue is fantastic, with Carlos Pacheo filling in on pencils, since Uncanny‘s regular artist can’t draw two issues in one month. The coloring makes the characters seem a bit too “plastic” at times, but Pacheo nails the character designs and action scenes. Unfortunately, that’s also the worst part of this issue. Pacheo’s art is so nice, it’s a stark contrast to regular artist Greg Land’s normal style of tracing and recycling. Still, Uncanny X-Men‘s writing looks to be in good hands with Gillen and he’s got some interesting stories on the way.

Uncanny X-Men Issue 534.1
Marvel Comics
Story: Kieron Gillen
Art: Carlos Pacheo, Cam Smith, Cam D’Armata

Vince is the self-proclaimed “Massive Nerd.” His interests range from video games and comics to anime and Transformers collectibles.

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