Uncanny X-Men #516 review

The X-Men have renamed Magneto’s downed Asteroid M, now floating off San Francisco, Utopia. ‘This is our homeland now people. And we treat it as such’ says Scott Summers, Cyclops, as he has his lackeys prepare arms. Subtle.

Why Scott is so keen to gather all mutants on a crap old rock, with no shops, multiplexes or baseball pitches, I have no idea. The notion seems isolationist to me, the type of idea that would appeal to an evil mutant.

And here’s one now, it’s Magneto, floating down from on high. He comes in peace. Allegedly. Professor X doesn’t trust him for a minute. Then Magneto kneels before Cyclops. Talk about overplaying your hand. But Cyclops bloody loves it, as Magneto flatters him with silver tongue, insisting that Scott has succeeded where he and (up)Chuck failed; he’s ‘united the mutant race’.

He has? Aren’t there still loads of evil mutants out there, waiting to attack the good freaks? You know, the ones Scott has been sending X-Force out to murder. Cyclops seems convinced by Magneto’s words, though. Mind, he disagrees that mutants should now settle down on their scabby bit of land and die peacefully – Cyke reckons there’s hope because of, well, Hope, the ginger mite who might have Jean in her genes.

Have I told you lately that I loathe Scott? The man is an idiot and proves it again here, in giving Magneto – the fella who has tried to kill him dozens of times – a minute’s credence. Yes, Professor X is a jerk, but he’s obviously taught Scott well. And obnoxious as he is, Charles is wise to not trust Magneto for a second.

While Magneto hides behind a cloak of friendliness, there’s a more honest bad guy this issue. I don’t know who he is, though – writer Matt Fraction never deigns to introduce him. Maybe there’s meant to be a mystery, but I suspect it’s more forgetfulness, or the assumption that no one will be reading this book who hasn’t been reading it forever. Unknown is holding a hairy chap captive and on their sixth page together we learn this is a mutant – ‘John Greycrow aka John Riverwind aka Scalphunter’ (you think that’s bad? Magneto is introduced as ‘Max Eisenhardt aka Erik Lehnsherr aka Magnus aka Magneto, the Master of Magnetism’). We’re not told what his power is, or given any idea as to how he fits into the X-universe, which makes me miss Chris Claremont. He was wordy, but you always know where people were with him.

And he wouldn’t have Nightcrawler able to teleport, sight unseen, into a moving plane three miles away. Tut. The fuzzy elf is trying to find out what the rapidly approaching Scalphunter is up to. He claims he wants sanctuary, but why should Cyclops trust him? It’s not like he’s a mutant master of magnetism who’s tried to murder him all his adult life.

Annoying as I found much of Fraction’s script he did give me a smile with Scott’s line before Magneto turned on the smarm: ‘X-Men – Fan out and execute close combat Magneto tactics . . .’ Why this didn’t get a sarcy response from Emma Frost I’ll never know. Possibly because she seems to be mute this issue – always at Scott’s side, never speaking, never counselling, never bitching. The Beast is similarly silent, standing around as Scott tells Charles to shut the X up. Ditto Wolverine, who finally gets a bit player’s line towards the end of the issue. Psylocke gets to say ‘As you wish’ but while her arse and tits are prominent, we never see her actual face.

It’s ridiculous that X-Men with the standing, and personalities, of these characters apparently have no opinion on Magneto’s assertions of friendship. There’s no way in the world a couple of dozen mutants would stand back as Scott and Charles have a pissing match over Magneto.

When he’s not randomly posing attractive women, penciller Greg Land’s work, inked by Jay Leisten, is effective. Every time a bit of flashy drama, such as Nightcrawler bamfing, or Scott’s optic fizzing, is called for he remembers he’s a good superhero artist and delivers dynamic work. And Land’s not actually bad at all in the interminable chatty scenes. If only he’d stop the occasional cheesy compositions . . . Justin Ponsor deserves huge credit for a beautiful colouring assignment – darkly moody when we’re with, er, that villainous fellow and his unspeaking, unnamed colleagues, and wonderfully bright for the X-Men’s very own Paradise Island. Never has Magneto looked so perfectly pink.

So that’s part 1 of Nation X, the latest X-Men arc. If things continue the way they’ve started, don’t expect an arc of triumph.

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