Uncanny X-Men #442 Review

Reviewer: Ben Morse
Story Title: “Of Darkest Nights: Part 1”

Written by: Chuck Austen
Penciled by: Salvador Larocca
Inked by: Danny Miki
Colored by: UDON
Lettered by: Rus Wooton
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Say what you will about Chuck Austen…that he has no grasp of continuity, that his original villains are hackneyed, that his characters exclaim the weirdest things…all these things hold some water, but give the devil his due: when the man is on he writes some powerful, emotional stories. Much as Scott Lobdell was given the task of cleaning house before the Grant Morrison X-takeover of 2001, Austen has been charged with wiping clean the slate before Reload next month in two separate two-part arcs running in Uncanny X-Men and New X-Men. The Uncanny arc deals primarily with Professor X, along with Wolverine heading to Genosha to bury Magneto. The first part of that story fell somewhere between Austen’s best stuff and his worst, but further to the first end.

“Planet X” and “Here Comes Tomorrow” were big epic arcs that those who loved the Morrison era loved (having split on his work on the book, unsurprisingly, I was split on the arcs; liked some parts, not others). They were also very self-contained and open-ended, leaving plenty of questions for other writers to address. Austen is the first to attempt to take on the landscape Morrison has left and I applaud him for his bravery in not shying away or ignoring the work his colleague has done.

The main story, with Professor X and Wolverine in Genosha, is blunt and powerful in its assessment of Magneto and the damage he has wrought. Is Wolverine necessarily behaving in continuity as far as his feelings on what has gone down? Probably not, but I think Logan is intended more to be a counterpoint to Charles, who is mourning his friend at what many would consider an inappropriate time and in the wrong circumstances, than Wolverine the character. In this sense, he does a good job; his personal connection to Jean Grey does enough to justify that this doesn’t seem like the Wolverine of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men.

The guest appearances within this issue are kept to a minimum, but all pack a punch and really hammer home the events of “Planet X” as having had the devastating effect on the Marvel Universe that many complained weren’t demonstrated during the arc itself due to its self-contained nature. I love Austen’s Juggernaut and his scene in this issue is another winner. Also, for all the (perhaps justified) heat Austen has gotten over his portrayal of Polaris, at the very least he is doing something interesting with her and changing her place in the larger Marvel Universe in a big way.

The art is gorgeous. It’s Salvador Larocca, so I wasn’t really expecting crappy doodles, but honestly, I think this and the issue of New X-Men that came out in tandem with it represent his strongest work since he left X-Treme X-Men. He seems to be getting comfortable with the characters and the rest of the art team; provided his run isn’t cut short, this guy could be a Jim Lee level star within a couple years.

The issue is not perfect by any means, but rather than waste my time nitpicking at flaws, I prefer to enjoy the strong and gutsy effort put forth.