REVIEW: Uncanny X-Men #508 – 511

Writer: Matt Fraction

Pencils: Greg Land

Inks: Jay Leisten

Publisher: Marvel Comics

I was so looking forward to this. As Fraction’s take on the Marvel’s mutants finally starts to take shape and gains some momentum, he then promises to bring back one of my favourite X-Men of all time, with the return from Exile of Betsy Braddock, aka Psylocke.

Perhaps understandably given these high expectations, the majority of this current storyline has been thoroughly underwhelming. Essentially one big battle, interspersed by some rather outdated spouting off from the villain of the piece, the Red Queen, the first three issues suffered from a lack of cohesion and general pacing. The Sisterhood of Evil Mutants ambush the X-Men at Greymalkin, to steal a lock of Jean Grey’s hair, with the aim re-using the body of the Phoenix for their own nefarious ends.

I honestly do love Fraction’s quirky, contemporary take on the big X-Men family soap-opera (the long-running feud between Cyclops and Wolverine is played out perfectly), but I’m starting to feel that perhaps the cast is just a little too big and unmanageable in terms of developing the key players that the reader can really invest in. Much of Uncanny is so right, and yet as a whole, it isn’t quite delivering in a way that I know it can.

That said, the concluding issue of this four-parter is still packed with its trademark snappy dialogue, suggesting Fraction has finally found his mark with these characters. In fact, everything about this issue is a marked improvement of what has come before, though too little too late to turn this into a memorable X-Men tale. It is still a continuation of the X-Men / Sisterhood face-off, but ok, let’s not build this up to be something its not – it is just a slick, enjoyable, kick-ass kind of throwdown, in the way only Scott, Logan, et al know how. It brought a real teenage excitement back to the X-Men that I haven’t felt in quite a while – and even against the obvious failings of this arc as a whole, that surely has to count for a hell of a lot.

I really don’t want to spend too much time on the art here – I’ve covered most of it myself before in previous UXM reviews. Most of the other online commentaries I’ve seen on this arc have been pretty damning of Greg Land’s pencils, mainly his lack of fluid movement and the rather plastic grins seemingly stuck permanently across the whole cast. While I agree that these are continuing issues, I do actually really enjoy Land’s rather gritty action sequences when he commits to it. Unfortunately, too many times in these issues, where the non-stop fighting should give Land the opportunity to strut his stuff, it all seems to have gone a little awry, and, especially in the previous issue (#510), some of the panels just don’t work at all (which makes me wonder whether the bi-weekly shipping of the book has been too much for the art team). However, #511 is the most consistent of the lot – still the same old Greg Land, but at least he’s near the top of his game.

Overall, the story still suffers from a lack of motivation – at no point is it really clear exactly who or what the Red Queen is, or what brought this particular collection of the Sisterhood together. Presumably, Fraction has kept some of this back for future storylines, but it fails to really generate an air of mystery, instead leaving a gaping hole in the establishment of a fully involving storyline. That said, if you are going to go with a straight-forward super-hero fight sequence, Uncanny #511 does it pretty-close-to-perfectly, and with enough soul about it to rescue what was starting to look like a bit of drab, throw-away arc.

And hey, Psylocke is back.


6.5/10 (Story arc)

8.5/10 (#511)