Fraction’s run on Uncanny X-Men in a nutshell: a few interesting story lines woven haphazardly with a few that are pointless, tied together with not-so-great art. The artist this time out is Whilce Portacio, who will draw some nice looking panels along with a lot of indifferent or lousy ones. The strong storylines are the continuing tale of Hope Summers gathering newly activated mutants from around the world (this time she goes to Africa with Storm, leading to some great scenes), and a typically hapless Bobby Drake trying to hire a publicist for the X-Men. The latter story gives the issue its funniest scene, and as a bonus it involves Kate Kildare, a character imported from Fraction’s run on The Order. I think it might be said without exaggeration that I am the biggest Kate Kildare fan in the world, so that was an exciting moment for me. Then we’re back to some convoluted machinations involving Emma Frost, Namor, and Sebastian Shaw (having only read the book on and off, I frankly have no idea what is going on here), and a should-be-funny-but-just-takes-up-space gag of Dazzler and Northstar fighting militant art critics. The book pivots back to awesome, though, when we finally get a conversation between Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde, setting up a story I will definitely want to read next month. X-Men, I wish I knew how to quit you, but that apparently isn’t happening.
I’ve heard people say this was a very B-plot-heavy issue. While I agree in theory, I’m not sure if I’d consider that a criticism. No, I don’t really care about Namor’s political problems, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious to see what happens next with Emma and Shaw. Also, I’ll admit to being a sucker for anything involving scenes between Emma and Kitty.
These are my X-Men. I’ve always loved Matt Fraction’s work, but Uncanny X-Men is a book that seems to eat alive even the best writers, and I’ve been iffy about some of his storytelling choices over the past year. This, however, is Fraction in top form, telling a story about X-Men fighting bad guys, having complicated romantic relationships, bickering with each other, and saving and protecting new mutants around the world — in short, everything the X-Men do best. Add in a surprise appearance by a fantastic, underutilized character from Fraction’s The Order, and you get a book that had me grinning for 23 pages. I only dock points for the art — Whilce Portacio is a veteran penciler, but his work here feels rushed and awkward, with disproportionate anatomy and somewhat-terrifying faces. Otherwise, this book is perfect.
The ‘Storm and Hope find a new mutant who is scared and dangerous’ thing is a bit standard, especially compared to the reveals of the previous two “Five Lights,” but this is a strong issue of UXM nonetheless, continuing its upswing in the wake of Second Coming. And any time you want to toss in a cameo from a member of The Order‘s cast, I’ll be predisposed to be positive about your comic book.