Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Greg Land and Jay Leisten
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?
While I can't give too much away, there's certainly some flaws in Uncanny X-Men #521 -- but Matt Fraction more than makes up for it with probably the best final page of a comic I've seen in a long, long time. Ultimately, a story is only as strong as its ending, and that's enough to let this book punch about its weight class.
In terms of long-term plotting, while the issue may have been spoiled for some of you, it's clear that Fraction knows what he's doing in that regard. In a lot of ways, the interaction between characters in the Utopia scenes is my favorite parts of the book, only because it is world-building in a very literal way. Who would have thought that diplomacy between Utopia and Atlantis could be so interesting?
But what about the rest of the content? Pitting the X-Men against a cabal of techno-enhanced mutants is okay, but doesn't really give Fraction any time to give each hero a moment of characterization -- instead, Fantomex steals the show in a way that I'm still conflicted over. On the one hand, if it plays out as straight as it read, the uber-assassin's inclusion to the team is actually kind of endearing; on the other hand, both the overall threat and Fantomex's method of dispatching it feels a little weak.
Greg Land, meanwhile, still has his hits and misses. There's one page of Wolverine slashing his way through his enemies that just looks fantastic, and the last page looks welcomingly familiar to another seminal X-artist. But perhaps the most egregious thing about his work in this issue is that he doesn't really convey the crazy powers of the X-Men's foes, so the fight seems surprisingly milquetoast. And while in the past I've found the allegations of "porno-shopping" in Land's work a little unfair and over-the-top, there's one page in particular -- with Wolverine about to claw a woman who for some reason is bent out in front of him -- that really lended credence to this theory, and at the very least pulled me out of the story completely for a moment or two.
In other words, this issue of Uncanny X-Men isn't without its warts, with some art issues and an already dated H1N1-related threat certainly hobbling the book. But that said, the pros do outweigh the cons -- if you like the concept of Utopia, this is pretty good. If you like Fantomex, this'll be right up your alley. If you're interested in one heck of a cliffhanger -- one that will likely make certain fans cheer -- you'll totally dig this issue. If endings are everything, let's just say that Matt Fraction has proven, if nothing else, that you can sell a book with one page alone.