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Uncanny X-Men #500 – Review

By Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction (Writers), Greg Land and Terry Dodson (Pencilers), Jay Leisten and Rachel Dodson (Inkers), and Justin Ponsor (Colorist)

I confess myself unimpressed. While Uncanny X-Men #500 provides for an entertaining read, it is no where near as good as it should have been for such a landmark issue. If nothing else, it felt like your average (though slightly longer) set-up to start a story arc. After two brief prologues which I’m sure will have importance sometime in the future, we are given a tour of the new X-Men complex through the eyes of San Francisco’s mayor. While this was informative, it certainly didn’t seem necessary, it could have easily been a back-up feature somewhere else and not taken up precious page space of the milestone #500.

About a quarter of the way in, the plot finally develops as we see the return of two long-time X-Men nemeses. While this seems interesting at first, the manner of their return is quickly revealed by some quick detective thinking on the part of the X-Men. (Anyone else instantly reminded of old sleuth shows like Scooby-Doo in this scene?) The confrontation between the team and their old foe might be somewhat entertaining, but for the most part it seems to lack depth. It’s a pointless fight and there isn’t much motivation to spur it on except for, “it’s a bad guy, let’s fight!”

After this quarrel, the X-Men send out a message to all mutants that San Francisco is now a safe haven for all their kind and their allies. While I’m guessing this is supposed to be some long-awaited positive experience for the X-Men, does anyone else think this new status quo just feels too happy? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind optimistic storylines, and I’m a sucker for happy endings, but it seems that everything is too perfect right now. I’m hoping that Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction are just establishing something that is going to be interfered with soon( to show the dichotomy between the two), otherwise this mutant near-utopia could get old fast.

As the issue ends, we get a few more teasers as various villainous are characters introduced. But all-in-all, this is nothing but set-up for what is to come. The question is, is the set-up intriguing? In my opinion, not really. I already read Uncanny simply because it is one of Marvel’s flagship titles, but if I wasn’t already reading it, I wouldn’t find this issue compelling enough to read into #501.

The art seems to follow the trend of the story and it certainly isn’t bad. The action is well conveyed, the various characters look lifelike and unique, backgrounds are usually filled, etc. It’s just that the art isn’t overly memorable either. I’ll never be disappointed to hear that Greg Land and Terry Dodson are teaming up on a project, but if this issue is any indication, I’ll never be overly excited either.

Looking back, this seems a very negative review, but that is not how it’s intended. There really isn’t much wrong with this issue. Mostly, I’m just severely disappointed that #500 feels more like just another Uncanny issue instead of more, well, epic. (Grade: C+)

-M. Staples

A Second Opinion

As a San Franciscan, I have one question: Why is San Francisco’s mayor a woman? Why didn’t they use the most progressive, and most high profile mayor in the country with Gavin Newsome? Makes no sense. That said, this issue is boring as hell.

As the landmark 500th issue, I was expecting a big change for the team. Sure, moving to San Francisco is a start, but if anyone’s read previous Uncanny issues or Astonishing X-Men #25, this is old news. With the X-Men making their mark and announcing to mutant-kind that San Francisco is now a safe haven, I’m sure we’ll see a bolstering of the population. Of course with that will come problems (like evil mutants). That’s what’s being set up here and it’s all too easy to predict. The introduction of the “Sentinels as art” is a stupid plot device that anyone (with half a brain) will see coming. Magneto’s appearance is painfully forced, but even more forced is the conflict that erupts. This battle (if you want to call it that) is disjointed, sloppy, and horribly orchestrated. Having two artists (one with talent and one without) switching off pages doesn’t help either.

Greg Land’s art continues to suck. Emma Frost sometimes looks like Tricia Helfer, then Cameron Diaz, and so on. His panel work is a complete mess and his field of depth is non-existant. Terry Dodson does the best he can, and his art is the only factor that seems to have any semblance of the word competence in this issue. But even fans of Dodson’s art will be disappointed when they turn the page only to be hit by a grueling series of photo-traced spewage by Greg Land.

If Uncanny X-Men #500 is any indication of what’s to come with the X-Men, I want off this train. Oh wait, I stopped buying this series months ago. Thanks for reminding me, guys.

Just horrible. (Grade: F+)

- J. Montes

A Third Opinion

After months of hype, the 500th issue of Uncanny X-Men is finally here and, to be honest, I’m quite disappointed. I expected something fresh and new, but instead what I got was something that felt comfortable and familiar. While that works to an extent, as part of the issue does have a “classic” feel to it, I can’t help but feel that this milestone issue should have been so much more.

Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker are two of the best writers in the industry, but you wouldn’t really know it from their Uncanny debut. While the dialogue and storytelling isn’t bad in any way, it did little to get me excited about the “new” direction the series is taking. I understand the necessary evils of having to establish a new status quo (one that isn’t all that new anymore as Jay explains above), but couldn’t they have saved some of the more unnecessary parts of this process for a less important issue? Also, I must mention that the set up for the overarching plot is nothing that would have hooked me had I been a new reader. I am interested in where this story will eventually go (as an X-Men fan) and have confidence that Fraction and Brubaker will bring the goods, but this issue was a pretty boring way to start things off.

As for the art, Jason pretty much covered it all. I would like to add a mention about how creepy the faceless characters look in some of Land’s panels. I understand that detail needs to be sacrificed when a panel is small, but at least put something there to at least try to show that the person isn’t a faceless creature (or a member of the Dynamo 5). Also, I am pretty sure the chest area of Emma’s costume changes throughout the issue. Terry Dodson’s work looks nice enough, but it can’t do the heavy lifting necessary to elevate the issue as a whole.

Simply put, Uncanny X-Men #500 is not the issue that it should have been. The story is average at best, the art is either awful or decent (depending on the page/artist), and it’s too early to tell if there is much potential in the arc being set up. What a letdown… (Grade D+)

-Kyle Posluszny

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3 Responses

  1. I strongly disagree that this issue is nothing but set-up. The Magneto fight was brilliant – sure, it contributes to a wider plot, but it’s complete fight in and of itself.

    I have to say, I also find a degree of optimism in the story both welcome and realistic – as of Messiah Complex, the X-Men and Mutantkind have hope that there’s a future for them again – it’s no surprise things are looking less grim than they have for a few years!

  2. [...] on the wrong foot if the set up (a necessary evil) isn’t sufficiently compelling (check out Uncanny X-Men #500 for proof). I mention this because I feel that Broken Trinity #1 is a great example of how to [...]

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