Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker (Writers), Greg Land (Pencils), Jay Leisten (Inker), and Justin Ponsor (Colorist)

I was pretty hard on the 500th issue, but, as an X-fan, I couldn’t help but look forward to the next one. Now that I’ve read it… well let’s just say that it left me feeling more than a bit torn. On the one hand it is a much better, more enjoyable read than #500. On the other hand, a lot of the same flaws exist and a few new ones show up as well.

Story wise, not a whole lot actually happens in Uncanny X-Men #501. Considering how many plot seeds were planted with the debut of the new creative team, it was surprising to find them largely ignored here. Instead, the story focuses on continuing to establish the new X-Men mindset while introducing a new mutant hating threat, The Hellfire Cult (seen briefly last issue). The whole thing strikes a nice balance between lighthearted fun and the serious threat at hand. While I wish there was a bit more story progression in the book, I am satisfied with the direction this arc is taking. The Hellfire Cult beating that kicks things off is brutally effective and I look forward to seeing the repercussions.

I am happy to report that it looks as though Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker have found their footing after the fairly shaky start. While the storyline at hand is nothing particularly original or exciting (so far), the tone works extremely well. The breath of fresh air the X-Men feel is well conveyed and it seems as though the characters are in good hands. Worth noting also is how impressively the developments in Cable #6 are seamlessly weaved into the issue. However, my biggest concern (writing wise) is that there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly unique on the horizon. The plot elements introduced in 500 did little to excite me and this first arc looks to be a fairly generic (though entertaining) anti-mutant tale. While I would love for Fraction and Brubaker to prove me wrong, they will need to work a bit to make this arc truly memorable.

I don’t really know what I can say about the art. Jay Leisten’s inks are well done, and Justin Ponsor’s colors really impressed me (especially when they were for Pixie), but with pencils done by Greg Land, you know what you are getting. Land’s work is extremely divisive for good reason and, personally, it really isn’t my thing. Characters look inconsistent, action looks stiff, and his “method” is clear as day. (Anyone know which pitcher he used for the shot of Wolverine throwing a beer?) It’s a nice looking book as a whole, but Land’s style just doesn’t do it for me.

I’m really worried about the Uncanny series following the disappointing milestone issue, but things look to be on the right track. Maybe this series could be one of those that’s best taken a step at a time. As for this step, I liked it. (Grade: C+)

-Kyle Posluszny

A Second Opinion

I really agree with Kyle here. Overall it’s not terrible, but it doesn’t wow you either. For me it’s a “results versus expectations” thing. With the exception of Greg Land (who I also dislike) everyone on the creative team is pretty elite. So when we get a generic story it’s all the more disappointing. Yes, the world is still full of people who hate and fear them, but Cyclops isn’t doing anyone any favors by having Wolverine take a hostage at the end of the book. I’m not saying I’d do something different, just that it’s not helping the cause.

My biggest gripe is the little description we get of each X-man. It’s a quick thing about their powers and maybe a joke, but it’s just distracting. It’s similar to what they do on Burn Notice when introducing a new character, but unlike Burn Notice we know who these people are. Aside from the intros, the writing is solid, but as Kyle pointed out, it’s hard to see where it’s going. Maybe Captain America has spoiled me, but I’m just expecting more twists and turns with Ed Brubaker involved. It may be something that ends incredibly well, but two issues in, it’s hard to see any long term plans. #501 a step up from the disappointing 500th bonanza for sure, but not enough to ease my concerns. (Grade: C)

-Ben Berger

A Third Opinion

You are Comic Nerd, on your way home from what you laughingly call a job. You’re tired, body and soul, but you swing by the comic store and pull the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men from the shelves. More’s the pity, because Fraction and Brubaker—normally sober, serious writers—have chosen to narrate the book in the hyperbolic style of Chris Claremont.

In the 80’s Claremont was the best there was, in the 90’s he still had a few tricks up his sleeve, but now the forced nonchalance, the non-stop intensity, and that goofy phrasing make you want to rabbit back to your hidey-hole and pull the dirt in after you.

The story starts at night, as stories often do. Pixie gets jumped and beaten up by a gang of skin-head mutant haters in Hellfire Club masks. Then the X-Men talk. And talk. And talk. Finally, towards the end of the book, you finally get to meet the person leading the skinheads. Is it Hate-Monger? Psycho-Man? Tyler Durden? No, it’s some floozy in a black leather mask carrying a whip and calling herself the Red Queen, and you think, “Ugh. I thought we were done with the dominatrix fetish when Byrne left the book.” It’s a train wreck, pure and simple.

In your heart of hearts, you know you’re being unfair; the Claremontisms are actually kind of fun, and the story might be the start of something good, eventually, but there’s really not much else to say about this book, unless you criticize Greg Land’s art, in which every single character looks like a super-model having an orgasm in every single panel.

You wonder if you should buy the comic, holding it until your hand become like unto a thing of iron! And then you put the damn thing back, and walk away.

At least you’re still alive. (Grade: C+)

– Andrew C. Murphy