by Matt Fraction (writer), Greg Land (pencils), Justin Ponsor (colors) and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Cyclops struggles to deal with the day-to-day running of Nation X and tensions form between its leaders.

What’s Good: While it’s not always the most exciting thing to read, I do like it when comics focus on the logistics or common sense difficulties.  That Fraction actually has Cyclops grapple with the physical problems of establishing Utopia, explaining how the place gets its water and electricity and, hopefully, its food and medical supplies, is very much appreciated, as this is the sort of thing that could have easily been glossed over.  I honestly feel that paying heed to little issues like this ultimately make for a smarter comic.

There’s even a couple of alternately touching and interesting scenes involving what to do with the dead and the imprisoned; with the latter bringing back a Whedon-created character in a bit of a surprise, and the former working well through an odd balance between the touching and the pragmatic.

Much of this issue is spent on characterization through a series of conversations, all of which are fairly strong and do a good job of establishing roles for the characters in the story arc to come.  The dialogue felt intelligent, necessary, and logical.   Scott discussing his own weaknesses and vulnerability felt human and true to the character.  Emma revealing what the sliver of the Void is doing to her personality was also quite intriguing and very promising story-wise.

All in all, when this comic focuses on dialogue, it’s actually pretty good.  This issue makes for engaging character moments, new tensions, and interesting interpersonal dynamics.

What’s Not So Good: Greg Land.  While this isn’t the greatest catastrophe he’s ever drawn (thanks mostly to Fraction having most of the issue spent in quiet dialogue between level-headed characters), it’s still bad.  While it’s not his worst, Land’s trademarks are all here.  Static poses remain, as do Land’s poorly plotted action scenes.  There’s a frame early in the book depicting a kung-fu speedster that I still don’t understand.  The action scene, while again, not his worst, is more of a collection of single images than a flow.

Then there’s the old Land problem with faces.  As always, the man just can’t handle it whenever a character, particularly if female, has a strong emotion.  For instance, an exasperated Sinclair clutching her head ends up looking like a woman in pure sexual bliss tossing her hair back in Herbal Essences-fueled ecstasy. Whenever a character has a reason to dramatically change facial expression, Land misses the mark by a mile.

He’s also, dare I say, slacking off.   A lot of times, I noticed blank slates of color where a little more detail or shading could’ve been used.  For example, many of the female faces seem to have freakishly high cheekbones due to their faces essentially being two slabs of peach color.  A smiling Psylocke also has none of her teeth distinguished.  Land cuts corners on the little things detail-wise and hopes we won’t notice if he slaps on enough gloss.

Writing-wise, I’m still not digging Fraction’s Xavier, whose voice sounds too young and hip.  Also, though this issue does what needs to be done, this also leads to its being  pretty much all set-up, with an out-of-nowhere cliffhanger.

Conclusion: A fairly good issue with Greg Land drawing it.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans