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

The Story: The X-Men attempt to stave off the Predator X attack.

What’s Good: This is an action comic, pure and simple and in that capacity, it delivers; it’s big, bloody, and explosive.

Better still, Matt Fraction makes the most of the fact that it’s a team based action comic.  One really gets a sense of strategy in the X-Men’s dealing with the Predator Xs.  Abilities are used in perfect concert and the X-Men feel like a well-trained, well-oiled machine.  Multi-level, cooperative strategy is employed as the mutants essentially combine and chain each other’s abilities in a sort of cooperative harmony that was clearly quite well thought out by Fraction.

Taking this perhaps a little more literally is Fraction’s use of Rogue.  He uses her power absorption ability to synchronize X-Men mutant abilities, allowing him to essentially play a cool and creative game of mix and match with mutant powers.

While action-based, the issue is nonetheless not without development.  A very interesting Phoenix-related occurrence happens with respect to the Cuckoos that is foreboding and is sure to pay dividends at a later date.  Furthermore, the last page of the book is similarly intriguing, as we get a look at Danger’s idea of a prison.  Those who have read William Gibson’s foundational cyberpunk novel “Neuromancer” will probably get a kick out of the scene.

On art, Greg Land actually acquits himself quite well, particularly for his often-weak standards.  While certain female faces do lack detail or appear a little awkwardly photo-referenced, there aren’t any real catastrophes this month.  Compliments are due, however, for Land’s drawings of the Predator X monstrosities, which look horrifyingly savage and distinctly alien.  That last page with Danger was also quite beautiful.

What’s Not So Good: While the use of teamwork in harmonizing abilities and employing strategy was impressive, that doesn’t change the fact that this is just one big, extended action scene across 21 pages.  In other words, it’s hard not read this without realizing that while you’re entertained, the book nonetheless feels strangely hollow, shallow even.  Indeed, this is mainstream comics at its most popcorn superficial, the sort of book that the indie comic fan no doubt points to in horror.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it also means that the book doesn’t summon any sort of emotion beyond the base-level amusement that comes with reading a good action scene.  It’s not a smart read in the slightest, nor is it a dense one, though it is enjoyable for what it is.

Also, some of Fraction’s voices are still off.   He struggles with Rogue’s colloquial accent, for starters.  At times it disappears altogether or is at least very minimal, while at other times, she sounds like a painfully exaggerated hillbilly.  Fraction can’t seem to find a middle ground, nor can he find consistency.

Magneto’s voice also feels problematic this month and reminds me of Fraction’s struggles to write Xavier’s voice in past issues.  At times, Magneto just sounds too young, hip, and catchy, particularly with his battle banter.  Worse still, in a later scene, he goes back to the more aged, formal tone we saw last month.  Like Rogue, not only is the voice problematic in itself, but it also lacks consistency.

Conclusion: Enjoyable for what it is, this issue still feels a little thin due to its not striving to be anything more.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans