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Uncanny X-Men #543 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen (writer), Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks), Justin Ponsor (colors), Joe Caramagna (letters), Jordan D. White (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (associate editor) & Nick Lowe (editor)

The Story: Fear Itself-bedazzled Juggernaut battles the new champion of Cyttorak.

What’s Good: It was kinda fun to watch Colossus beat down Juggernaut.  There’s gotta be a lot of penned-up frustration in the big Russian from all the beatings he’s endured from Juggernaut’s fists.  Even Greg Land did a pretty nice job of capturing these two behemoths smashing the crap outta each other.  That’s really the one cool thing that happened in this issue and it was cool enough to make up for a lot of the other stuff that was annoying.

What Wasn’t AsGgood: Let’s just make a list….

  • Greg Land’s art: I don’t care if it is a broken record.  He should have more professional pride as an artist than to continue turning in these pages where every woman looks the same AND where he has ~3 facial expressions for women that will be used regardless of what is going on in the comic.  Combine that with all the out of place smiles from Cyclops (because men also have a limited selection of expressions) and it is just annoying as hell.  The editors should be ashamed to put their names on this book because I don’t think you can call yourself an editor and allow that kind of lazy art to continue.  And Gillen needs to be more aware of Land’s limitations.  Working with Greg Land is a handicap, so much like a one-legged man shouldn’t be challenging people to foot-races, writers working with Land need to limit the number of female characters in the story and definitely must refrain from using multiple blond women.  You can have ONE from the list of Emma, Illyana, Dazzler, etc., but not more than that.
  • The Namor-Emma kiss: Ugh….  I really don’t like romance in my X-comics.  I’m not anti-romance because I DO like that angle in a Spider-man story, but I don’t want it in my mutant comics.  Your mileage may vary.  And, if we do have to have romance, I just don’t think it works to have Emma be conflicted emotionally.  She’s sure of herself, dammit.  If she wanted Namor, she’d just ditch Cyclops and go with Namor, not give into a kiss in a moment of weakness like she is a confused housewife who doesn’t get enough attention from her husband.
  • The Kitty-Peter drama: I get it, they’re not fated to be together.  First Peter was dead.  Then he came back and they got together for real as adults.  Then Kitty was stuck on a bullet.  Then she came back, but was intangible.  Now, she just get’s tangible and Peter has made himself the champion of Cyttorak.  Sigh…won’t they every be together????  Who cares!  It would be more interesting to see a writer tackle their time together than keep coming up with ways to yank them apart.
  • The way Cyclops treats the mayor of San Francisco.  I’m actually rereading the early part of Matt Fraction’s run and there are a few scenes there that made it pretty clear that Cyclops was willing to leave town rather than endanger SF.  So, why the huffiness with the major now?

These don’t really combine to make it a dreadful issue, but they are annoying plot points that makes me a little more worried about where Gillen wants to take us.

Conclusion: Any issue drawn by Greg Land is going to have trouble getting a good grade because it loses a full letter grade immediately.  Gillen does a bunch of little things that I don’t like and one big thing that kicks ass.  I guess that averages out….

Grade: D

- Dean Stell

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11 Responses

  1. Dean Stell: “Working with Greg Land is a handicap, so much like a one-legged man shouldn’t be challenging people to foot-races, writers working with Land need to limit the number of female characters in the story and definitely must refrain from using multiple blond women.”

    Um, what?

    No disrespect intended, Mr. Stell, but that’s backwards. The writer should write he/she thinks is a good story and will engage the readers. It is the artist who needs to cater their art to the STORY. Not the other way around. Any comics artist should be able to draw multiple women who have the same hair color in the same story with some distinction among each of them. If he can’t, then he has no business being a professional comics artist.

    • Two things…. One, you’re absolutely wrong that writers shouldn’t consider the talents of the artists when scripting. The point is to have the best package for the reader and whatever process results in that best package is the way to go.

      The thing with Land is that he’s not going to change. He’s a handicap. Honestly, I wish he wasn’t drawing comics that I want to read because I don’t like his limited art. BUT….he’s also a known quantity. It doesn’t make sense to give him a script that he won’t execute on.

      • “One, you’re absolutely wrong that writers shouldn’t consider the talents of the artists when scripting.”

        Well, I would be, if I actually said that. :-)

        Of course writers should consider their artists’ abilities. But there’s a huge difference between considering the talents of the artist when scripting and being so limited by an artist’s ineptitude that a writer who wants to a write a particular story is essentially straightjacketed from doing so. Each time new artists came onto “The Incredible Hulk” during Peter David’s run as writer, David,would ask the artist what they liked to draw, and he would then try to come up with stories that incorporated those elements. This was a testament to his versatility, and his generosity as a collaborator, and it didn’t derail the long-term, overarching plans that David had for the Hulk. But if a writer envisions a good story that requires several female characters, and the artist’s lack of skill requires him to use only one, that’s not considering the artist’s abilities, that’s having one’s vision COMPROMISED by them, and that’s a big difference. There’s a big difference between writing a story set in outer space because Gary Frank doesn’t like to draw city buildings, or having fugitive characters acquire a high-tech SHIELD van because Todd McFarlane likes to draw high-tech stuff, and **not having more than one or two females** seen in a book that stars several of them just because the artist is too lazy or incompetent to render them believably.

        The writer should be free to write the story that he/she envisions, and it’s the artist’s job to illustrate it, and for that reason, artists need to be able to draw anything. At the very least, they should be able to draw multiple characters of the same gender. If the artist can’t do this, then it’s the editor’s job, as you yourself mentioned, Mr. Stell, to to the artist to get their shit together and develop that ability, or fire them.

        When aspiring artists like show their submissions around, they’re always told what elements they need to improve on (anatomy, perspective, lighting, foreshortening, clothing, linework, etc.) If an artist told the reviewer that, “Oh, well, I just can’t draw more than one or two females and make them look different”, the reviewer would (hopefully politely) inform the artist that they had better learn to do so, or give up looking for work. Imagine if Dave Gibbons refused to draw the giant squid at the end of “The Watchmen” because he didn’t like drawing animals? Or if Brent Anderson or Tony Moore refused to draw the buildings and cityscapes that feature heavily in “Astro City” and “Ex Machina” because those things were not in their repertoires? Or Steve Dillon the Southwest vistas of “Preacher” because he didn’t know how to make deserts interesting? The idea that Alan Moore, Kurt Busiek, Brian K. Vaughan and Garth Ennis should’ve rewritten those concepts as a result is to put the cart before the horse, and is simply ridiculous.

        If an artist refuses to learn how to draw what the writer scripts, then the editor should fire him, and replace him with someone who will, period.

        • I actually don’t think we’re fundamentally in disagreement. I’m only suggesting that Greg Land get special treatment because the Marvel editors at the time seemed unwilling to remove him from the title. So, if you’re stuck with him as a writer, you might as well try to make lemonade out of lemons. I find Land incredibly frustrating because he actually CAN draw just fine; he just chooses not to. And then I get frustrated by editors who leave him on a title for too long. I actually don’t mind Land in small doses because he does have a decent eye for storytelling, but after several issues you start to notice the same photo-referenced faces over and over….and then you start to see scenes where he compromised the composition of the scene to fit the photo-reference materials he had. It’s just bad stuff.

          It’s funny to revisit this stuff from two years ago. I’d forgotten how incredibly frustrating it was to review Greg Land comics. It just got old crapping on his work every month. I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

          But, it also points out how suboptimal Big 2 superhero comics are. There are a lot of reasons why the writer’s vision might not reach the reader. They could be stuck with an artist who can’t execute on the story. They could have editorial interference. The title could be cancelled. It’s why I tend to prefer creator-controlled works.

          You’ll notice that in the two years since, Gillen hasn’t sought out Greg Land to work with him on any of his creator owned projects. :)

          • I suppose if the writer is stuck with him, then yeah, he has to make the best out of it, or quit. Then again, if one would think that the writer on an X-title would have enough clout to do something about it IF Land’s limitations ended up limiting the stories that the writer wanted to tell.

            • You’d think, but Land outlasted at least a couple of writers on Uncanny. I think he came on with Fraction and was there thru Gillen’s run on the original title. Think he left when the renumbered it and he’s been doing some other title that I don’t read ever since. :)

              It’s funny. I’ve been on a few of the more mainstream comic message boards and there are a lot of people who like Land. I think it’s just us picky art types who don’t care for him. So, he’s generally popular and he’s been around, so editors know that they can give him projects and he finishes on time. That’s probably why we keep seeing him.

              • He also did half of the issues of the *relaunched* Uncanny during its first year of publication in 2012.

                Although I do consider myself a picky art type myself, I’m not sure if I have a very informed opinion of his art, since I’ve read very few books that he’s drawn, and those few books didn’t provoke a strong opinion either way. If anything, my opinion of his swiping would be more informed from the blogs I’ve read that illustrate this accusation by showing the various panels that show him re-using the same reference, or using “porn faces”. All in all, though, I’m not impressed with his style, as it looks a bit too pin-up-y to me, like he’s trying to effect a sense of photorealism, instead of that magical balance between realism and stylized expressiveness that is exhibited by the best artists, like Bryan Hitch. I had the same problem with Richard Piers Rayner on “The Road to Perdition”. Lovely renditions, but so unambiguously slavish to photo reference that it was embarrassing.

                My main interest in chiming in here was to comment the general principle you expressed by writers and artists working on books.

                I enjoyed the chat. :-)

  2. I actually would be buying this series if they would take land of of it. There’s few artists that i can’t stomach if the story is strong but he’s one of them.

  3. Despite the minor quibbles with the mayor and what-not, I think Gillen still has a good grasp on where we’re going. Given that Schism is also going to screw around with the lineups, I’m sure he has quite a few aces up his sleeve.

    I was a bit disappointed over the Peter/Kitty split, solely because it didn’t feel warranted. It seemed to have came out of nowhere. I mean, in the recent Breakworld issue, they were glued together. Bah!

    Maybe it was Land’s “art” that distracted me from the actual emotion in the story.

    • I just can’t fathom how Greg Land keeps staying on this title. There are other artists like Salvador Larroca who I don’t love much, but the dude is a machine on a monthly book and there’s something to be said for that. But Land isn’t even doing a monthly book because he alternates with another artist. I’m rereading the beginning of Fraction’s run when Land started. It was funny….the first few pages of issue #500 actually look kinda good, but you could see the point he said, “Fuck it. This is too hard. All the women will look alike from now on.”

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