Uncanny X-Men #531
Warren's off base team springs into action against the Collective Man. Meanwhile on Utopia the sick are getting sicker and Dr. Rao takes drastic actions to find a cure. Elsewhere something's finally done with Sebastian Shaw, thanks to your friendly neighborhood Fantomex.
After Second Coming I was really concerned that Matt Fraction had lost his knack for writing Marvel's menagerie of merry mutants, but this issue has once again made me a believer. This issue is a display of why Fraction's one of the premier writers in mainstream comics from beginning to end. This issue opens up with a classic Cyclops and Namor moment. I've gotta say, the inclusion of Namor into the X-Books has been one of the best developments in the titles in a long time. The "Imperius Rex" has come down with a case of HX-N1 and the fit he throws at being bed ridden is classic Namor. He shows a moment of vulnerability during his confrontation with Scott, but very quickly puts his game face back on. I gotta give it up to Land here, the expression on Namor's face as his head hits his pillow is gold.
Last issue we saw that Logan's been hit the hardest by the flu, and this issue we see just how hard. It was honestly unnerving to see Wolvie in such a vulnerable state. Once again I gotta give Land credit on his excellent pencil work during these panels. Without his healing factor he can barely breath, and his body's suffering from Adamantium poisoning. Fraction's dialog and Land's art combine to show a vulnerability that's rarely seen in Wolverine. The visual of him straining to unsheathe his claws and barely being able to move them past him skin despite his full efforts is just...well, sad. Really touching, especially how he laments that people are dying in China Town due to his powerlessness.
Meanwhile, in China Town we see Warren's team in the field about to engage the Collective Man during one of his shakedowns. We also get a peek into the personality and power source of Lobe's X-Men team. I really like these kids, you can truly tell that they're good people who's naivety is being taken advantage of by Lobe. You see the genuine joy they take in doing the right thing, in being heroes. They have such an admiration for the heroes they've grown up idolizing and I think that any comic fan can relate to these guys. When they see the X-Men springing into action you can truly feel their childlike wonderment and awe as they prepare to offer their aid.
The one thing I hated about the last issue was the fact that the Emma/Shaw plot line was still being strung out. Finally that little bit of story is getting some proper development. In this issue we get a peak into Emma and Shaw's past. Man oh man, was she ever a bitch. There's a scene of her during a flashback that really drives this point home that I don't wan't to spoil. Suffice it to say, Emma was a very, very disturbed women in another life. You really get a sense of what kind of sick, power drunken, aristocratic individuals the Hellfire Club are and just how little value they place on human life. I have to take time out here to applaud Fraction's depiction of Shaw. He really comes across as the confident, untouchable Black King of the Hellfire Club. Despite his imprisonment he carries a triumphant presence that makes him seem like he has everyone else right where he wants them. When discussing their sordid past his dialog with Emma is spot on, I could hear the voice actor from the 90's animated series in my head. The banter between Fantomex and Shaw is superb, as is his decision of what to do with Shaw at the end of the issue. Let's just say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
As always Land's art work here is the chink in the armor. I can really appreciate his grounded, realistic style. However, he has a bad habit of drawing awkwardly inappropriate facial expressions. And that definitely continue here, it's as if he doesn't read the script of what he's supposed to be illustrating at times. This is particularly noticeable in a panel when Scott is expressing concern for Wolverine's health but the look on his face is one of being pleasantly surprised.
Also, the way he overly stializes his female models is off putting to me. It's as if he's always trying to make them sexy. Clearly he learned how to draw females from Rob Leifield in 94. This is especially apparent when he draws Emma. I mean seriously there's a pic of storm sexy posing in the air. It's just stupid, and well...sad. I don't read comics to be titillated. There's also a visibly erect nipple (just one?) drawn on the "Marvel Girl" of Lobe's team, why? Rule 34 of the internet, if I wanted X-Men porn I know how to get it. Fraction's dialog for Storm was a bit, ummm, uncharacteristic and stood out to me in a bad way. It was "hammy", yeah that's the word. Storm is known to speak regally, but the way she calls The Collective Man "Little Man" is more Namor than Ororo.
BUY THIS COMIC!!!! NOW!!!