Gillen & Land mix together all the right ingredients....
When considering the mediocrity that is "Fear Itself", "Uncanny X-Men" # 543 may pack the biggest emotional punch of the entire event. The last issue ended with Colossus being empowered by Cyttorak as the new Juggernaut so of course I was excited to see where the story was going next.
But writer Kieron Gillen gives us a lot more than just that. Emma finds herself in a scandalous situation of her own doing that has consequences sure to be felt down the road. We also see a great scene between Scott and the mayor that reflects his more aggressive survivalist approach in light of recent events. But the issue's real spotlight is on Colossus, his intense battle with the Serpent-possessed former Juggernaut, and the crushing effects that his choice to be empowered has on his relationship to Kitty. So even amid all the fantastic action, Gillen delivers some tense and emotional drama that really works. For me, Gillen's strongest point is his ability to flesh out the characters. He gives them weight and substance and makes their situations and circumstances feel real and relatable. Good X-Men books have always done that and Gillen understand this.
While there are many people who dislike Greg Land's work, this is an issue that reminds us he is a very exciting and capable artist. His action sequences are beautiful yet ferocious and his character depictions, especially Colossus, look fantastic. For the most part Land steers clear of the art choices that brings him the most criticism. His character's faces and poses are generally good and we only get one out of context cheesy smile. It's a clean and polished issue that I found very satisfying.
Kieron Gillen has taken "Uncanny X-Men" and given us the strongest "Fear Itself" book on the shelves. As the action has picked up, Greg Land's art has gotten stronger. This issue works on almost every level most notably with the emotional gut punch from the Colossus and Kitty pages. It's a well-rounded issue that mixes high-octane action with good character drama and you would be hard-pressed to find a better X-Men book right now.