Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Whilce Portacio, Jamie McKelvie, Steven Sanders and Olivier Copiel
Collects: Uncanny X-Men: The Heroic Age, Uncanny X-Men #526-529
The more I read, the less I think Matt Fraction and the X-Men really go together. Fractions a great writer; one of the things he does well is getting character across. But the problem I'm having is that his run here has been either boring or plodding. The X-Men have had periods where there isn't much action in the past and that's okay, but when done right, it should not bore you.
To be fair to Fraction, in this volume, at least part of the problem just straight up is not his fault.
It actually starts out well enough with the Heroic Age one shot. It feels like a bit of a closer to one age and the bridge to the next. Some Second Coming fallout crops up while the X-Men are brought back into the Marvel Universe as a whole.
The Cyclops segment starts promisingly, with Beast flat out quitting this time over the way Scott has changed the team. Cyclops is broken up for all of twenty seconds, however, before he's out in the Savage Land fighting dinosaurs and being told what a great guy he is by everyone from Steve Rogers to the President. He's even given a damn medal, for chrissakes, for "fighting for his country" and "the peace and safety of the world". The fact that he led all mutants to secede from the US and literally stopped caring about a goddamn thing to do with the world at large - now, where were they during Siege again? - is of course completely ignored, like it never happened.
Scott Summers, ladies and gentlemen; jerkass stu of the decade.
The other two segments fair much better. We see Hope acclimate to her new circumstances now that she's back in the present. Meanwhile, Beast chills out in the zoo waiting for his girlfriend to show up. Thus far, Hope is proving to be rather believable to me; a teenage girl treated like a messiah whom numerous people have died to protect is not likely to be able to just suck it up. There are going to be issues. While the Beast segment is rather touching, as he tries, fails, fails some more and then succeeds in comforting a young mutant scared of the concept of extinction.
Part of what makes it all work is the art. I'm not including Whilce Portacio in this, but I'll get to him in a bit. The stars of the show here are Steve Sanders and Jamie McKelvie. McKelvies work is just stunning stuff; hell, Hope actually looks her age for once. I will say the way he draws eyes is a little weird to me, though.
Sanders work is my favorite of the two. There was a lot of grousing about "horse head" Beast, but man, once you get used to it, it's a look that really works for him. Sanders is fantastic at facial expressions, body language and just plain storytelling with his art. This man needs work on SOME kind of Marvel series, now. You know, considering Marvel pulled it's dick move of canceling SWORD at issue five.
The main arc is where it all goes downhill, but it's not necessarily the fault of the story. The writing isn't going to win any Eisners, but it's not necessarily bad. It carries the feeling of a cool down arc, which makes sense after the huge brawl of Second Coming. Not a lot of action to be found.
Instead, it focuses more on character arcs. The four issue arc focuses mainly on Emma Frost and Hope; for once, we're getting a reprieve from the Cyclops show. I quite like Emma a lot, especially since she was brought over to the side of the angels. She's always had an edge to her; a high class, tough woman. I like that she's never lost that, despite devoting herself to doing good. She still makes morally questionable decisions - and her story in this arc focuses on them and her attempts to fix them - yet she's still likable despite her douchiness.
For the record, her and Scotts relationship is about the only thing I like about Cyclops these days.
Then there's Hope. The mutant messiah. After Second Coming, she's weary from the pressure of being the "Mutant Messiah", as Cyclops has basically trumpeted her up to be. Since she grew up in the future, she never knew her family, or much of anything except running from death. So now she goes in search of it. Through it, she finds some manner of drive to go after the five lights; the first mutants "born" since M-Day.
But all that's fine; no, where this volume sinks is its art.
I try to find some good where I can in things. But sometimes, it's just not possible. The art just feels so goddamn 90's that it's distracting. Facial expressions are way off, storytelling continuity is borked - there's a sequence where a character jumps off a roof in a suicide attempt, but instead of dropping, the next panel it looks like she's jumped thirty feet away from the roof and has traveled upwards, like she's flying - there are way too many lines. I'm sorry, it's just bad. There's no other way to put it.
Occasionally, there's a couple good pages. But for the most part, the artwork is pretty ugly. It actively detracts from the story and frankly, if I knew it was going to look like this I would have passed outright.
The Score: 6 out of 10
The art kills it. Only two of three segments in one issue are actively good artwise. The script is the only reason the score is as high as a six, but while good, it's not able to carry this book through the bad art.
I think this might be my last X-Men book for a while, unless something really catches my attention. My foray into the current X books has turned out to be a bust. Just don't even bother here.