Uncanny X-Men #535 - 'Breaking Point: Part One' - Gillen, Dodson, Dodson and Ponsor
Story - I've never been a particularly fervent follower of the X-Men. Sure I like some of the characters, who doesn't love a bit of Nightcrawler, Colossus and Wolverine? But I don't have the kind of attachment to the Merry Mutants as a I do with, say Spider-Man, who I'd probably read even if someone terrible was writing it (insert joke here about how that someone terrible is Dan Slott, ha ha, hee hee). If the X-Men has a crap writer, they drop off my radar. As such, Matt Fraction coming on to the book with #500 actually marked the first time I had ever picked up the flagship title Uncanny X-Men on a regular basis and I really enjoyed his run (I am seemingly the only one who did), as it moved the X-Men into some very interesting and new places in San Francisco and then Utopia and did so with a sense of fun and movement rarely seen in X-books.
But now Fraction is gone, to be replaced by Kieron Gillen. Is it now time for me to end my brief flirtation with Uncanny X-Men? On the basis of this issue, it certainly is not. I've been a fan of Gillen for a long time, ever since the first series of Phonogram, and it's been great to see his rise and rise. I don't think anybody would have guessed that the guy who wrote that weird comic about Brit-Pop would eventually be writing Uncanny Fucking X-Men.
Gillen's run already got off to a good start, what with the very fun 'Quarantine' story he co-wrote with Fraction, and last week's Magneto-centric #534.1 (probably the best of the 'Point One' books so far), but this issue is where his stories begin in earnest. Gillen picks up not where Matt Fraction let go, but goes back to some of the threads left tangling tantalisingly in the wind by Joss Whedon from Astonishing. We've got Breakworld and SWORD and Kitty Pryde and Space Bullets. It's all a bit of a welcome diversion from the current Earthly confusion. Gillen previously worked with a couple of these concepts in the short-lived SWORD series, and it was great to see him use characters like Agent Brand and Unit again. It's just a shame he couldn't use Beast.
The majority of this issue is set up for the epic space story to come, but Gillen, like most good X-Men writers finds time for some excellent character moments. Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Magneto, Cyclops, Wolverine, Agent Brand all get chances to shine. Gillen also continues to write a supremely awesome Namor, getting just the write tone of arrogance and dickishness. Gillen does the same for Doctor Nemesis. I think Gillen's real strength as a writer is his dialogue, and his ability to write witty one-liners is reaching almost Warren Ellis levels, especially on the more caustic characters like Emma Frost, who Gillen gets spot on.
Overall, this was a very good issue of Uncanny X-Men, and marks a new chapter in the book. It may not be as poppy and peppy as Fraction's run, but that may be a good thing, Gillen's writing and grasp of the various and sundry X-peeps seems to be on a firmer ground than Fraction's, and the way he's using old (but still recent) bits of lore works well. I can't wait to see where Gillen will take the X-Men, he's tying up loose ends here, but he's also setting up his own stuff. For me, this issue is how mainstream superhero comics should be.
Art - Terry and Rachel Dodson have been part of the Uncanny scenery for the last 3 or so years now, alternating story arcs during Fraction's run with Greg Land, and that status quo is set to continue. I like their work. Yes it is a little bit cheesecakey, but it's never overtly that, they always pay equal amounts of attention to the male characters and to the actual storytelling. It's bright, solid stuff that fits the tone of the story. No more need be said.
Best Line - 'I say we get this Planetary-Level ballbuster out of our lives' followed by 'I wasn't talking about the Spaceship. But considering we're in the neighbourhood, we may as well lend a hand' A great example of Gillen's dialogue, Wolverine with a more subtle put-down than usual, but it works.