Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

02 June 2009

Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand

Collects: Uncanny X-Men #495-9 (2008)

Released: September 2008 (Marvel)

Format: 120 pages / color / $12.99 / ISBN: 9780785119838

What is this?: The X-Men find their new home city of San Francisco is a bit trippier than they expected.

The culprits: Writer Ed Brubaker and penciler Michael Choi

You might expect the first X-Men volume after Messiah CompleX, which essentially stated things would be different for the X-Men, would seize the new direction and run with it. You would be wrong.

So instead, we get a five-issue stall in Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand, in which the X-Men wait for issue #500 in Germany, Russia, San Francisco, and the Savage Land. Oh, Scott Summers tells us things are different, but the San Francisco storyline flashes back to the psychedelic ‘60s and the X-Men fight old villains throughout. And you don’t get much more classic X-Men than the Savage Land, although I’ve never understood the link between mutants, Tarzan knockoffs, and Lost Worlds.29

X-Men: Divided we Stand coverAfter their vacation in the Savage Land, Scott and Emma head to San Francisco, where they find the city (and many of their teammates) are in the midst of a ‘60s flashback. Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Colossus head to Nightcrawler’s and Colossus’s old European stomping grounds (technically, I believe Colossus is supposed to be from Siberia — Asian Russia — but I don’t think that’s spelled out). There, they run afoul of the Russian government and Omega Red … who I think is the only evil Russian mutant I can remember. It says something — and it isn’t good — that several years after M-Day, writers can still do stories about the obvious consequences of that story that no one else has done; in this case the Russians rightly wonder why the X-Men were relatively unaffected by M-Day but Mother Russia lost all their operatives.

None of it is terribly high-tension or earth-shattering, but not every storyline has to be about the end of the world. Besides, just because Divided We Stand is marking time doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining. I’ve never seen what others have seen in writer Ed Brubaker — perhaps because I haven’t read his strongest work — but I get a glimpse here. Emma and Scott’s vacation is entertaining, and we finally get a glimpse of why Emma stays with Scott after she’s already cracked his nut. (Metaphorically.) Brubaker also has a good sense of the humorous interplay between Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler. The dialogue is in character, and although it’s not quite as sharp as, say, Joss Whedon’s best, it’s still very good.

Penciler Mike Choi gets to have the great fun of putting the X-Men into ‘60s fashions — well, it looks like it’s fun. I’m not sure if I like his work; it’s clear and straightforward but a little soft and unassertive in its line. Choi also makes his males a little less rugged than you would expect from a superhero comic, especially Wolverine. (I’m beginning to think any sort of manga-influenced art is a bad idea for Logan, as it makes him look less animalistic and powerful, two of the keystones of his character, and more like a teenage manga character — the weird hair is mandatory for both, though.) Still, as I said, the ‘60s costumes are fun, and there’s nothing wrong with his work: I just find it a little … off.30

Brubaker, through Cyclops, keeps promising things are going to change. I haven’t seen it yet. After the cause of the ‘60s flashback is revealed to be an amnesiac mutant, he even has Emma give a speech calling the middle-aged hippies “pathetic” for using the mutant to “relive [their] glory days.” I think the implications are clear: not only is Brubaker going to change things, but dwelling on those glory days is pathetic. I don’t disagree. The only way to go is forward. I resent having to wait for the next book, but the change is long overdue.

Rating: X-Men symbol X-Men symbol X-Men symbol Half X-Men symbol (3.5 of 5)

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Blogger Marc said...

Great review, as always. In regards to footnote #30, I distinctly remember the nature of Emma's breast enhancements coming up in Grant Morrison's New X-Men. The revelation (if you consider it that) comes toward the end, when Jean goes on a psychic rampage through Emma's mind.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Raoul said...

Thanks. I remembered something about that, but I couldn't recall whether it was in Morrison's run or in the Emma Frost series. (I think the teenage Emma was drawn to back up this revelation.)

1:39 AM  

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