It’s no secret that “Uncanny X-Men” is currently treading water before its 500th issue, which promises to bring the “split up” team back together and get their new direction well and truly on track. In the meantime, Brubaker has shifted gear after “Messiah Complex” to tell a rather more sedate story with a lot of old school charm, as Emma and Cyclops investigate strange goings-on in San Francisco and Wolverine, Cyclops and Colossus continue their journey across Russia, where things have taken a more problematic turn.
Despite the suggestion that the series is in something of a holding pattern until #500, it’s probably the worst-kept secret in the X-verse that the team will be relocating to San Francisco in the near future, so there’s almost certainly more going on here than meets the eye. Whether the Russia plot threads will tie into it is debatable, but with a writer as capable as Brubaker I wouldn’t be surprised if they did – though equally, the idea of a standalone, road trip story for these three characters is good enough fun in its own right to justify its existence. Depicting down time is a true X-Men tradition, and Brubaker has really hit his stride with it.
The identity of the mutant causing the city to regress to the 60s is fairly vague — I’m a fairly big X-Men buff and I don’t immediately recognize who the character is supposed to be, so in the absence of any other obvious candidates we have to fall back on the two most obvious reality/perception-warpers around – Scarlet Witch, and Lady Mastermind. The former is “Avengers” property as far as the character goes, whereas the latter was heavily involved in “Messiah Complex,” so I’m fairly certain which it’ll be. Even so, I can’t be sure that Brubaker won’t pull the rug out from under the title somehow.
Speaking of Brubaker, this storyline is the first he’s done where I feel like I’m really enjoying the situation. After being fairly underwhelmed by “Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar”, I’m finding a lot to like about his current approach of playing off the X-Men where the more traditional X-Men characters have taken center stage again. It’s been a long time since they got any traditional superheroics to do, but with the school gone, Brubaker can really focus on that side of the concept again.
Choi’s artwork is a welcome change from the recent, grittier styles that “Uncanny X-Men” has seen, and the bright, fun colors fit the tone of the book entirely — the idea of a city regressing to the 60s is a fairly camp concept in itself, and Choi’s artwork nicely fits that tone, with masses of attention on the small details. He’s also good for the grander strokes, though — the opening sequence where Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus fight some giant robots is a great piece of action-adventure, brilliantly choreographed and nicely executed. “Divided We Stand” does feel like something of a stop-gap solution, but if this is what we get as “filler”, I can’t wait to see how good the book’s going to be in the future.