Reading the latest issue of “Uncanny X-Men” it’s hard not to feel like writer Matt Fraction has inherited story fragments from dozens of different directions. There’s the aftermath of the “Messiah Complex” cross-over, “House of M,” and Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” storylines still dangling out there. His stars are also doing all sorts of things in the “Cable” and “X-Force” comics. And now, Emma Frost is being pulled into the “Dark Reign” crossover throughout Marvel Comics.
The more you think about it, the more impressive it is that Fraction is able to keep all of this in mind and still make a coherent comic dealing with each of these points. Doing so is slightly at the expense of Fraction’s other storylines that began in #500 (like the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants, or just what the High Evolutionary was doing with the Dreaming Celestial in Golden Gate Park), but I have to give him full credit for not ignoring other comics and stories simply because they might be inconvenient.
What we’re ending up with here is a unified look at the X-Men line of titles, transforming “Uncanny X-Men” into the central lynchpin for the comics. And much to my surprise, so far it seems to work. Fraction uses some elements to justify others (and if that wasn’t already planned out in advance, color me impressed), and gets the others moving in the background. More impressive, though, is that you don’t need to be up on all the comics in the line or the minutia of X-Men continuity from the past twenty years to understand what’s happening. So while long-time “Alpha Flight” fans might get excited by an old face returning here, even if you don’t recognize the character Fraction introduces him in a way that you can still understand exactly what is going on and why the character is important.
Having Terry and Rachel Dodson as the artists for this story arc certainly helps matters, too. The Dodsons are a great art team, their combined work looking slick and glamorous as always. It’s a fine line to tread to make all of these characters look both like ordinary people and super-heroes at the same time, but I think the Dodsons really comprehend that in a way that few others do. I know the Dodsons are supposed to alternate with Greg Land on art duties, but I’d be pleased as punch if the Dodsons were around for every issue.
Now that everything’s accounted for, my hope is next month starts pushing ahead full steam once more. There’s a lot of good stuff happening here, and the last element needed is some strong forward momentum. But right now? Based on what we’ve got here, I have faith that we’re getting it. Who knew “Uncanny X-Men” could be fun on a monthly basis once more?