I’m pleasantly surprised with how “Uncanny X-Men” #515 is kicking off its new status quo. The X-Men living on their own island nation could have easily turned into “business as usual except teleporting or flying in jets a lot more often.” Often, that’s all a change of headquarters really entails. Matt Fraction’s looking at this as if a real sovereign nation was being formed by the X-Men, though, and as such there are bigger problems to face than just another villain rampaging somewhere.
Fraction has a two-front approach to the problems with the X-Men’s setting up of Utopia. Half of it is concentrating on the practical problems with their new mutant homeland. Where will they get food, water, electricity, and other basic creature comforts? Sure, having several hundred mutants on board Utopia means that some of these problems are more easily solved than others, but none the less it’s still a legitimate concern. Even something as simple as learning how to deal with Utopia’s deceased is a cause for discussion. The other half of the problem, though, involves the actual decision to split off from the rest of the world. I’m glad it’s not being brushed over, but instead held up as a legitimate concern that not everyone is in agreement with. The skeptics within the story are also given proper respect by Fraction; there isn’t a “this way is right, that way is wrong” moment anywhere in the issue, and Utopia might be doomed from its very inception.
Of course, this is also “Uncanny X-Men” so there’s still action kicking off the issue (with what appears to be the start of a longer storyline), to say nothing of an end-of-issue cliffhanger that was not only a nice surprise but makes perfect sense to happen right then. There’s a little something for everyone here, and it’s helping the writing on “Uncanny X-Men” be its strongest in years.
By now, you either love or hate Greg Land’s pencils, and this issue won’t convince you to switch camps. Some pages look good; I like how he draws Madison Jeffries as the science team tries to figure out their latest challenge, and it’s part of a page where everyone looks natural and solid. Other pages, though, come across a bit too posed and stiff. If Land can ever find a way to loosen up his pencils and rely a little less on reference material, I think he could knock it out of the park. It’s still not there, though, and it’s business as usual.
“Nation X” is off to a good start, and while Fraction’s perpetually juggling a lot of stories in “Uncanny X-Men,” it’s not feeling out of hand. I’m curious to see just what Fraction will do with the X-Men’s Utopia, and based on this first issue it will be fun to find out. If you’re looking for a good jumping-on point, this is it.