The second issue of “Uncanny X-Men”‘s ‘Quarantine’ arc is also the first to formally welcome incoming co-writer Kieron Gillen. Although, given the title’s recent ties to Gillen’s ongoing X-spinoff, “Generation Hope”, it’s hard not to imagine that this isn’t the first issue he’s had some hand in. Either way, it’s more direct now, not that you can necessarily tell. Mostly, it’s business as usual for Uncanny X-Men. Fraction-lovers breathe out, Fraction-haters, clench your fists ever tighter.
Part two of ‘Quarantine’ sees the X-Men attempting to deal with those stricken with the mysterious plague, while Sublime’s quintet of jacked-up X-Men stand-ins perform PR-inspired interventions to threats on the mainland, much to the indignation of the real ad-hoc X-Men team who have assembled in San Francisco.
There’s nothing much to criticize here. At this point, the story is still building, and while the issue is full of snappy dialogue and cool moments, there’s a definite sense that we’re still waiting for the twist that will propel the story onwards. Even so, Rao’s actions make for an unexpected development, and give her a some personality to stand out compared to the rest of the Science Team. Until now, she suffered a little from being The Boring One (although to be fair, anyone looks like The Boring One alongside Dr. Nemesis…) but now, it’s clear what kind of person she is. It’s a defining moment.
Indeed, the issue is full of nice moments. Gillen/Fraction are clearly aware that the best superhero comics need to also be cool, and you get a cool moment every few pages here, whether it’s a few good one-liners, a decent splash-page, or a plot development. The cliffhanger, in particular, is the sort of perfectly-executed ending that you can’t resist wanting to see the resolution to.
One possible concern is that right now, it’s hard to get a grip on Emma and Shaw’s plotline, and particularly, how it might relate to the rest of the arc. Even now, it’s unclear why Emma has to protect herself from Shaw to the extent that she feels, the mystery lost to the back-issue archives. Since the flashbacks make this one of the more intriguing plotlines, it’d be nice not to feel confused as to how it even got under way.
Unusually, even Greg Land isn’t grating quite as badly in this issue. His characters still grin like they’re being paid to promote their dentists (and the female characters do something with their chest areas which suggests they’re being paid to promote their plastic surgeons) but the storytelling is stronger than it has been (i.e. characters are sometimes portrayed actually doing things, rather than striking generic poses) and there’s one particularly nice splash page of the X-Men leaping into action. Land is still far from being a master, but he’s having one of his better days.
Despite Land’s technical foibles, it’s one of the stronger issues for some time. Perhaps Gillen has something to do with that, perhaps not. The beauty (and curse) of co-writing is that they get to share the blame. If every issue’s this good, that probably won’t upset them.