After four issues co-writing “Uncanny X-Men” with outgoing writer Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen takes over the title completely with this ‘point 1’ issue and writes a solid ‘jumping-on point’ story. He combines a fairly innocuous threat (that disguises a bigger one) with the public relations problem that will hit the X-Men when it’s discovered that Magneto is one of them now. It’s a smart idea for an issue like this, and it gives Gillen a chance to show how well he handles one of the most (in)famous characters in the book.
The problem of Magneto joining the X-Men is an obvious one: he’s widely considered the worst mutant terrorist the world has ever seen. Whether it was him or not who brutalized New York in Grant Morrison’s run doesn’t matter since it was something he could have done. Here, a superhuman public relations specialist consults with Magneto in an effort to best control the story when they release it and to tell him how he can tone down the scarier sides of his personality. Gillen wisely writes a Magneto that doesn’t want to be less scary. He relishes the power fear gives him, wanting people to be scared of him, and seems unable to let go of those aspects of his personality even to assuage the public a little.
The scenes with the PR specialist and Magneto are driven by strong dialogue and the undertone of Magneto thinking all of this is a bit pointless. Yet, his willingness to put up with it shows just how important his role in the X-Men is to him. Gillen makes the real conflict here between Magneto and himself as he struggles to reconcile who he is/was with who he wants to be in the remnants of the mutant community.
The other plot is a basic one that offers a chance to see the X-Men in action and provide a solution of sorts to the Magneto plot. Unfortunately, the chance to see the X-Men take down some bag guys doesn’t realize its potential artistically. Carlos Pacheco handling the art for this issue sounds like a great idea, but the result is the most generic and forgettable work he’s produced. Stylistically, his line art lacks the usual energy and flair he brings to his figures. His compositions are good, it’s the drawings themselves that lack a punch.
That his art is buried beneath overbearing, ugly coloring is a big detractor. Frank D’Armata’s coloring style is so garish and overwhelming that it’s difficult to distinguish the art in one comic he colors from another despite the artists having different styles. Examining the opening pages, it’s hard to tell where the line art ends and the coloring begins, especially with hideous texturing on faces and objects. Later in the issue, Magneto in costume looks like something out of a video game, not a comics character.
Kieron Gillen makes an impressive debut as writer of “Uncanny X-Men” with strong character work on Magneto, but is hampered by generic, mundane art that leaves little impression beyond a whirl of sickly glowing neon lights. If Gillen continues to have a good handle on the characters like he displays here, “Uncanny X-Men” looks to be in good hands.