For an event that’s failed to grab my attention (which is a shame, because Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen are two great creators), I have to hand it to Marvel for turning out a lot of fun “Fear Itself” tie-ins. Like “Thunderbolts,” “Uncanny X-Men” is pulled into the event courtesy the Juggernaut, wielder of one of the Hammers that transforms the user into something particularly nasty and destructive. He’s not only a regular X-Men foe, he was even a member during the Chuck Austen era of the comic, so it’s a logical connection.
What’s nice is that Kieron Gillen’s turning the story into more than just “The X-Men fight Juggernaut” issue. Sure, they fight the Juggernaut, but that’s just window dressing. What I found more interesting was watching the X-Men work with the Mayor of San Francisco, and the nasty choice they’re given at the end of the issue. Seeing her frustration over the X-Men’s “we’ll update you once we’ve already made our plans” method of operating is a nice moment, showing how their normal strategy isn’t going to work well if they really are aligned with the government of San Francisco. Watching Sadie, Cyclops, and Emma Frost spar is much more entertaining that you might think, and it makes me wish that we’d had a more prominent role for Sadie over the past forty issues.
For those who’d rather see the big fight, though, don’t worry. It’s entertaining, too. There’s a bit of “X-Men’s Greatest Hits” going on here. They pull up every trick in the book to try and get the Juggernaut’s helmet off (variants of which you might be familiar with), but at the same time it’s nice to see that Gillen isn’t going to let that old chestnut play out the way that the X-Men suspect. And while I must admit I groaned a bit at which member of the team got to be the one to actually remove the helmet, it was a moment that made sense. But really, it’s all window dressing for the previously mentioned nasty choice presented the Cyclops and Sadie. The question isn’t, “Will they be able to stop the Juggernaut before one of the targets is destroyed?” but rather, “Will either side blink first and betray the other?” It’s a nasty, fun little cliffhanger.
Greg Land’s pencils are at this point exactly what you’ll expect. Either you’ll hate the obvious photo-referencing, or like the slick line that he and inker Jay Leisten provide. There are lots of nice little touches this issue, though, like the flaming runes left in the Juggernaut’s footprints, or that image of the foot coming down in the astral plane.
Tie-in issues are normally to be dreaded, but Gillen and Land are following the trend of “Fear Itself” tie-ins in general, by making it fun. Don’t let that logo scare you off, regular readers.