Uncanny X-Men #516

Story by
Art by
Jay Leisten, Greg Land
Colors by
Justin Ponsor
Letters by
Joe Caramagna
Cover by
Marvel Comics

Coming out of the Dark Avengers/Utopia crossover, you could be forgiven for expecting "Uncanny X-Men" to take it easy for an issue or two -- but no, instead Fraction throws crisis after crisis at the team, the biggest of which is surely the return of Magneto, an event a long time in the making, and one that refers all the way back to Fraction's status-quo rocking issue #500.

Fraction's Magneto comes across as a particularly traditional interpretation -- grandiose and philosophical to the point of being almost pompous, but with a humbleness that gives him his humanity. It's hard to tell whether this is an act, and particularly, his explanation of how he got his powers back is particularly suspect, seeming a little too conveniently hard to reproduce. It's hard to tell whether Fraction is simply skipping over the mechanics in favor of the interesting part, or leading us to genuinely question Magneto's version of events, so I'll be looking for more clues as to Magneto's true role in future issues.

The issue's other plot thread concerns Scalphunter, who has been captured by a gang of D-list villains who use him to attack Utopia. It's hard to buy these guys as a credible threat when we see so little of their personalities, and for me the sub-plot doesn't really work as well as it should. That said, the action scene it culminates in is one of the better I've seen in a while as the X-Men show why they're such an effective team under Cyclops' leadership.

As usual, the issue's biggest weakness is Greg Land's artwork. There are many things to dislike about Land's art -- the ghoulish, fixed expressions sported by most of the cast, the over-reliance on wide-screen panels to convey any action, no matter how big or small -- but personally, for me, it's his panel-to-panel storytelling techniques that grate the most. Whenever Land tackles an issue, it feels like the imagery is being dictated not by the script, but by whatever library photos Land has available to him, and it leaves the visuals constantly at odds with the text. The issue might look good to those who prefer a certainly level of photorealism in their comics, but it's hard to find anything to enjoy on a technical level.

With that in mind, it's hard to give this issue of "Uncanny" a huge amount of praise. The best you can say is that it largely overcomes the creative team's weaknesses. "Nation X" is shaping up as a slightly better-than-average arc -- but it's hard not to feel like the potential for it to be so much more isn't being tapped.

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