Let’s start with the less cheerful part of the review first, so that we can end on a positive note. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the blatant photo-references and lightboxing going on in Greg Land’s art. I know, it’s nothing new for Land or comics in general, and some of the greatest modern artists in comics use photo references. Tony Harris and P. Craig Russell, after all, both hire models and pose them as part of the creative process.
The difference here, though, is twofold. First, as Land is on “Uncanny X-Men” for an increasingly long period (instead of just dipping in for a cover or a mini-series here and there), it’s very evident that rather than hire a regular model for each character, Land is just using photos gathered from all over the place. The end result is that characters have their appearances shift slightly from one page to the next (as a different reference is used), and some poses start looking awfully familiar. I suspect photos are being re-used, and when you start staring at different poses and wondering which character you last saw in that position, that’s when it becomes a distraction and working against the comic.
Second, like a lot of other artists who photo-reference, Land just isn’t good at action. There are pages where characters are supposed to be leaping through the air, but instead they look like they’re hovering. Getting motion to look right in a static medium can be a difficult skill to learn, but it’s that much harder when you’re photo-referencing. Artists like the previously-mentioned Harris and Russell make it look easy, but the reality is anything but that. Add it to the previous problem with his photo-referencing, and Land’s art ends up looking painful. Doubly so, when the other art team of Terry and Rachel Dodson provide such great art for “Uncanny X-Men.”
On the plus side, though? I liked Matt Fraction’s script for “Uncanny X-Men” #520 a great deal. As the cracks in Utopia begin to widen, Fraction has carefully set up a teetering platform for Cyclops to stand on, and it’s one that’s wobbling faster by the minute. I’m appreciating that I’m not sure where Fraction is going with this story. A power struggle leading them scattered? A triumphant return to glory? Something completely different? Who knows? I’m enjoying seeing everything fall into place, though, and it’s turning out to be a lot of fun. I just wish the Dodsons were illustrating every issue. Still, even with art that’s becoming problematic, there’s enough in the script to make me want to keep reading, so good for that. One out of two ain’t bad, right?