In "Uncanny X-Men" #522, Matt Fraction has two goals: conclude the plot involving Kitty Pryde's return to Earth, and get the book ready for the "Second Coming" crossover beginning next month. He accomplishes both, but in a somewhat mechanical and not entirely convincing manner. However, there are some very nice character moments and the end offers a somewhat cruel surprise. Throw in an interesting back-up story and it's a solid issue of "Uncanny X-Men."
As Cyclops and Emma Frost discovered last issue, Magneto is using all of his power and concentration to bring back Kitty Pryde, who has been inside the giant bullet meant to kill Earth, but she phased so it would pass through harmlessly since the end of Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men" run. Almost all of this issue focuses on reacting to Magneto's efforts by making sure that a panic isn't caused when satellites pick up on a giant bullet heading toward Earth.
Fraction peppers the comic with nice character moments like Emma discussing the differences between Scott and Magneto to a barely conscious Magneto, or Colossus' reaction at the new of Kitty returning. However, despite those moments, this issue feels mechanical, like the ending is such a foregone conclusion that all Fraction and Whilce Portacio need to do is get through it. A moment with the Fantastic Four hits the wrong note with Reed Richards coming off as an entitled jerk and the X-Men conceding to being thoughtless children.
Portacio's art doesn't help matters, breaking the general flow of the book, which has been a mix of two artists with pretty distinct styles. To add in generic overly cross-hatched art on an issue where the payoff is showing the emotional effect on the characters is a mistake. The end of the issue falls flat, particularly with a wordless montage meant to lay out the status quo heading into "Second Coming," because Portacio's storytelling and character skills aren't capable of doing what Fraction needs to be done. The burden shifts to the art by the end of the issue and it fails.
Also in this issue is a back-up story about an alien world that will be destroyed in five of their years by some threat. It focuses on one specific person and provides an interesting look into what that sort of event may do to a world. The ending is obvious given what we know, but that doesn't take away from the story. Phil Jimenez provides the art and does his usual gorgeous, detailed rendering. He makes the world and its people look recognizable, but still alien. As a back-up story in a comic that normally doesn't have any, it seems a little out of place, maybe better suited to one of the regular X-Men anthology issues, particularly since it brings an extra dollar price tag with it.
Where the issue ends is exactly where you think it will, although with a twist or two to keep things interesting, and that's fine. The journey there has some nice moments, but becomes a little too focused on making that ending happen no matter what and is hampered by art that doesn't match up to the writing, particularly at the end of the issue.