Uncanny X-Men #538

"Uncanny X-Men" is a solid and pretty book, and there's nothing especially wrong with it. However it's also not anything you'll think about a half hour after you've finished reading it. This means that it's better than a whole lot of comics out there, but certainly not living up to its potential with the current creative team.

Krunn (formerly of Breakworld) continues his surprisingly effective takeover/revenge of the X-Men's Utopia home as the X-Men scramble to take him out and to save Colossus (and now Wolverine) from deadly injuries. In the last issue, Krunn took out a significant portion of the X-Men with surprising ease, so it's frustrating to see that all reversed so easily, without much of a fight. But what fight could it really be? He's just one guy and it's obvious that despite his skill it would be a pretty uneventful fight. In the end, Krunn sacrifices himself to bring his partner (Haleena) back to life and in the process makes himself somewhat literally "half the man he was." Now that he's been put on a leash from a power standpoint, he seems more than willing to live out his days in a slum of San Francisco with the rest of his people, but the character turnaround doesn't feel earned. Meanwhile the X-Men seem strangely happy to just forgive and forget that he just tried to kill them all while they slept. It's...odd.

The pick-up here from the last issue is a little jarring and though Gillen brings it around eventually and it's clear there's a good reason for the time jump from the cliffhanger of last issue, I'm not sure it delivers as well as it should. Gillen has a good feel for the characters and there are some nice moments, especially with Kitty and (oddly enough) Dr. Nemesis, who everyone seems to write well, but there's nothing too terribly interesting going on here. The issue ends up being more about Krunn and the Breakworld people who, I'm sorry to say, are not compelling enough to warrant a three-issue arc if this is the resolution. Except for serving to finally free Kitty of her silly astronaut helmet, the issue seems to serve no purpose. We learn nothing new about any of the X-Men or anyone else and, short of establishing the Breakwolders as residents rebuilding a slum of San Francisco for potential future stories, it feels like a bit of a wash.

The Dodsons turn in pretty work as always, and while there's nothing particularly revolutionary about it, it is refreshing to see such solid rendering and pacing, not to mention exceptional consistency in a comic. The Dodsons are so good that I sometimes wish they'd do something crazy to make things more interesting. But it's hard to complain because the work is beautiful, the characters well rendered and believable, and the storytelling blissfully easy to follow. They particularly excel at Kitty here and it's nice to see her back in fighting form, phasing about and free of that badly designed 1950's helmet.

As with a lot of comics I read these days, this arc lets down in part because it over-promises and under delivers. The cool initial build up oversells the story's potential and, as a result, the happy easy ending doesn't feel particularly well-earned or honest. Gillen can do better, and the Dodsons, well, I'd honestly like to see them cut loose a little. They have long ago mastered what they're doing now, what might be on the horizon for them if they really pushed themselves? That is something I would very much like to see.

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