Uncanny X-Men #500 Review

Uncanny X-Men #500 is a “big” issue. We have Matt Fraction coming aboard the title to be reunited with his writing buddy Ed Brubaker. I loved what Fraction and Brubaker did together on Iron Fist. Hopefully, we will see the same type of chemistry here on Uncanny X-Men.

Of course, I do have my reservations. I have not been all that impressed with Fraction’s work for Marvel. Punisher: War Journal was possibly some of the worst writing I have ever read on a Marvel or DC title and Invincible Iron Man has been highly derivative and uncreative.

However, I am going to hope for the best and remain positive that Brubaker and Fraction will work the same magic on Uncanny X-Men that they delivered on Iron Fist. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Uncanny X-Men #500.

Creative Team
Writers: Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction
Pencils: Greg Land & Terry Dodson
Inks: Jay Leisten & Rachel Dodson

Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Kingo Sunin, an Asian film maker, announcing his plans for his new film. He is going to do a Sci-Fi film which is a departure from his regular fare. Dunen is going to film the movie in San Francisco and use the Dreaming Celestial as a backdrop. We see a close up of Dunen and he has “starry” eyes. (Okay, this guy is obviously a “sleeping” Eternal.)

We cut to an artist named Guy DeMondue inspecting a couple of old Sentinels that he plans to use for his latest artistic creation. Simon Trask is on hand to help Guy determine if these Sentinels are the real deal or not.

We slide over to the Marin Headlands where the new headquarters for the X-Men is located. We see Storm arriving on the scene with the Mayor of San Francisco in tow. Evidently, Emma temporarily “blinded” the Mayor so she would not know the location of the new headquarters. (That seemed totally unnecessary. This is a huge facility sitting out in the open outside of San Francisco. Wouldn’t you be able to find it with a satellite or just see it from a plane or helicopter?)

Cyclops explains that this location was chosen for the new headquarters due to its remote location that makes it hard to get to. Emma adds in the fact that the property prices were just too expensive in San Francisco. (Ba-dump, dump. Thank you, everyone! My name is Emma and I just flew into town and boy are my arms tired! Ba-dump, dump!)

Evidently, the new headquarters is built to military spec. (Is that a positive or negative thing to say?) Cyclops explains that the part of the headquarters above the ground will serve as a community center for mutants. That it will be like an Embassy of sorts for mutants across the world. But, that three miles below the surface the real super hero stuff will be taking place.

We go into the bowels of the headquarters and Beast appears on the scene in order to give a tour of the network of fast tunnels that lead from Marin to all points around the Bay area. We get it drilled into our head that this is a “green” facility and how incredibly eco-friendly the X-Men now are. Beast says that mutants are the represent the future and that they had better start living like it.

Beast says that the X-Center (So that is the name for this new facility. Very creative indeed.) won’t be just green. That the X-Center will be positively viridian. There are passive solar arrays, experimental hydrokinetics in the bay, etc. (Also. the only music allowed to be played in the X-Men’s new headquarters is Phish. It appears that if you do not participate in the recycling policy at the new headquarters then you get kicked off the X-Men’s roster. Wolverine is screwed. And I am pretty sure that Cyclops has a joint hidden behind his ear which would explain his new “funny” and “relaxed” personality in this issue.)

Angel then arrives on the scene and admonishes his teammates for showing the Mayor the boring stuff and not the pimp-daddy view that the X-Center has from the observation deck. Angel proceeds to kiss the Mayor and compliment her on how hot she looks. (Damn, Angel sure works fast. Is he trying to compete with Tony Stark as the biggest man-slut in the Marvel Universe?)

The Mayor then informs the X-Men of the artist Guy DeMondue who is a confrontational conceptual artist. Evidently, Guy has been moved by the sudden influx of mutant activity in San Fran and has decided to unveil a new work of art by stationing three decommissioned Mark One Sentinel units as a centerpiece of an art installation downtown. The piece is called “Celebration of Mutant Kitsch.”

The X-Men are duly horrified with incredibly over the top reactions. (Evidently, acceptance and tolerance is a one way street with the X-Men.) The Mayor agrees that the art is tasteless and appalling but she will defend its right to go on. Cyclops responds that these are Sentinels and even if they are supposedly decommissioned that they cannot be trusted. Scott says that the X-Men will attend the event.

We cut to the art presentation where party-goers are all dressed up like various X-Men from their many previous incarnations. The X-Men are totally disgusted by these knuckle dragging Sapiens. (I bet that these damn Sapiens even eat red meat and drink alcohol. Disgusting.) Protestors are on hand yelling that murder is not art. Evidently, Wolverine wants to kill everyone including the protestors. (Ooookay. This version of Wolverine is a little too hyper.)

Some of the party-goers notice that the real X-Men are at the party and immediately ask the X-Men for their autographs. The X-Men are offended. We see Colossus commenting how strange it has been to have been so openly accepted in San Francisco. Angel adds that he can walk everywhere with his wings out with no problems. Colossus responds that Angel is letting his “freak flag” fly. (Oh god, I get it already. Everyone in San Francisco is clearly more evolved and consists of noble saints who represent the idealistic and proper vision of the future and the rest of America consists of knuckle dragging Neanderthals who drive SUV’s and shop at Wal-Mart.)

Suddenly, Magneto busts onto the scene and saves me from this mind numbing dialogue and incredibly boring story up to this point. Magneto kicks ass on Colossus and then brings the Sentinels to life. Magneto orders the Sentinels to attack all the mutants. The Sentinels attack the X-Men, but strangely leave Magneto alone.

The X-Men proceed to brawl with the Sentinels. Colossus takes out a Sentinel by throwing a car at it. Emma asks “Piotr…Did it have to be a hybrid?” (Are you kidding me? Seriously, is this Bizarro-Emma? And I get it already. Being green isn’t just for Kermit the Frog anymore. Dios mio, how stupid do they think the reader is?)

The X-Men quickly dispatch the Sentinels and then lock horns with Magneto. Magneto kicks ass on the X-Men. Suddenly, Cannonball rockets onto the scene and blasts into Magneto. Magneto gets up and we see that he is wearing a special outfit designed to mimic his lost mutant powers. Magneto is pissed that his priceless piece of technology that defied biology itself is ruined.

Cyclops retorts that it is a priceless piece of evidence that they will spend the next hundred years reverse engineering so that they can stop Magneto from every trying to mimic his powers again. (I feel like I am reading dialogue between a couple of automatons. And if this suit is engineered by the High Evolutionary then I am confident that it would take the X-Men way longer than one hundred years to reverse engineer it.)

We proceed to get “treated” to a pretty standard issue rant from Magneto. (You have read it before and in a much better written fashion than what we get in this scene.) Magneto was destroying an art exhibit that was a tribute to mutantkind’s genocide. Magneto shall save mutantdom. Magneto says something about Cyclops bossing around the dying dregs of their race and something about Cyclops suckling on a teat. (I swear I am not making this stuff up, people.)

Magneto continues to drone on that if the X-Men stand in his way then the X-Men will be the ones to exterminate the entire mutant race. (This rambling rant stopped making any sense right about after the first sentence.) Magneto then tells the X-Men to stay out of his way. Magneto then teleports away from the scene.

Suddenly, the Dreaming Celestial lights up. Storm flies over to investigate. We see High Evolutionary and Kingo Sunen messing with what appears to be the Celestial’s eye socket. High Evolutionary tells Kingo Sunen that he will remember none of this and that Sunen will continue to sleep his eternal life away. (Told you that Sunen was an Eternal.)

High Evolutionary then teleports away from the scene. The Celestial reverts back to normal. Sunen remembers nothing and wonders why he was summoned to the Dreaming Celestial. Storm radios Cyclops that High Evolutionary got away.

We cut to High Evolutionary’s giant space ship where he is chilling out with Magneto. We learn that High Evolutionary found the piece that he was looking for from the Dreaming Celestial. High Evolutionary tells Magneto to have patience. That what they seek will come neither quickly nor easily. Magneto laments that the fact that High Evolutionary cannot construct a suit like he did for Magneto for every single de-powered mutant on Earth. Magneto says that he despises himself.

High Evolutionary reassures Magneto to not get down on himself and for Magneto to think about the greater goal that they work towards which is a far more important goal than history.

We zip forward to the next day where Emma proceeds to “farcast” Scott’s thoughts to every single mutant on Earth. That the entire mutant world will be able to hear Scott. (Well, with less than 200 mutants or so on planet Earth that really is not much of a “mutant world” is it?) Scott telepathically informs every mutant, good or bad, friend or foe that they wanted to let them all know that the X-Men are very much alive. That San Francisco is now a mutant sanctuary. That all the mutants and their families are invited to join the X-Men here. (Because tolerance and acceptance is always best achieved by isolation and self-imposed segregation.) Cyclops offers all the mutants protection their kind has never known. (I wonder if this kind of “protection” includes a lifetime supply of condoms. Now that would get me to join up with the X-Men.)

We cut to Wolverine checking out the offices of the artist Guy DeMondue. Unfortunately, Wolverine cannot get any answers from the artist as we see that someone has already broken the artist’s neck and killed him. Wolverine radios Scott and informs him that they will not be finding out where Guy and Magneto got the Sentinels anytime soon.

We zip forward two weeks later and see a couple of mutants exiting a Dazzler concert. One of the mutants is a little hottie with long pink hair, pointy ears and pixie wings. As the mutants exit we see Simon Trask entering the club. The pixie girl comments how awesome Dazzler was in the concert. The pixie girls states that she has been texting and tweeting so much that her thumbs are about to fall off. (Ha! See how hip these two thirty-something writers are? They know all about “tweeting.” Take that you little whippersnappers.)

We see a white van full of white skinheads. (Of course. You knew if Fraction was on this title that white skinheads would have to make an appearance at some point. You know how rampant the white skinhead population is in America. I mean, I think I last saw one in the 1980’s one time. Ooh, maybe the “All-New, All-Racist” Hatemonger will appear in this story arc at some point. We certainly did not get enough of that intriguing, complex and original character over on Punisher: War Journal.)

This gang is called the Hellfire Cult and they all put one the white masks that the soldiers for the old Hellfire Club used to wear. Evidently, the Hellfire Cult members are none to happy about the recent influx of mutants into San Francisco and are prepared to go make an example of the pixie girl who is clearly flouting her mutant wings, hair and ears.

They pour out of the van armed with bats and hammers. (Seriously, in the 2000s what gang out there does not use guns? This is very 1970’s.) The Hellfire Cult members run to attack the Pixie Girl. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Bleh. That is my gut reaction to Uncanny X-Men #500. This issue was grossly below my expectations. However, there were some positive aspects to Uncanny X-Men #500. This was a nicely paced read. Sure, the story started off slowly and was a bit of a dull read to start, but that is often the case when a new direction is taken on a title.

The necessary set-up work that must be done to lay the foundation for the new direction of a comic book is rarely a riveting read. Yet, the set-up work is absolutely a necessary evil. And Brubaker and Fraction did a nice job of quickly switching speeds and picking up the pacing with a great fight scene.

Uncanny X-Men #500 was also a strongly plotted issue. Brubaker and Fraction were smart to realize that this issue presented the perfect jumping on point for new readers. Brubaker and Fraction do a nice job of making this new direction for the X-Men very new reader friendly. They give the reader just enough background information so that new readers would get a clear sense of who the X-Men are and what their mission is.

Uncanny X-Men #500 moves with a purpose and a obvious direction. Brubaker and Fraction waste no time quickly setting up several plotlines in this issue. We have the plotline of the X-Men trying to recruit mutants to their new haven for mutantkind. We also have the plotline involving the High Evolutionary and Magneto. And there is also the plotline involving Sunen. And, lastly, there is the plotline involving the new Hellfire Cult.

Brubaker and Fraction certainly moved quickly to populate this title with plenty of quality plotlines and properly tease the reader with these various plotlines. The reader only gets a taste for each plotline and Brubaker and Fraction leave the reader wanting more. If nothing else, it is obvious that Brubaker and Fraction have a clearly defined and fleshed out plan for Uncanny X-Men. I fully expect this title to progress in a nice orderly fashion with well constructed story arcs that build off of each other.

Angel was pretty much the only character that I thought that Brubaker and Fraction did a good job writing in this issue. I love the fact that Brubaker and Fraction played up the fact that Angel is a playboy billionaire. This aspect of Angel frequently gets forgotten.

Brubaker and Fraction definitely provide the reader with a fantastic action scene. This was a wonderfully choreographed brawl that was incredibly entertaining. It was great to see Magneto back in action and kicking some ass. And it was a real blast from the past seeing the old school Sentinels terrorizing the X-Men once again.

I liked that Brubaker and Fraction decided to bring back a couple of classic villains for this brand new direction of the X-Men. It was cool seeing both Simon Trask and Magneto. I liked the surprise twist of Magneto wearing a special suit designed by High Evolutionary that enabled him to mimic his old mutant powers.

Brubaker and Fraction ended Uncanny X-Men #500 with a great triple pronged hook ending. The reader is teased with the fact that High Evolutionary has extracted some important piece from the Dreaming Celestial. We also are teased with the fact that Magneto and High Evolutionary are involved in some intricate plan that will take much time and effort. Obviously, this plotline is the long term one that will stretch over multiple story arcs.

We then see that the artist, Guy DeMondue, has been killed before Wolverine can get any information from him about the Sentinels. This is more of a mid-range plotline. And then we see the new Hellfire Cult about to attack the cute pixie girl. This one is the immediate plotline that will be dealt with in the next issue.

I really appreciate the fact that Brubaker and Fraction were able to tease the reader with multiple level plotlines that range from short term to long term plots. This is exactly how an issue signaling a brand new direction for a title should conclude.

The Bad: Uncanny X-Men #500 definitely failed to live up the monstrous hype that Marvel put out about this issue. This was an extremely underwhelming start to Brubaker and Fraction’s run on this title. Honestly, it is depressing that Brubaker and Fraction left a fantastic title like Iron Fist to give me such a lukewarm and bland issue like Uncanny X-Men #500. This was just such a dull issue.

The dialogue was just wretched at some points. I am talking absolutely cringe inducing. It came across as incredibly cheesy. Seriously, this was some ham-handed and overly dramatic dialogue. It got to the point where I wondered if Brubaker and Fraction were trying to be way over the top.

The dialogue descended to the depths of a really schlocky low budget flick that you see late at night on the Sci-Fi channel. I was totally stunned that we got such amateurish dialogue in this issue.

There were various moments where the dialogue just fell apart all together. An example of that was the banter between Colossus and Angel about “letting their freak flag fly.” This was the type of dialogue that I expect from Judd Winick.

The dialogue for Magneto was especially disappointing. Magneto has always been one of the most complex and intriguing villains in the 616 universe. Unfortunately, Brubaker and Fraction had Magneto sound more like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers than the incredibly textured character that he is. Magneto’s rant came across rather tired and unoriginal.

I found how Brubaker and Fraction wrote Emma to be totally out of character. And her line during the battle about if Colossus had to throw a hybrid at Magneto was just awful. Cheesy one-liners like that are more at home with a character like Spider-Man than Emma. Emma is a cold hard bitch who is not touchy feely person with a social conscience. I never have confused Emma with a person who really gives a damn about the world at large.

The eco-friendly hippie crunchy aspect of this new version of the X-Men was a total miss with me and managed to get completely old by the end of this issue. The concept of the X-Men turning into a group of patchouli smelling and no showering flower children is completely unappealing to me in every possible manner.

And keep in mind that I voted for Ralph Nader in the past two Presidential elections. So you know that Brubaker and Fraction layed it on too thick if even I was totally over it by the end of this issue. Seriously, Brubaker and Fraction delivered a version of the X-Men that came across like a PC group of whiny and neutered heroes.

Brubaker and Fraction turned in some disappointing character work. I found the character work to be flat and unimpressive. All of the various characters came across as incredibly stiff. The characters read more like caricatures than actual people. I found Brubaker and Fraction’s take on the various members of the X-Men to be extremely superficial and generic.

Brubaker and Fraction failed to get me to dislike the artist Guy and his plan for his Sentinel artwork. Maybe it is because I strongly believe in the right to free speech. I just found the X-Men to act like a bunch of annoying crybabies.

At first blush, I find the Hellfire Cult to be a pretty lame and unoriginal concept. I much prefer the original Hellfire Club. Based on what Fraction gave us on Punisher: War Journal, I have the sinking feeling that the Hellfire Gang is going to end up nothing more than a standard issue street gang full of white skinheads. That is so un-intriguing and uncreative.

Compare the Hellfire Cult to the wonderfully complex and thought-provoking way that Peter David handled the Purifiers over on X-Factor. David had a black member of the Purifiers recruit Rictor, a Hispanic, to join what is certainly one of the most hateful and racists groups in the Marvel Universe. That subtle move showed to the reader that hate is a global issue that comes in all colors. It isn’t just a stereotypical white skinhead disease.

What David did on X-Factor really challenged the reader’s perception of race relations. I highly doubt that Brubaker and Fraction are going to pull that off with the Hellfire Gang. But, maybe Brubaker and Fraction will prove me wrong as we get an opportunity to see more of the Hellfire Gang. I certainly hope so.

I have to admit that I found the High Evolutionary and Magneto team up to be somewhat odd and a bit forced. Maybe Brubaker and Fraction can get me to buy into this alliance, but at this point it is not working for me.

I was not particularly thrilled that Brubaker and Fraction are dealing with the Dreaming Celestial. The Knaufs are dealing heavily with the Dreaming Celestial over on The Eternals. I would rather Marvel not gum up the works will too many different storylines that deal with the Dreaming Celestial that end up totally unrelated with each other.

Still, maybe Brubaker and Fraction can make this story mesh nicely with what the Knaufs are doing on The Eternals and end up making both stories even richer and more intriguing.

I found the artwork to be poorly executed in this issue. And that is all Marvel’s fault and not the fault of the individual artists. I like Terry Dodson’s pencils and Rachel Dodson’s inks. And I like Greg Land’s pencils. Yeah, I know, Land “traces” or whatever the term is and I know that I am the only person on the planet Earth who likes his artwork. And I also like Jay Leisten’s inks.

But, what I don’t like is the art from these four artists randomly mashed together with no rhyme or reason. Land and Dodson’s styles are very different and end up clashing with each other. And to make matters worse, the comic book switches back and forth from each artist from page to page and even from panel to panel at one point.

It was just terrible and gave this issue such a disjointed and unprofessionally cobbled together look. It certainly is not the type of effort and presentation that I would expect on such a massively hyped “big” issue like Uncanny X-Men #500.

Overall: I was completely unimpressed with Uncanny X-Men #500. I found it to be a rather dull story with poor character work and laughably bad dialogue. The artwork by committee created a schizophrenic, slap-dash and unprofessional feel to this issue. This was far below the quality of work that we got from Brubaker and Fraction over on Iron Fist.

Still, the fact remains that this is only the first issue of Brubaker and Fraction’s run on this title. And it is only fair to give these writers at least four issues into this new direction of the Uncanny X-Men before I draw a conclusion about their work on this title. There is a good chance that Brubaker and Fraction can allay the various concerns that I have with this title over the course of the next couple of issues.

I have a feeling that your average comic book reader will probably enjoy Uncanny X-Men #500. And I think that most X-Men fans will be excited about this new direction for the team. You have the appearance of several classic X-Men villains as well as plenty of exciting action and a clear mission statement for this new version of the X-Men. Those three factors will probably leave most readers satisfied with Uncanny X-Men #500.

6 Comments

  1. I’d have rated this a bit higher, but, yeah, mixed.

    It’s an interesting approach to take for an anniversary type issue like this; the art show with all the old costumes was a fun method of doing callbacks to different eras.

    I like a lot of the plot threads introduced.

    On the negative side, some of the dialogue was kind of bad, and Magneto (at least until the final scene) was way too raving.

    I’m firmly in the anti-Land camp; Dodson’s pages I quite liked.

    I do like setting the X-Men in a city where they’re not irrationally disliked by the authorities on principle; now, racism is a major X-theme, but having everyone be that racist basically cedes the Xavier vs. Magneto argument to Magneto.

  2. Sadly one of the worst things you can do with the whole green thing is lay it on to heavy. Then it just seems like you bludgoning the audience, and nobody likes that.
    On another note, though screwing around with the dreaming celestial sort of makes sense. If I recall correctly the Celestials are the ones who put the potential for mutant’s in the human genome in the first place.

  3. “This is a huge facility sitting out in the open outside of San Francisco. Wouldn’t you be able to find it with a satellite or just see it from a plane or helicopter?”

    Or, hey, thats the building the X-Jet is always leaveing. Ya, it’s the same building with the strom chick always flying around it.

    “Cyclops explains that the part of the headquarters above the ground will serve as a community center for mutants”

    So it’s super secret and hidden but it also has a communtiy center? Thats just poor planing. PLus, if it’s the middle of nowhere, how do kids get to the center to shoot hoops?

    Also, is’nt a mutants only center kind of eleitest. If they had a humans only center, it would be a whole story arc. Plus, why is this even the mayor’s issue if it’s not acutlly in San Fran proper. DOes her Mutant Amesty rule even apply outside the city. Your a lawer, you tell me?

    “Is he trying to compete with Tony Stark as the biggest man-slut in the Marvel Universe?”

    Women get called sluts, men get called players. We worked ahrd for the double standered to go our way, don’t blow it for everyone.

    “Wolverine wants to kill everyone including the protestors”

    Wanting to kill hippies is healthy and natural.

    “Some of the party-goers notice that the real X-Men are at the party and immediately ask the X-Men for their autographs.”

    It should’nt be that rare. Many people in San Fran are Ex-men. (Ba dum bum.)

    “Beast says that mutants are the represent the future and that they had better start living like it.”

    Expect thats like 200 of them, and no more being born, which implys sort of a dead end.

    “The pixie girls states that she has been texting and tweeting so much that her thumbs are about to fall off.”

    The Pixie girl is named Pixie. She’s from New X-men.

  4. Well! Disregard my “Ed Brubaker + Matt Fraction = good” hypothesis of my previous comment. Way, way too much stupidity I love how you can buy Giant Hunter/Killer Robots from a military surplus store in the Marvel U. (I, of course, would have brought a destroyer and used it as a bass boat). I also love how Cyclops thinks that the average mutant would want to live with evil mutants, or that being a mutant somehow absolves you from all crimes. Murder is just a human law, I guess.

  5. I love that they blinded the mayor to hide the location of their base, then showed her the view from the observation deck! It’s hard to believe anyone could be that stupid by accident, it’s more like one of those trick questions kids would ask each other to see if you could trip someone into frogetting that roosters don’t lay eggs and you don’t bury survivors.

  6. And it is only fair to give these writers at least four issues into this new direction of the Uncanny X-Men before I draw a conclusion about their work on this title.

    You’re way more forgiving than I am, my friend. If I dish out $3 and I’m not at least semi-hooked, throwing another $9 into the kitty doesn’t seem justified.

    I think this is a failure of the modern “write it for the trade” decompressed era of comics. If this is going to continue, then comic companies need to put out the trade much closer to the release of the last issue of the floppies to be covered by the trade.

    I miss the long gone days of an asterisk in word balloons* where continuity MADE you WANT to look into the larger story. Even when a book switched writers they’d still reference What Has Gone Before.

    Still, this is one of the funniest reviews I’ve read in a long time. Good work! ^_^

    *…as referenced in issue #8, true believer! –ed.

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