Marvel Comics Uncanny X-Men #501

Uncanny X-Men #501 Review

The Revolution found Uncanny X-Men #500 to be vastly unimpressive. The addition of Fraction to this title simply took what was an average read and made it downright unreadable. Brubaker and Fraction have nowhere to go but up. I can only hope that the last issue was an aberration and that Brubaker and Fraction will begin to generate the same magic that they brought to Iron Fist. Let’s hope for the best and hit this review for Uncanny X-Men #501.

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

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Megan Gwynn exiting a nightclub with a friend. We get narration that talks about how Megan has been having so much fun dancing, laughing, and drinking Red Bulls. That Megan is now still dancing and laughing so much that she cannot hear the “thundering” from a dozen steel-capped boots from behind her. (Oh man, writing 101, Fraction. Do not use an adjective like “thundering” if a person right next to all this “thundering” cannot even hear it because they are laughing and dancing.)

The narration continues to drone on that Megan cannot hear the chains from the Hellfire gang members. Nor can she hear the tightening of their leather jackets. Megan cannot hear the sounds of the past rushing in from behind her to bash her brains out. Megan does not hear “the cavemen as they come racing out of the caves. Coming to stop the future from taking over.” (Oh lord. Talk about getting over dramatic on just the first page of an issue. Man, Fraction should have just had Megan spout out the famous Charlton Heston quote from Planet of the Apes, instead. I can see Megan yelling “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” at these Hellfire gang members.)

We get the hackneyed narrative that it was the wrong time of night in the wrong part of town and Megan is the wrong kind of person. The Hellfire gang members proceed to beat the hell out of Megan and her friend. The narration states that Megan gets a beating because she is a mutant. The narration continues that “those fairy wings do not guarantee you a fairy tale.” (groan)

We see a broken and bloodied Megan lying in the street as the Hellfire gang members leave the scene. The narration says “Welcome to San Francisco—Well welcome to Oakland—Megan Gwynn. Hope you survive the experience. (Oh, dios mio. Is Fraction stealing from bad movie poster lines from low-budget films from the 1970’s and 1980’s for his narration?)

We mercifully leave that scene and narration and slide over to Worthington Towers in San Francisco where Scott and Emma are living. Scott is in bed while Emma stands in front of him modeling some sexy new lingerie that she just purchased. Emma yammers on for a page about how she went shopping in expensive stores in Tokyo, Milan, and Paris that do not even place the price tags on the clothing.

Scott then tells Emma “Turn around.” (Okay, Scott is getting creepier and creepier by the issue.) Emma then gets in bed and she and Scott get ready to have some sex. Emma asks Scott if he noticed that they are much more “squirrelly” since coming to San Francisco. “Not just you and I—all of the X-Men seem much more sex-saturated. (Really? Seriously? Are we having this discussion right now? Winick would be jealous of this scene. Hah! Fraction is “cooler” than you, Winick!)

Scott states that there was that one mutant birth so now maybe it is possible to have mutant babies again. Scott says that to stop their species from flatlining that they need to start having babies. Emma chimes in that they can at least get plenty of practice anyway. (Okay, I get it. Move to San Francisco and hot blondes will want to shag you twenty times a day.)

Emma then tells Scott that between “the wall-to-wall fornication” (All right. I get it Fraction. You are cool and hip. You talk a lot about sex. Jesus. You would think that Fraction had not gotten laid in a year.) and Scott’s all-new, all-different large and in charge side (Hey is that like Fraction’s all-new, all-racist Hatemonger on Punisher: War Journal?) that Scott might just be changing Emma’s mind about “spawning.”

Scott then gets up and tells Emma that he is too wired to sleep. (Oh, c’mon Fraction, you are totally going to unveil that Scott is now snorting coke, right?) We then see Emma waking up to Scott yelling “Dammit!” Emma walks into the other room and sees Scott trying to build a crib.

Emma asks Scott what in the world he is doing. Scott replies that he knows that Cable and the baby are going to return. When he and Jean had Nathan that they were on the run and he never had a childhood. (Or a crib, evidently. I wonder what Nathan slept in instead? One of Wolverine’s boots?)

Scott says that Cable and the baby will be coming back and the baby will need a room. Scott then repeats for the third and fourth time that the baby needs a room and a crib. (Because repeating things in the same scene at least four times always shows the reader how dramatic the scene is supposed to be.)

We cut to the next morning with Warren and Scott driving into the “office.” Warren yammers on about his prototype car that Worthington Automotives has provided for all the senior staff members of the X-Corporation including Scott. We learn that the car has a special hydrogen-electric hybrid V-12 engine. (Jesus, I get it already. Between the last issue and this issue, I get it. The X-Men are green.)

We get more idle babbling banter between Scott and Warren before Warren is contacted by his secretary and informed that he is going to be late for his morning meeting. Scott tells Warren to go ahead and fly to the office. That Scott will drive the car in. Warren agrees and gives Scott the wheel and then takes to the skies.

Scott drives into the Greymalkin Industries headquarters. Scott thinks that this facility will serve as a community center for mutants. That it will be a resource for the public good (Not really. Just for mutants. The rest of the public is not welcome.) and a place for mutants to come to in times of trouble. That this facility will be a place that mutants can come to for protection and education. (What about for sex? Eh, maybe not. After all, the Greymalkin Industries facility is located in Marin and not San Francisco. There is no horniness outside of that “sex-saturated” city known as San Francisco.) Scott says that the facility will be safe and secure since it will be ten times as big underground as what will be above ground. (Yeah, I remember this whole spiel from the last issue.)

Scott walks into the kitchen/lounge area where Wolverine and Nightcrawler are hanging out while Beast is trying to cook in the kitchen. The Beast excitedly tells Scott that he woke up this morning to discover that he regained a degree of dexterity in his paws that have been lacking since his secondary mutation kicked in. (Whaaaat?)

Now, to celebrate magically gaining dexterity in his paws, Beast decided to cook. Unfortunately, there is nothing but “hot pockets” in the kitchen. Beast goes on for a couple of panels about how there is nothing but “hot pockets” in the kitchen, that the Beast does not know what “hot pockets” are and that Scott cannot make him cook them, and that Scott must get actual groceries. (Oh lord. Has anything at all actually happened in this issue, yet?)

Colossus then enters the room and ribs Wolverine for staying out all night last night. Wolverine throws his beer can at Colossus. Nightcrawler teleports in front of the beer can and then teleports back in front of Wolvie and redirects the beer can back at Wolverine.

Megan then enters the room and finally puts an end to what was a total waste of three pages. Scott rushes to Megan’s side and asks her who beat her up. Scott narrates that it was not the blood and gore was not the image that stuck with him the most. It was Megan’s wings. “These poor, sad fairy wings, trying so hard to catch the sunlight and reflect it, just bashed all to hell. These magical things–ruined. (Seriously, Fraction less is more. Try just sprinkling the drama into your story like it is just a rare spice rather than serving up the drama like cheap mayonnaise that you drown the poorly cooked chicken salad in.)

Megan is grasping one of the Hellfire gang member’s facemask. Scott asks where she got the facemask. We conveniently cut to a meeting of the Hellfire gang members at the Hellfire Cult headquarters. The gang members all look like skinheads (naturally) and we see Empath with his eyes glowing using his powers to sway the thoughts and emotions of the gang members. (Wait, let me guess, in keeping with the “sex-saturated” and “wall-to-wall fornication” theme of this issue that Empath must be manipulating these thugs’ emotions to make them extremely horny so they will go out and screw any and every mutant they see.)

Actually, Empath tells the thugs that they need to get more recruits and that they need to step up their attacks on the mutants. Empath gets the thugs to shout “Save the human race!”

The meeting is adjourned and the thugs all stand around and talk with Empath stands by himself and reviews some plans. One of the thugs approaches Empath and calls him Mr. Roache. The thug says that one of the other guys, Bill, said that Mr. Roache used to work for the X-Corporation and that his real name is De La Rocha.

Empath says that it is terrible when people lie. Empath’s eyes glow and he says that the thug is feeling his hate bubbling up inside. Empath tells the thug to go tell Bill to never lie again. The thug, all charged up, runs after Bill and attacks him. All the other gang members stand around and scream “Fight! Fight!” and watch the brawl.

Empath heads into a secret room that is all white. Empath tells a person off the panel that it is done. That the thugs are so easy to push and so easy to control. The voice off the panel adds “And to punish.” Empath answers “Yes, Ma’am” and begins to take off his shirt. (Oh crap. I know where this is headed.)

Empath then straps himself to the wall. Empath says that the thugs are angry and directionless kids. That they are aching for anyone to believe in. With a little bit of attention and a little psychic push they will do anything that Empath asks. The voice off the panel interjects “Anything who asks, Empath?”

Empath whimpers “I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Mistress! I’m sorry!” (Oh god. This is awful.) Empath says “I meant anything that you ask, Red Queen. We then see a woman with long red hair wearing a leather fetish BDSM outfit. (I wonder if Greg Land traced one of Fraction’s adult magazines for this panel?)

The Red Queen states “That’s right. Me. Now scream, worm!” (Gross. Now I have to read about Fraction’s sexual fantasies. Great. And I am not too sure why a dominatrix would be wearing a slave mask, but who knows what turns on little Mattie Fraction.)

We hop back to San Francisco where we see a young girl walking around listening to her iPod. We see some Hellfire gang members come up behind the girl. The girl says “They made me. Get ready.” We cut to the X-Men back at their headquarters responding that they are on their way.

Wolverine says that they are going to do what Nightcrawler did with the can of beer earlier. Wolverine tells Colossus to throw him. Colossus throws Wolverine at Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler teleports the two of them out of the headquarters.

We cut back to the alley where the Hellfire gang members surrounded the girl. We see Nightcrawler suddenly teleporting overtop the gang members with Wolverine flying toward the gang members. We learn that the girl who the gang members were about to attack is Karma. It is explained that Karma is a psionic mind possession that likes girls. End of issue.

The Good: Uncanny X-Men #501 was just a horrendous read. However, I can still satisfy The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity with this issue. We do get four pages of actual substance near the end of this issue as we learn a little bit more about the Hellfire Cult. I liked the surprise twist that Empath is controlling the Hellfire gang members and getting them to attack mutants. This was some great plot advancement that immediately hooks the reader’s interest. I am curious to learn why Empath would turn traitor to his own kind.

Brubaker and Fraction deliver a solid hook ending. It isn’t anything special, but it teases the reader with an upcoming brawl scene in the next issue. Even though I thought this issue was terrible, this ending was still enough to get me looking forward to the possibility of at least getting some good action in the next issue.

Greg Land is capable of creating a couple of panels in each issue that just looks fantastic. I know he “traces” and whatnot, but the fact remains that some of his panels are quite pretty.

The Bad: Uncanny X-Men #501 was simply atrocious. This was about as poorly written an issue can get outside of a Judd Winick comic book. Actually, I think it might even be an insult to Winick to compare his work to what we get foisted on us with Uncanny X-Men #501.

The bizarre all-sex theme that dominated Uncanny X-Men #501 was just weird and slightly creepy. Look, I love sex. Hell, I love strippers and porn, too. I like all three at the same time. I am definitely not a prude. But, it is all about context. When I purchase an issue of Uncanny X-Men I just want a solid and entertaining superhero story. I don’t want to feel like I am reading the comic book equivalent of HBO’s Real Sex.

If I want sex and porn then I’ll hop online and download whatever porno flick suits my taste. And the “sexiness” that we get on this issue was not even done very well. Instead, it was either just terribly cheesy or downright creepy.

Uncanny X-Men #501 was extremely juvenile and unintelligent from start to finish. The sex obsession that dominated this issue was just a forced attempt to deliver a story that I was supposed to view as “trendy” and “edgy.” All this goofy sex talk and the laughably ridiculous Red Queen simply gave me the impression that I was reading fan fiction written by a sixteen-year-old male rather than a Marvel comic book penned by two supposedly professional writers.

Uncanny X-Men #501 was a poorly paced-issue. The story crawls along at a snail’s pace. Nothing at all happens on this issue until we get to the very end and finally learn something about the Hellfire Cult.

Uncanny X-Men #501 was a poorly plotted issue. Fraction and Brubaker have delivered an incredibly shallow and thin story. We only have one plotline and that is the one involving the Hellfire Cult. And this one plotline is neither original nor particularly compelling.

We also got a ton of re-hashing of the same talk from the last issue about the purpose and function of the X-Men’s new sanctuary and how living in San Francisco has been practically a religious experience for the X-Men. The poor plotting is a real surprise considering that any title with Brubaker’s name on it is usually a strongly plotted title.

Instead of performing some hard work in crafting various interesting plotlines, Fraction simply gives us an issue full of random scenes loaded down with pointless and idle banter. Uncanny X-Men #501 wanders around like a blind man in the desert with absolutely no apparent purpose or direction. Other than showing us how “cool” and “trendy” they are, I have no idea what Brubaker and Fraction are trying to achieve with Uncanny X-Men.

Uncanny X-Men #501 is loaded down with fluff. Issues #500 and #501 could have easily been combined into one issue and delivered a much tighter and more compelling read. Brubaker and Fraction waste two pages on Emma and Scott talking about Emma’s shopping for sexy clothing, the “sex-saturation” since the X-Men moved to San Francisco, the hope that they can one day re-populate the mutant population, and “wall-to-wall fornication.” This scene was a total waste of space.

Brubaker and Fraction then waste an entire page with Scott repeating over and over that he has to build a crib for the baby. This scene was so poorly written as Fraction simply has Scott repeating the same dialogue four times over. Again, Fraction needs to learn that less is more. That he does not need to just make every single panel bloated with “drama.” This scene just came across as way too melodramatic.

Brubaker and Fraction then waste three pages on Scott and Warren talking about the new hybrid car and re-hashing the same dialogue from Uncanny X-Men #500 about the X-Men’s new Greymalkin Industries facility and its purpose as a sanctuary for mutants across the world.

Brubaker and Fraction then waste another two pages droning on about the Beast wanting to cook and discussing “hot pockets. This dialogue was just plain stupid. And the Beast suddenly waking up and magically having increased dexterity in his paws was so random. This just lacked any internal logic. I guess that Brubaker and Fraction are attempting to slowly revert Beast back to his pre-Morrison form.

Brubaker and Fraction then waste another page on Wolverine throwing a beer at Colossus just to set up their “kewl” plan of attack at the end of the issue. This was seriously overly contrived. The attack was not that special in the first place and I do not think the reader is so stupid as to need to have Brubaker and Fraction explain to us the theory of how the attack would work. It was a pretty basic and self-explanatory method of attack.

As I mentioned before, I enjoyed the neat twist of having Empath manipulate the emotions of the gang members to do the Hellfire Cult’s bidding. However, this scene quickly de-evolved into a poor joke that I do not think that even Judd Winick would deliver in a superhero comic book.

The Red Queen scene was a complete joke. Seriously, this is the type of gutter writing that Fraction and Brubaker are going to give us? The Red Queen’s dialogue actually made me laugh out loud. The Red Queen came across as a caricature that you would get in either a porno comic book or a humor comic book satirizing superhero stories. I just do not think that Brubaker and Fraction’s intent was for me to view the Red Queen as a total joke.

The dialogue in Uncanny X-Men #501 was inexcusable for a professional comic book. Fraction’s dialogue was amateurish. I would expect this type of writing from teenage fan fiction. The narration in the opening scene was so ridiculously over the top and ham-handed that it became laughable. I imagined William Shatner reading the narration to me. Scott’s dialogue in the scene when Megan arrives at the club was another heaping helping of heavy-handed and overly dramatic dialogue.

Fraction just went on and on way too much in the narration in the opening scene. This is an excellent example of a writer trying to pile on as much as possible to make sure that the scene is dramatic and that the reader is appropriately moved. The problem is that quite often less is more. Fraction would have been wiser to simply junk the narration and have a viciously brutal attack where the only words were some random yelling from the gang members about how they were going to kill the “mutie.” That would have given the scene more impact and made it more realistic.

And to top it all off, some of Fraction’s dialogue is completely unoriginal and hackneyed. There were several lines that you have scene word for word in advertisements for cheesy low-budget movies. I would not even expect this type of dialogue from a creative writing student at a community college.

None of the characters in this issue have much of a well-developed external voice. Everyone speaks in the same generic trendy voice. At points, the characters seem more like actors reading lines for a low-budget movie than actual three-dimensional characters.

There is a complete lack of character work on this title. All the characters come across flat and one-dimensional. One reason for this appears to be that Fraction is projecting too much of himself into each character. Instead, of giving each character their own distinct view on life, they all reflect Fraction’s view on life and, therefore, come across as identical to each other. A talented professional writer is smart enough to separate himself from the characters that he is writing. And if a writer feels absolutely compelled to “speak” through a character then the writer should just pick one character to do that.

Now, even though I like some of Land’s panels, I still have some problems with his art in this issue. Land’s art would work well in a book that was just a collection of artwork. However, comic books are a story and it is incumbent upon the artist to bring the writer’s script to life in a logical and cohesive manner.

And this is Land’s greatest weakness. Often the facial expressions of the various characters do not match the dialogue. Other times what the characters are doing in a panel does not match up with the script.

There is a real disconnect between the writer’s story and what Land draws. This disconnect gives Uncanny X-Men #501 a disjointed feel as the writing and art fail to synch up at several points in this issue.

Overall: Uncanny X-Men #501 was an atrocious read. This issue was far below the standard that I expect from a big company like Marvel. And what depresses me the most is that Tenzil just e-mailed me today with a link to the Lying in the Gutters column that gives a green light to the rumor that Matt Fraction will be taking over Uncanny X-Men completely as Brubaker is set to exit the title.

I blame the lack of quality in the past two issues on Fraction. This title did not read this poorly when Brubaker was just writing it. And I have read Brubaker on Batman, Captain America, Daredevil, and Criminal and his writing has never read like what we have gotten over the past two issues.

There are only three Marvel titles that have absolute immunity to The Revolution’s dreaded axe due to a strong sense of nostalgia, loyalty and my having a complete run on those titles. Those titles are Iron Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Uncanny X-Men. Lucky me, Marvel has decided to completely run into the ground two of those titles.

I would only recommend Uncanny X-Men #501 to huge Matt Fraction fans or Judd Winick fans. Outside of those two groups, I am not too sure who else this issue would appeal to.

11 thoughts on “Uncanny X-Men #501 Review

  1. “Worthington Towers in San Francisco where Scott and Emma are living.”

    Is Scott trying to grow a soul patch or a gotee or something? The whole haircut thigns looks wrong.

    “Emma walks into the other room and sees Scott trying to build a crib.”

    See, most people just buy cribs.

    “(All right. I get it Fraction. You are cool and hip. You talk a lot about sex. Jesus. You would think that Fraction had not gotten laid in a year.)”

    It’s been a long time sense high school, but the standered rule there was that they guys who talked none-stop about sex were usaully the ones who had never gotten any.

    “Fraction should have just had Megan spout out the famous Charlton Heston quote from Planet of the Apes”

    Hey that movie was awasome!

    “Beast does not know what “hot pockets” are and that Scott cannot make him cook them”

    How do you not know what hot pockets are. I keep strict Kosher and have never had a hot pocket but I still know what they are. I’m not sure if it’s supoossed to funny or hip or what?

    “That this facility will be a place that mutants can come to for protection and education.”

    Again, what kind of education would lil’ mutants need? Can you get homework help or take basketball lessons like a normal rec center?

  2. The “hope you survive the experience” line is a callback to whenever someone knew would join the X-Men in the Claremont era, you’d have a cover featuring the noob getting menaced, usually by mind-controlled/whatever teammates, with the caption “Welcome to the X-Men ______; hope you survive the experience.”

    Fraction is definitely doing the dialogue now; I believe this is his scripting, so he’s actually doing most of the work, but the dialogue is really noticeable; going from Brubaker’s language, which is, at the best of times, real in a realistic way (as opposed to a Bendis way), to Fraction’s, which is, at the best of times, turbo-charged in a highly entertaining way (for when it doesn’t, see last issue, when Cyclops told Magneto to “suck it”), is quite a shift.

    As far as villains go, the Cult minions are not especially threatening; they’re basically just some dudes with clubs; at issue’s end, they’re ambushed trying to attack Karma, but even if Wolverine and Nightcrawler weren’t there, Karma really should have been able to handle the three or four of them. Their superpowered bosses may pose a more credible threat.

    Regarding the Red Queen, in a lot of ways that’s really just a more honest depiction of what the Hellfire Club was always about (Chris Claremont’s love of bondage).

    There’s something of a tonal disconnected between this and X-Force, mainly in the portrayal of Cyclops; simply put, Brubaker and Fraction are not writing a guy who has a secret death squad on call. More generally, the super-dangerous world that X-Force posits is hard to reconcile with this one, which is all fast cars and bright sunny skies (and gangs of thugs in alleys, but they’ve always been around). One could spin this as the super-dark X-Force being the price for the sunnier world that the others enjoy, but if that’s the case then Cyclops is the hinge, and there’s no real suggestion of that kind of thing under the surface of his generally pretty happy persona here. The whole tone of the San Francisco move that Brubaker, Fraction, and Ellis are employing is essentially upbeat; there really doesn’t seem room for Cyclops’ black ops squad in this.

    All that said, I enjoyed the story; it gets too in-your-face hip a little (okay, a lot), but I thought it was fun.

  3. I loved it too. I understand the critism, but I love way too many factors nof it to dislike it.

    I love Empath, I love Karma, and as a Cyclops’ fan it’s great to see the whole direction of the franchise centered around him, as it should be.

    Was UXM 501 on level with Fables, Cap, Herc or Action Comics? Not even close. But it’s not a bad comic either, imho.

  4. A title I’m not very interested in…combined with an artist I absolutely hate…I never really planned to buy this book or anything (it’d be difficult, btw)…but now with this review, I’m certain I’ll never buy it, thanks for reviewing 😀

  5. From the overblown writing during the opening scene (which you pointed out), to Greg Land’s horribly posed and traced figures and pornface mouths, I’m regretting picking up the past couple issues of Uncanny to try it out. Brubaker and Fraction and this is what they come up with?

    Give me the Titans East Special!

  6. I don’t read a whole lot of Marvel, but what I just don’t understand is why are Mutants still considered a problem? Was there some change, or are there still only 198?

    I mean, seriously, 198 on the whole planet? And that’s a threat somehow? There are now more people on Earth-616 that have powers from strange radioactivity accidents than people born with them! What’s next, going after child savants and albinos?

    Do The X-Men actually fight supervillains anymore, by the way? It looks like they just sort of hang around, spend obscene amounts of money, and complain a lot.

  7. I didn’t think this comic was that bad, though I see some of the validity of your criticisms. I do like the hellfire cult, their attitudes towards mutants recalled the days of Claremont and others which would have mutant hating factions attack the X-Men all the time. I did think the fornication references were a bit much. I will continue to give this title a chance, the cliffhanger kicked butt.

  8. I liked this issue.
    Although if this comic wasn’t about my favourite team and alot of my favouite characters, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much.

    The issue was definitely sex obsessed and was full of some eye-rolling dialogue.
    However I enjoyed the overall plot and I like the direction of the title. So I can let these things slide.

    This line was hilarious:-
    “I wonder if Greg Land traced one of Fraction’s porno magazines for this panel?”

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