Things have not been going well for the X-Men since moving to Utopia (the former sunken Asteroid M), which is their island home off the coast of San Francisco, with an attack by the mutant-eating Predator Xs, a sliver of the Void making its home in Emma Frost’s mind, and the recent discovery that Utopia is sinking. Guess Cyclops didn’t think things through entirely, eh?
In this issue, though, Cyclops has more pressing concerns than a sinking Utopia as the fragment of the Void has left Emma’s mind to set up shop in his, because, as Matt Fraction told CBR’s Dave Richards, “Scott is the leader of the X-Men, and to The Void that's of more value. The Void wanted Scott all along because of the way his mind works; because of his ferociousness and his strategic thinking. . . He saw a guy who could take over the world for him.” As such, Emma must use her telepathic powers to go into Scott’s mind and help him fend off the evil creature while Professor X and Psylocke stand by, ready to kill Scott if necessary. The addition of the bystanders gives the danger of the Void taking over Scott the sense of importance that Fraction talks about. Should this man be compromised and made an enemy, their best hope is to kill him as quickly as possible. If Scott Summers didn’t come off as one of the most capable men in the Marvel universe before, he does now.
While that plot drives this issue, Fraction shows us enough of the other plots to move them along and does so in an interesting fashion. Magneto’s role in the X-Men is an interesting one as he sets out to stop Utopia from sinking and impresses Namor in the process, while being the impetus for Beast rethinking his role in the group. However, Utopia sinking or a revelation about the Predator Xs’ real mission can’t match the sense of importance and danger of the other plot despite being equally pressing. They’re dealt with with such calmness and poise by the characters that they come off as mere annoyances.
The Scott/Emma plot is also where the Dodsons shine on art as Terry uses the mindscape as a chance to try out different, non-linear page layouts. One such page is in the previews for this issue and, as you can see, it is different from a regular page in the way it reads, but not too different. Some will no doubt wonder why Dodson bothered if he wasn’t going to go all out, but this sort of limited experimentation seems appropriate for a comic like “Uncanny X-Men” where doing something too radical will just annoy and confuse readers who have tuned in for mutant superhero action. Balancing the needs of the audience and creative experimentation is important and Dodson walks that line well here.
On the whole, this issue makes Scott Summers look more impressive and able than ever, while also establishing Magneto as an equally capable ally. Definitely one of the strongest issues of Fraction’s run that I’ve read.