Looking at the preview pages for the second issue of the “Nation X” anthology, it’s obvious that this is a diverse issue featuring numerous styles and approaches to the X-characters and their new island home of Utopia from the traditional to the more off-beat sensibility you’d normally find in a non-Marvel, non-superhero book. However, one thing that all of the stories have in common is an abiding love of the characters that comes through, which is both a good and bad thing.
In the first story [**], which centers on the powerless-since-M-Day Jubilee, the narration is clever as she writes a letter to Logan and keeps crossing out what she’s written as it doesn’t seem to express what she wants to say. The tension between Jubilee’s desire to be with her friends and family, and the idea that Utopia is for mutants is an interesting one, but is only touched upon here. Of all the stories in this issue, this is the one with the most potential, but it goes largely unfulfilled. Instead of exploring it, the creators settle for a clichéd ‘we all have special abilities, so we’re all, like, mutants, too’ speech that never fails to induce groans. It’s a cop-out of a story with competent artwork that’s almost hidden under overbearing, ugly coloring.
The writer of the second story [*1/2], John Barber says he’s big fan of Grant Morrison’s run on “New X-Men,” but that doesn’t come through entirely as he casts Quentin Quire as nothing more than a cookie cutter bad guy who does bad things for the sake of them, ignoring the point of the stories Morrison told with the character. Putting that aside, Martha Johansson being charged to stop the destruction of Utopia also holds potential, but it’s executed in too calculating and mechanical a fashion. The ending is a foregone conclusion, with the story lacking drama and an organic flow, each obstacle just a delaying tactic until the abrupt ending. David Lopez’s art helps matters, but it also has a generic quality to it much of the time where certain panels are given lots of detail, while others look rushed or incomplete.
The best story of this issue is the Northstar story by Tim Fish [***] wherein the spotlight is placed upon Jean-Paul’s personal life for both dramatic and comedic effect. Due to his responsibilities on Utopia and his boyfriend living in Toronto, Jean-Paul faces the emotional strain of a long-distance relationship. He is written a little out of character, but his anxious, ‘newly in love’ attitude is quite entertaining and aided by Fish’s fun, energetic artwork.
On the other hand, Becky Cloonan’s art is just about the only thing that makes the final story work [**] as she focuses on Gambit and his insecurity over his betrayals of the X-Men. Like the Jubilee story, there is merit in the subject matter, but the resolution is simplistic and doesn’t explore the issue enough. But, Cloonan’s art is beautiful here as she works with shadows and delivers much of the emotional subtext through her drawing of characters instead of their words. In fact, the words come off as superfluous much of the time because the true content of the scene is apparent in the art.
“Nation X” #2 is a mixed bag anthology issue that should deliver for longtime X-fans, but lacks the space to really deliver on the promise of some of the stories.