Ah well. After several successful "this is the new mutant status quo" anthology mini-series from Marvel, it was bound to happen: one of them didn't work. It's too bad, because "Nation X" had the most potential out of all of them to date. Maybe it's because it's such a different setting (unlike, say, a mini-series with characters moving to San Francisco) that writers found it hard to latch onto Matt Fraction's story concept. Or maybe everyone was just afraid of stepping on Fraction and Mike Carey's toes? For whatever the reason, though, "Nation X" tries hard but never quite gets there.
My favorite story of this issue was probably seeing Peter Milligan and Michael Allred bring their character Doop back from "X-Statix." "Dooptopia" starts off remarkably funny, with the strange alien grilling the X-Men over a possible crime that hasn't happened yet. With questions about French new wave cinema for Iceman and mandatory tap-dancing for Magneto, this is not your normal inquisition. The end of the story, though, sputters out a bit and loses a tiny bit of the wit that kept it going up until that point. It's still an overall fun story, and Allred's clean art style is always welcome in my house (I can't wait to get a monthly dose of Allred on the upcoming, "I, Zombie" series from Vertigo), but it never hit the heights of the "X-Statix" brilliance.
Then again, endings seem to be the big problem with "Nation X" #4. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa starts off well with a story about the remaining Stepford Cuckoos being bored on Utopia (especially now that their fragment of the Phoenix is gone), but it doesn't so much end as it grinds to a halt and on an odd note at that. Harvey Tolibao's art reminds me of comics from Aspen Comics (especially its late founder Michael Turner), and while the perpetual wind machines blowing people's hair and highly accentuated female forms aren't my bag, I have to admit that it fits Aguirre-Sacasa's script. It's not a bad effort, but once again it just doesn't hit the note it's aiming for.
Ivan Brandon and Rael Lyra's "Ice Cream Alamo" and Joe Caramagna and Niko Henrichon's "The King & Queen of Utopia" both use Utopia's food situation as a springboard for their stories, but both end up feeling a little too easy. Brandon's script is an amusing enough idea, while Caramagna's feels a little overwrought in places, but once again neither seems to really hit their ending just right. Henrichon gets points for a great full-page splash of Utopia from above, although I'm starting to wonder if Jay Leno was Henrichon's model for Namor based on that enormous chin.
At the end of the day, maybe because there's still a "Nation X" story running within "Uncanny X-Men" and company, it doesn't feel like anyone could really conclude their own stories with any real success. It's too bad, because the concept was good. But for now, it seems, stories about Utopia are probably best left to Fraction and Carey.