The last of the "Divided We Stand" issues, "Uncanny X-Men" #499 finishes what ultimately felt like a transition storyline, something to bridge the gap between the end of the "Messiah Complex" cross-over and a new status quo with issue #500. But is that a bad thing?
There are two stories here: Mastermind's attempt to take over San Francisco, and Russian agents of the Red Room tracking down members of the X-Men to try and learn why they were spared the Decimation. Neither one of them has enough plot to maintain five issues on their own, so Brubaker has run the two side by side. The problem is that by both storylines taking five months to resolve, each of them feels like they've been dragged out too long. Had the Red Room story run for two issues and then the San Francisco story followed it, I think the pacing would have felt a lot better.
Instead, it's hard to not be a little disappointed with the conclusion to "Divided We Stand." There's no subtlety in the resolution to either storyline; Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler escape the Red Room and Omega Red with a pretty standard fight scene, and the same is true with Cyclops and Emma Frost going up against Mastermind. With both endings, it ultimately comes down to nothing terribly clever or inventive, just a matter of, "We're stronger than you." It feels uninspired, a real letdown after the initial cleverness of San Francisco being transformed back into the Summer of Love.
And really, that's been a problem that I think has dogged Brubaker's run on "Uncanny X-Men" to date. Each of his solo stories â€" "Deadly Genesis", "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire", "The Extremists", and now "Divided We Stand" â€" has had a solid idea at its core, but a real lack of enthusiasm coming across in the finished product. I'm hoping that the addition of co-writer Matt Fraction will help punch up the book's excitement level; Brubaker and Fraction's collaboration on "The Immortal Iron Fist" has had all the energy that "Uncanny X-Men" has missed.
Marvel seems to think so, bringing in big guns Greg Land and Terry Dodson on pencils next month. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing Mike Choi return if they need another artist to step in. His pencils on the book were smooth and detailed, and would certainly be a good addition to the title on a regular basis. I was a little sad to see Ben Oliver step in for half of this issue; he's certainly not bad, but his style just didn't match the rest of the art for this storyline.
In the end, "Uncanny X-Men" #499 finishes up with a bit of a whimper, but here's hoping that next month's #500 kicks it off with a bang.