With "The Five Lights" concluding in the new "Generation Hope" title, Matt Fraction is now free to start up a new storyline, or in this case, pick up where he left off a few months ago in bringing Sublime back to the X-Men family of books.
This actually feels like a direct continuation of Grant Morrison's run on "New X-Men," with Sublime granting others mutant powers and also attacking the team through biological warfare. This feels so strongly like Morrison's run I actually had to double-check the credits page to make sure it was, indeed, just Fraction writing the book. It is indeed, though, and I think it's one of his stronger scripts. From Anole's monologue about coming down with the mutant-attacking virus, to Dazzler and Northstar's reaction to being the new front line of the X-Men, this issue's script felt dramatic, sassy, and fun in equal helpings, and that's exactly how I like my "Uncanny X-Men."
At the same time, Fraction juggles several other stories, from an appearance of the Collective shaking down Chinatown merchants, to the continuing saga of Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Sebastian Shaw, and Fantomex. I have no idea where either of these stories are going, but that's half of the fun. Fraction has been slightly variable in the past two and a half years when it comes to juggling different plots, but this is definitely one of his better issues. (It certainly helps that so far as one can tell, he's free of big "events" and other crossovers for the foreseeable future.) Everything's moving at a fair clip this month, and I'm already eager to read part two.
I'm of two minds when it comes to Greg Land's pencils this month. (Well, three if you count, "Where are Terry and Rachel Dodson?") On the one hand, after four issues of perpetually devolving pencils from Whilce Portacio, Land's return this month feels almost like a relief. You know exactly what you're going to get with Land—good-girl cheesecake art and some blatant pose swipes—but he's remarkably consistent. On the other hand, pages like the one where Emma Frost is impishly posing behind a barely present sheet? I didn't know that I could feel like an old stick in the mud until I saw that, which feels a little too "adult" for an issue of "Uncanny X-Men," so to speak. I don't even want to know where that particular image was lightboxed from, other than I'd be happy if in the future Land stayed away from that particular variety of reference material. It's a shame, because Land and Jay Leisten do a good job with scenes like the Collective attacking, but some of Land's poses this month feel a little sleazy.
Overall, this is a fun issue of "Uncanny X-Men," and between the set-up here and also knowing that Kieron Gillen steps on as a co-writer starting next month, it's a solid launching point for reader interest to rise. This was a lot of fun.