Following up on the events of Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” run, the third issue of Kieron Gillen’s first arc as the sole “Uncanny X-Men” writer sees the citizens of the Breakworld arrive on Earth apparently looking for some help and guidance, even though - as a result of their warrior culture - they’re not quite sure how to actually make that request.
It’s fair to say that fans weren’t particularly clamoring for the X-Men to revisit the Breakworld and its associated story threads. Although introduced by Joss Whedon in his critically acclaimed run on “Astonishing X-Men,” the characters were largely drawn from a generic monoculture of alien foes, and indeed, the ones who were developed beyond that were further developed into corpses by the end of the arc.
Having identified their generic nature as a major failing of the Breakworlders, it’s impressive that Gillen manages to fix it in a single page. In the short sequence, various members of the Breakworld’s race give their feelings on their civilization’s current predicament, and in doing so they all finally come alive as characters. It takes some skill to realize an entire civilization in six panels, but Gillen and Terry Dodson make it look almost elementary.
It’s not without a price, however. This issue pulls away from the X-Men a little in favor of exploring the Breakworlders and their situation, which one can imagine upsetting some people. Even so, the alternative – building the story around the fate of characters we neither know nor care about – would undeniably have left us with an unsatisfying arc. Even if you’d rather see more of the X-Men in this issue, sacrificing some of the focus to Kruun and his associates should ultimately allow Gillen to deliver a more satisfying story overall.
Similarly, with space for only a few X-Men here, Gillen has chosen his players carefully. Clearly, he’s very interested in Magneto, and has given him his own ongoing sub-plot (this, in addition to making him the “.1” issue’s focus). Interestingly, Gillen pursues an atypical line with the character, examining his more intellectual and scientific background, rather than the philosophical and political route most writers take. It’s an entirely valid angle for Magneto’s character, and a much fresher one than we’ve seen in some time, which makes it hard not to enjoy.
As ever, the Dodsons’ artwork is fantastic, and the art team packs a potentially difficult, conversational issue with interesting character designs and location work to help ensure it never drags. Weaker artists could have had serious trouble with the pace and subtleties of the story, but the Dodsons are more than capable collaborators. The results are fun, interesting and original, and you can’t ask for more than that from any superhero comic. Highly recommended.