Matt Fraction and Greg Land pack a lot into “Uncanny X-Men” #508, but not much actually happens. It’s an odd paradox where pages are filled with characters and dialogue and captions, but very little of the plot moves forward. Not every scene works that way, but enough do. But, hey, it’s still a fun read.
Greg Land’s art is probably the most divisive aspect of this comic as most tend to either love or hate his photo-reference style. Personally, I’m not a fan of the style, but it’s hard not to recognize that Land accomplishes what he sets out to do very well. There are even moments of very good cartooning, like Domino’s expressions on pages three and seven, which you can take a look at thanks to CBR’s preview. In some spots, it looks like Land is purposefully going for a less photo-referenced look, showing that he still has the skill he’s always had. It’s still not to everyone’s taste, obviously, but there are some bright spots for those who don’t dig his usual work.
The number of plots addressed here is high, which works against the issue as a whole. Since each of them need an introduction of some sort to catch readers up to speed, a lot of time is wasted on exposition. The scene with Beast and the scientists he’s gathered to solve the X-gene problem is nothing but repetition of the problem itself; there’s no room at all for that plot to advance, which makes it superfluous.
The resurrection plot featuring Madelyne Pryor and her Sisterhood does move forward and provides the issue’s only big action sequence with Domino facing off against Chimera, Lady Deathstrike, and Spiral. Fraction pulls the action off well, utilizing each’s unique powers, even setting up Domino’s salvation in advance. But, this is the only plot that moves forward in any meaningful way with the rest of the issue in a holding pattern.
That said, even the scenes where nothing really happens are filled with small touches that entertain. For introducing characters, Fraction uses small captions with the character’s name, powers and, sometimes, facts about them. The facts usually illicit a small chuckle with descriptions like “Spiral’s magic murder doll” for Lady Deathstrike, “Healing factor. Claws. Hirsute,” for Wolverine, or “Wasn’t crazy for the wrap-up of Battlestar” for Karma. The only problem with these is that they aren’t used for every character introduced, including several members of the Sisterhood, which would be useful.
Characters are clearly the main focus of Fraction’s interest as he revels in discussions between them, and how they react to new situations. How will Emma Frost react to teaching a group of Russian immigrants unexpectedly? How will Beast’s scientist group react to the magical connections to the new dormancy of the X-gene? The results are fun most of the time.
A very solid issue of “Uncanny X-Men” that has me thinking that, maybe, I should be picking this series up every month. It’s not groundbreaking, but it is the best “X-Men” comic I’ve read since Morrison left the titles.