Overview

Uncanny X-Men #499

Review

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Uncanny X-Men #499

Credits

  • Words: Ed Brubaker
  • Art: Mike Choi & Ben Oliver
  • Inks: Sonia Oback & Jason Keith
  • Colors: Will Panzo
  • Story Title: X-Men: Divided, Part Five of Five
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jun 25, 2008

When the solicitation for this issue boasted: “Witness the new status quo for the X-Men that will define their future!”, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering how one-half the team in Russia battling Omega Red and the other in San Fran wading through a hippie groove-centric altered reality would in fact lead to a changed status quo.  Perhaps they’d remain in Russia and in hippie dress, respectively, for the foreseeable future?  But no, this issue reads as decompressed as the last four, with minimal panels per page, a sparse count on dialogue, and very, very little in the way of actual happenstance.  Omega Red is fought.  The X-Men in SF fight each other.  Things get resolved.  The End.

I can’t say the two parallel yarns that made up “X-Men: Divided”, even for being two completely separate adventures, required five whole chapters to see them through.  While the general events were a blast, and definitely the kind of pulp whimsy that only comics can capture and platform well, Ed Brubaker seemed merely spinning wheels with this one, unsure of what else to do until next month’s big anniversary ish.  Had he injected a little more into each story, plied for a greater depth of character impact, interaction, and intervention, this would have been a worthwhile read.

But as it stands, Brubaker’s script, especially in this particular issue, is serviceable at best.  Because it's lazy; no attempt is made to give the events serious drama, not even serious by spandex standards.  The comedy is even half-hearted and fleeting, which is a shame, because the subject matter was unique, especially the remade hippie world.  So much could have been explored and played with, but in the end all we got was: X-Men turn into hippies, this makes them fight, then they fix things.  Essentially and almost literally that is all we got.

The Russia excursion is slightly better played, though again it boils down to a fight and a return.  There is, however, one single event at the end that announces a new status quo.  It’s a single panel, one person plain-speaking-ly saying it—“Here’s the big change everyone’s been dying to know!  Isn't it cool?  Isn't it big?”  Again, it’s exceptionally lazy storytelling, but the change is very, very cool.  If Fraction helps Brubaker not to slack off on scripts as woefully as he did in "Divided", great things should be in store for issue #500 and beyond.

On the art front, Mike Choi illustrates the fight with Omega Red and guest artist Ben Oliver steps in to wrap things with the hippie plot.  Personally, I’m gonna miss Choi, and while I’m one of the dwindling numbers that still loves Greg Land, I think Choi is far the better team-book artist.  He can make the X-Men’s world truly detailed, colorful; he can work gritty dark as well as silly spandex neon light.  In fact, by comparison, Ben Oliver, who usually is a fine artist, comes across as unpolished and overly sparse.  Choi’s work on the hippie universe was superb, and while Oliver finishes things satisfactorily, it doesn’t capture that same overblown silliness of previous issues.

So “Divided” is over, now new stuff begins.  Land may yet prove a solid choice, due to the nature of the big twist.  The X-Men’s world may be taking on a bit of political and realistic polish, similar to what Iron Man underwent when it became Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and so the photographic quality to Land’s work could gel with this.  And while I’m fast feeling that Brubaker’s Uncanny is a ship without a rudder and definitely without a crew that gives a &*$#, he and Fraction together make things far better than either are capable of solo.  Here’s to better things!

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