The X-Axis, 10 August 2003
Part 3 of 10: UNCANNY X-MEN #429

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Ah, Uncanny X-Men.  This would be the first part of "The Draco", unless of course you count last issue's prologue, in which case it's the second part.

I love Chuck Austen.  He's such a barn door target.  This week, Austen has started giving interviews deriding all his critics as a mere minority of trolls, and maintaining that his writing must be good because after all, sales are up.  I find this hilarious.  For one thing, Austen omits to mention that Uncanny X-Men has had the benefit of a heavily promoted film and a 25c issue.  Curiously, he seems to feel that these played no part in his sales increase.

Mind you, if the author of such commercial juggernauts as The Eternal, US War Machine and (snigger) The Call really wants to argue that his sales reflect the quality of his writing, who am I to disagree with him?

Let's leave that aside.  This issue sees Austen setting up the plot threads for the six-part storyline, and as a set-up issue, it's basically unobjectionable.  Kurt is lured off by unseen forces to meet up with a load of rather similar looking mutants; the Juggernaut arbitrarily decides that it's very very important that he goes to visit Sammy Pare now; and Xavier has finally decided that it might be a nice idea to do something about Lorna's emotional problems.  As an issue in its own right, this is basically okay.  It establishes the plot threads, and it's kept relatively sane, with the melodramatics fairly constrained. 

The problems come more from the context.  For example, why is Xavier only now deciding that something should be done to treat Lorna, when she's been obviously insane from the moment she stepped through the door?  It seems as if Austen wanted to do an arc where Lorna acts increasingly bizarrely up until the wedding where she flips - but by pitching her as a blatant psycho from the word go, it doesn't work.  And why is the Juggernaut so desperate to go to see Sammy now?  Nothing here has changed for several issues, but Austen wants Juggernaut to burst into a room for dramatic effect even though there's no urgency.  If he's waited this long, he can wait until Xavier's finished his conversation, surely.

Philip Tan's art remains inconsistent.  His seems to be trying to draw in two mutually exclusive styles at the same time, and rather than a hybrid the result is often an ungodly mess.  You can't get away with doing fiddly crosshatching on everyone's faces and at the same time draw all the women with the facial proportions of a manga cartoon; those two styles simply can't co-exist in the same figure, let alone the same paragraph.  Tan has obvious potential but the awkwardness of his work still presents problems.

Do I expect this story to work?  No - I expect it to suck, and suck badly.  And I have my reasons for that.  In this story, Austen returns to two of his pet themes.  He has yet another group of mutants drawn together by similarity of powers, just like the werewolves.  He has religious imagery, just like the Church of Humanity.  Austen's previous ventures with both these themes have been, frankly, embarrassing.  So the omens are bad.

But taken purely in isolation - sure, this is alright.  So was the first part of Dominant Species, though.

Rating: B

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Copyright 2003 Paul O'Brien.  This web site is a work of critical comment and review. All characters and publications referred to, and artwork reproduced, are and their respective owners.

Marvel Comics
October 2003
$2.25 US / $3.75 CAN

"The Draco,
part I of VI"
Writer: Chuck Austen
Artist: Philip Tan
Letterer: Russ Wooton
Colourists: Avalon Studios
Editor: Mike Marts

Cover credits: Philip Tan

Marvel Comics
Avalon Studios