The X-Axis, 21 September 2003
Part 3 of 8: UNCANNY X-MEN #431

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Uncanny X-Men.

Last time I started off by saying that I was going to skip quickly over the issue, because it was halfway through a lengthy storyline.  And then I went ahead and wrote a full scale review anyway.  Well, this time I'm really going to skip over it, because it's just pursuing the same storylines we established in previous issues and there's not a huge amount more to say about it.

The problem with this issue, in fact, is not Chuck Austen.  Austen's writing is often hugely over the top - poor Polaris is saddled with dialogue like "I flew through the wailing mothers and dying children."  (And for that matter, the explanation given for her behaviour is inconsistent with the way she acted when she first turned up in this series.)  But the basic plot ideas ramble along their unexceptional paths.

The problem is the art.  I can see what Marvel like about Philip Tan; his odd hybrid of manga caricature and excessive detail does often have a certain charm to it.  Take the cover, for example.  That's perfectly pleasant.  In fact, I quite like it.

But the storytelling is just terrible.  There's a scene which involves Kurt being fused to - presumably - his neighbour in the ritual circle from the previous issue.  Warren cuts him free.  All of this is kept off panel and the neighbour, despite being a key element in the scene, is never even on panel at all.  If Tan is trying to be coy, it doesn't work.

Abyss suddenly turns up from nowhere on the penultimate page, despite never having been seen in any of the establishing shots earlier in the issue.  Why not?

And Tan has severe problems with making characters recognisable.  Earlier in the storyline, Austen helpfully remembered to mention Abyss in some exposition, since he would be playing a key part in the storyline.  But god alone knows how many readers were able to identify Abyss as the character standing on the beach.  This issue, he isn't even named at all.  Abyss was last seen back in issue #406, when he was drawn by Aaron Lopresti.  Tan's version bears no resemblance whatsoever.  No doubt that's partly because Austen's plot idiotically requires the character to retroactively resemble Nightcrawler.  But how is the poor reader supposed to make the connection, when the character is unrecognisable and goes unnamed for two months?

This is elementary stuff.  But unfortunately, that's how things are going with this book.

Rating: C-

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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.
 

UNCANNY X-MEN #431
Marvel Comics
November 2003
$2.25 US / $3.75 CAN

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

LINKS
Marvel Comics
Avalon Studios