The X-Men have always been cool as a concept, but actually figuring out a way to penetrate their dense and convoluted continuity has always been a challenge for new readers. There have been so many different X-titles that one was just called X-Men it went by the nickname "Adjectiveless." There have also been about 400 'big events' recently in the world of Marvel's Merry Mutants, making things a lot more confusing. But Marvel's "Point One" initiative is supposed to signify proper jumping-on points for curious folks, so let's see how well writer Kieron Gillen's Uncanny X-Men 534.1 functions in that regard.
Full disclosure: I have not read any X-titles since Joss Whedon finished his run on Astonishing X-Men. I caught a few issues of Warren Ellis' 'ghost box' follow-up on that title, but the art was turning me off, so I dropped it. Through osmosis, I know that there are a couple hundred mutants left in the world (although the Scarlet Witch said 'no more mutants,' but apparently that didn't completely take for some reason), there's something called Necrosha, Jubilee is a vampire or something, Cable is dead and there's some new Phoenixy type named Hope who is the first mutant kid born since M-Day, and who is now a teenager, in true soap opera fashion, because nobody likes to read about kids.
In this case, 534.1 works out well for me, because it looks like they're teasing a revisit Whedon's run, with Magneto fiddling around with a fragment of the Breakworld bullet that Kitty had to sacrifice herself to phase through our planet. That explains why Kitty's back, although not why she's wearing a Mysterio helmet. She has one line of dialog in this issue, as does Colossus, whose resurrection was the only reason I started reading Whedon's run in the first place. My fear when that happened was that my favorite X-Man was going be relegated to the background all the time once again once the novelty wore off, and if this issue is any indication, that's certainly the case.
Of course, it's understandable, because the central issue they have to explain is what the hell is Magneto doing with the X-Men? Aren't they mortal enemies? Unfortunately, they don't really answer that, although we're left to draw our own conclusions that maybe the fact that there are only 175 mutants left has something to do with it. Instead, the focus is on P.R. maven Kate Kildare trying to convince Magneto to dial it down a notch and allow some spin doctoring to sell the general public on the idea that a big-time mutant terrorist chilling on an island off the coast of San Francisco, while Mr. Lensherr insists that he doesn't give a damn if humans are afraid of him, because they should be. Kildare's case is helped by the fact that there are apparently "Magneto Was Right" T-shirts that have neutered his message as much as Che Guevara's has been by hipster culture.
However, somebody posing as him apparently did something awful in New York recently that they don't explain – was this that old Joseph clone coming back, or Xorn or something? Who knows? The point is that there's a specific instance of bad-guy that Magneto has to explain away with something other than 'it wasn't me.' Kildare is portrayed as about as noble as a P.R. agent can be, finally dropping the ultimatum that if Lensherr doesn't agree to her spin, he's going to get the rest of the mutants killed, but it's still P.R. and it will always feel skeevy.
The B-story is where the actual superhero rock-em-sock-em happens, where the mayor of San Francisco is a short-skirted, black-wardrobed, cleavage-sporting hipster named Sadie Sinclair who is apparently cozy enough with the X-Men to have an X-Hotline. She calls the gang in to stop some A.I.M. running a protection racket against coprorations headquartered there, threatening earthquakes if they don't get their money.
Oh, and for some reason, Namor The Sub-Mariner is wearing an X-buckle.
And, he's being written poorly.
Seeing this page reminded me that there was apparently some kind of Emma Frost/Namor boot-knocking retconned into existence during the whole Dark Reign thing, and judging by the teaser image in the back of the issue, they'll be revisiting that. Normally, I don't think I'd mind seeing Namor and Cyclops fight over a woman of dubious morality like Frost, but I'd rather see Namor, and not this guy who makes sleazy orgy jokes. Why is he there? Are they still playing the 'Namor is the first mutant' card even though that's only true metatextually? I was fairly certain that distinction belonged to Apocalypse as far as continuity goes. The guy IS a mutant, though, so I suppose he belongs on this crew more than he does bopping around with the Avengers, but he makes even more sense rebuilding Atlantis somewhere, doesn't he? Then again, maybe he is doing that, too, since Wolverine is here, and he's on every team ever made forever and ever, amen, bub snikt.
Anyway, both plots merge when it turns out there's a big temblor about to hit SF, and Magneto makes his presence known by going out there and saving the entire city from it, but unfortunately, in penciler Carlos Pacheco's big splash page, it kinda looks like he's just tossing cars around and trying to destroy the Golden Gate Bridge instead, and we need his triumphant return on the final page to clarify that "that was my press release."
Overall, it's a solid effort, referencing past continuity without drowning us in it, and I'm interested in what comes next – but that's owes less to what was in this issue and more due to what's teased in the X-Mail page. Namely, some kind of sequel to Whedon's run, featuring the return of the Breakworld and, for some reason, Colossus putting on Juggernaut's helmet during the planned Fear Itself tie-in. I'd be more excited for that if the "art" wasn't coming from Porn Tracer Greg Land. At least we'll get a little Rachel & Terry Dodson action first with the "Breaking Point" arc. Bring it on.