The whole gang's back together… almost. We've lost Beast but gained Magneto, but with Scott and Emma, Piotr and Kitty, Agent Brand, the Breakworld and even Danger in the house, Uncanny X-Men #535 has all the makings of a sequel to Joss Whedon's famous run on Astonishing X-Men. Does it stand a chance of measuring up to the original? Maybe.
Of course, Kieron Gillen doesn't have the massive fan devotion Whedon enjoys, so he's got his work cut out for him. So far, he's a little inconsistent, but nothing overly so. There are just minor nitpicks with his Namor, who in this issue explains the protocol of using the battle cry "Imperius Rex" being reserved for before the battle is joined, whereas in the Point One issue that preceded this, he uses the phrase immediately after the battle is joined – and that's in addition to his weirdly sleazy group sex joke from that issue, too. Thankfully, the Sub-Mariner seems to have been written out of this arc, so it'll be less of a problem for me. No need for ol' Baby Fish Mouth in outer space.
As I mentioned in my aforelinked review of #534.1, I haven't really read an X-book since Whedon left, which makes this story a perfect jumping-on point for me. Kitty Pryde is back from her Breakworld Bullet oblivion, but she's stuck in her intangible form again – a pickle she's been in once before back during the Morlock Massacre days – and this time, they apparently can't just go to Reed Richards for help. They're stuck with Dr. Kavita Rao (another holdover from the Whedon run) who apparently can understand mutantkind enough to erase their powers, but can't figure out the process of phasing enough to allow Kitty a life outside a containment suit. It seems that our Shadowcat can't even speak while she's phased anymore, which was never a problem before. What's the deal?
Maybe it has something to do with that Breakworld Bullet. Apparently, its metal has such a unique composition that Magneto can't understand it – and some guy named Nemesis is an amusingly brusque jerk about helping him out. At first, I wondered why the hell the Horseman Formerly Known as Holocaust would be a fedora-sporting science guy ranting about killing Nazis, but a little interweb research revealed that this is Dr. Nemesis, one of the guys who built the original Human Torch. A guy who makes robots ranting about how much he hates metallurgy. Never let the facts get in the way of a good monologue, I guess. It is a fun and spiky bit of snark, though.
So we've got the Kitty mystery and the Magneto msytery bubbling up (which may actually be dovetailing mysteries down the line), and that's when the entertainingly bitchy Abigail Brand recruits the X-Men to help deal with the fact that a giant Breakworld battleship has just appeared at the edge of the solar system with power enough to lob a deathblow at Earth, and the X-Men have to go put a stop to it before the brutal aliens can exact revenge for Colossus ripping the arm off of their Powerlord and ruining their plans. But things aren't quite what they seem when they finally get themselves on board the Resplendent Celestial Slaughter. That's right. That's the name of the Breakworld ship. These guys aren't subtle.
On the upside, Gillen's taking cues from Whedon on some aspects – including using Wolverine as almost exclusively tough-guy comic relief. Let his 400 other books tell stories about his messed up dark angst. In this one, he's Bubby McSnikt and that's all we need. He's got Brand down pat (it helps that I did enjoy the S.W.O.R.D. series), and my favorite X-Man Colossus looks to take center stage again – something that rarely ever happens. I'm not sure why the Evil Sentient Danger Room is now Cyclops' secretary, nor am I aware of why exactly Magneto has joined the X-Men or why the inventor of the Mutant Cure is now one of their go-to eggheads, but these are things I can write off as minor mysteries that will be clarified in due time.
The minor twitch-inducing things in Gillen's characterizations are certainly not enough to derail the enjoyment of the book. The Dodsons handling the art is, for the most part, a good thing, although that's a little inconsistent here as well – there's a particular panel of Brand with a giraffe-neck issue that sticks out. Overall, I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes, and while much is made about how convoluted and impenetrable X-books can be, I'm always happy when I find one I actually like.
They're the X-Men. They're cool.