Regular readers of the site will have noticed that James and I have a somewhat bipolar relationship with Matt Fraction’s X-title, praising its characterisation one month and attacking weak plotting the next. Thankfully, this third part of the writer’s Lovelorn arc is the moment when the nature of the title become clear, with its curious mixture of strengths and weaknesses defined.
While the broader picture of mutantkind’s position of the world becomes more clearly resolved, Colossus’s kill or cure bid to overcome his grief comes to a head rather quicker than expected, as he discovers the true nature of the business his “undercover” investigation has stumbled upon. This mixture of events throws into focus both what’s right and wrong with the book. To start with the positive, Fraction has obviously decided to make Uncanny the line’s flagship title. As we’ve observed previously, Warren Ellis’s Astonishing looks set to join Whedron’s take on the book as a TPB heavy-hitter, while the other titles leave it in solitary confinement. This issue is reminiscent of the Civil War/ Secret Invasion core series, offering a story that draws on themes to have been explored in greater detail in other titles, while still telling a coherent story in its own right. It relays recent events from X-Force, such as the construction of a new and influential anti-mutant cabal, while commandingly feeding the developments into a new global status quo.
The great strength of the title is this authoritative feel, with the writer in complete control of the events he recounts, and some good characterisation supports this with Fraction’s grip on his core cast exemplary. The book’s problem is in the original stories he tells, which are derivative and unconvincing. The momentum of the SFX plotline has dissipated, with Rasputin involved in a dull GTA IV-inspired Russian mob drama, while Beast attempts to handle the Godzilla knock-off created by a Japanese mad scientist. These events undo the social realism of the book’s repositioning of the mutant species, resulting in a very confused identity for the title. The desire to cover more ground than a focus on a single plotline would permit is laudable, but the writer just isn’t providing solid enough ideas to convey the sense of scale he seeks. Fraction may be guilty of dumbing down his work too much, in the mistaken belief that the X-readership would be uninterested in a book without a fight sequence. The writer is doing a superb job of tying together themes and threads from the line as a whole, but his own contributions are a little lacking.