Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Uncanny X-Men #477 Advance Review

Uncanny X-Men #477
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Clayton Henry

Review Content: The ending of last issue saw the X-Men stranded in space after following the revenge-driven Vulcan (a.k.a. the Third Summers brother) to towards the Shi'ar Empire and finding themselves in front of a destroyed Stargate. This issue takes a look back a few weeks and 180 degrees away from the X-men space team, to focus entirely on Vulcan and his fiery rampage through Shi'ar space.

Vulcan has set out to exact revenge on Emperor D’Ken for the murder of his mother and his own enslavement. To make it through the Shi’ar Stargates he will need to confront and take over a Shi’ar spaceship, showcasing a different side to his mutant abilities apart from the generic ‘power-blasts’ he had exhibited during Deadly Genesis, and utilising a degree of cunning. Although the success of this specific ‘trick’ seems to have depended primarily on the Shi’ar military’s gullibility/cowardice, it was still refreshing to see an X-villain exercise his mind in a situation.

From the advance publicity I have gathered that these Vulcan solo stories will be a regular occurrence every 3 issues, allowing for fill-in artists to be introduced organically into the 12-part storyline. The final page sees the dramatic return of a cast of characters that should provide for a more interesting opponent for Vulcan. The battle scene and overall plot this issue didn’t break any exciting new ground, but acted as a backdrop for the introspective third-space narration focusing on Vulcan’s motivation and history, slowly urging the reader to sympathise with Vulcan, the X-Men’s villain in the over-arching story.

Clayton Henry has slowly but decisively climbed the ranks in the Marvel offices to become the new fill-in artist for Uncanny X-Men! His Uncanny X-men Annual last month was a revelation as to what he can achieve with his art style given proper grooming from the inker and colorist; unfortunately, the current issue doesn’t play off to his strengths the same way. Even though he is technically levels above Billy Tan, both in consistency, anatomy and overall technique, his loose bold lines style is no more suited for a Space Adventure epic than it was for the gritty horror Dracula/Apocalypse mini a few months ago. Having a very open and distinctive style, Henry reminds me of an early Steve McNiven and is perfectly suited for romantic stories like the aforementioned annual, teen books like his Hellions mini and more light-hearted comedy like his Alpha Flight with Scott Lobdell. Here he is asked to illustrate a solo space adventure with 22 pages featuring nothing but a main character with a generic and uninspired look against the already homogenic Shi’ar army, ending in (unavoidable) disappointment, perhaps partly assignable to the colorist who only made the situation worse with a conventional bright colour palette with little contrast.

Grade: D

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