Review: Uncanny X-Men #542

The Rasputins make a fateful deal with Cytorrak, while Greg Land continues to do that thing Greg Land does.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Uncanny X-Men #542

I was enjoying Uncanny X-Men for a while, but I had to put it down when Greg Land came on board to handle the art chores – that's how strong my distaste for his work is.  Sure, it's quasi-photo-realistic on occasion, but I have never seen any artist manage to create the exact wrong facial expression for any given panel as often as he does.  Even the cover image above suffers from that problem.  Terry Dodson, who preceded him on this book, does occasionally have problems with making most female faces appear identical, but it's never as offensively done as Land.  There's a reason people keep saying he traces porn, and parody him as such.

However, upon realizing that the long-awaited fulfillment of that months-ago teaser image of Colossus donning the Juggernaut's helmet was about to come to fruition in the midst of Fear Itself, the decision was made to tolerate Land in order to get the story from Kieron Gillen, who's work I liked during the whole Breakworld arc.  It had to be done.  Colossus is becoming the Juggernaut!  It's mandatory reading.

The first page took me aback, making me wonder why the hell Cyclops is teaming up with the Silver Agent from Astro City, until I soon realized the really shiny guy is supposed to be Avalanche of Ye Olden Brotherhoode of Evil Mutants.  It's part one of a clever set-up by Gillen that not only underscores the desperation that drives Colossus to make his dark bargain, but also serves as a rather entertaining mockery of the ludicrously impossible nature of the premise of Fear Itself.  The X-Men throw plan after plan after plan after plan at the ever-encroaching Juggernaut, now possessed by Kuurth: Breaker of Stone, who is augmenting the power of Cain Marko's Crimson Gem of Cytorrak.  Nothing works, despite the wide variety of mutant powers and high-impact assaults that would work at any other time, if the editorial mandate wasn't 'hey, you tie-in guys, make sure all your characters fight and lose miserably to sell these things that Thor can whip with one well-aimed hammer blow."  One senses a bit of writerly frustration working beneath that mandate, and Gillen's method of dealing with it is a nice little venting for both author and reader.

The upside to all of that is I now want to know who the hell Adam X is, as Plan 24 involves him setting Kuurth's blood on fire while cussing him out, which is just entertaining. 

Which leads us to the confrontation with Cytorrak himself, the mysterious god of destruction who has long wished for Marko to beat the hell out of everything like he's doing now – so much so that he, in all his godly glory, hadn't even noticed there was another god possessing his avatar, and all that destruction was being credited to the wrong metaphysical hombre.  Magik (who looks like Emma Frost, who looks like Dazzler, who looks like Sue Richards, who looks like Arcana of the Squadron Supreme, who looks like every button-nosed blonde model Land ever uses) offers herself up as a replacement avatar for the big red monster, since she's apparently lacking half a soul and the X-Men keep her in a cell for some reason these days.  However, in true Piotr Rasputin fashion, he steps in front of her to protect her from danger and takes that soul-darkening hit himself, in spite of the goofily smiling protests from the love of his life Kitty Pryde, because Land is Land and this is what he does.

What's so infuriating about Land is that when he wants to be, he can be really good.  His rendering of Cytorrak is impressively nasty (unless he traced that from some old sci-fi classic monster I'm unfamiliar with).  When he's actually drawing and not working in that annoying photo-light-box-whatever thing he always does, it's good work.  It would be a neat trick if he only used it when creating images of Emma Frost, because she's supposed to kind of look like a manufactured porn star, but using it on everybody and making their faces into these vapid blanks is just maddening.  Even Danger is drawn with a silly sex-bot posture. 

There's also the fact that Piotr taking on the role of Cytorrak's avatar is supposed to be eternally damning himself, but the whole reason they're there in the first place is because they know how to get Cytorrak to forsake his avatars – just worship another god and tell him about it.  Done and done.  Case closed, next issue.  The underlying drama doesn't seem to quite be there, but it should be fun to watch a Jugged-up Colossus go to town on that Serpentine Stonebreaker next issue.  It's about time Pete got to knock Cain's dick in the dirt.

So, overall, the plotting is at least interesting, there's plenty going on and there's lots of showing off of mutants and their powers, but the art from Land is occasionally interesting but mostly aggravating, and its the reason for the points knocked off the rating below.