Friday, November 8, 2013

Review # 73: "Nation X"

"Nation X" has the X-Men in a pretty cool place. Outside of a few exceptions, every mutant hero is now living on one big island made out of what was once Asteroid M. Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Professor X, the original New Mutants, the New X-Men and many, many others are now directly interacting.

Namor has just been added to the mix, an arrival that occurred in "Utopia" but feels more official with the inclusion of a "Dark Reign: The List" issue written by regular Uncanny scribe at this time Matt Fraction... and drawn by the returning Alan Davis. This single issue is awesome, as Norman Osborn - pissed off at Namor's betrayal of him - sics the Sub-Mariner's ex-wife Marinna - now a hideous, unthinking monstrosity - on the Atlantean. It backfires in spectacular fashion in one of those great comic moments you tend to come by now and then.

However, Namor's presence is quickly overshadowed by one of the five most important mutants ever.


Impressed with Scott's ability to unite mutantkind, Magneto hands him his helmet as a stand-in for his sword. Cyclops himself points out how big the new additions are as the island comes under attack from five Predator X creatures as seen in "Messiah Complex." The threat is greater than they know, and brings a couple of elements from the Grant Morrison era back into the fold.

Meanwhile, a humble and willing-to-help Magneto takes it on himself to find a way to keep the island afloat while Cyclops works with Emma to take care of a problem that has held over from "Utopia." His confident bypass of mutantkind's reluctant leader has consequences and leaves Scott unwilling to trust him. Magneto decides to make it up to the X-Men by bringing yet another hero back. I love the end-of-issue panels in deep space that signal Erik's plan, and the reunion issue features the welcome return of artist Whilce Portacio, though it was only for one issue.

Speaking of pencils, I've got to bring up Greg Land again who - despite splitting time with Terry Dodson - gets more issues in than Terry does. This time I notice that Cyclops and Wolverine have the same face, only with a slight change to the jawline and a lot of stubble. Great tracing work, Greg. Capital.

The stories I've discussed are the meat and potatoes of the "Nation X" trade as the X-Men solve various problems and go about living life. Some of the bonus material takes that to the next level. The four-issue "Nation X" mini-series focuses on one or two X-Men at a time through sixteen short stories. Outside of a horrendous anime-style drawn on "aren't we supposed to be taking this guy seriously now and they do THIS?!" Cannonball, they're all pretty good.

There are a few I really like in particular. One focuses on Iceman, as he makes jokes to ease stress (including just ravaging Namor with a couple of insults) and creates a problem in the process. Another catches up with Wolverine and Nightcrawler on a road trip. My favourite, though, is a sequence about everyone's favourite alien green blob, Doop. It's an X-Statix reunion with Peter Milligan writing and Mike Allred drawing, and it's good to see Doop's story have a positive conclusion. Though he would (thankfully) be back.

You aren't going to find a classic X-Men story here, and I can't say anything is essential (though that opening story with Namor is very good.) You can easily skip this en route from "Utopia" to "Second Coming." However, if you're a big fan and you want to see characters mix in ways you haven't before, this is a solid pick-up.

Rating: 7/10

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