Pick of the Week

April 6, 2011 – Uncanny X-Men #534.1

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.2
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 2.6%
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Kieron Gillen
Art by Carlos Pacheco
Colors by Frank D'Armata
Cover by Carlos Pacheco

Size: pages
Price: 2.99

Before we get into the Pick of the Week review this week, yes I did read and review Fear Itself #1 earlier this week and gave it a 5 out of 5. I very much enjoyed it and to be honest, doing the Pick this week was a difficult decision and Fear Itself #1 was in the running until the very end along with some other great books. There were A LOT of amazing comic books published this week. But it appears that every early spring, I’m due for picking Uncanny X-Men, and sure enough here we are again, in the unlikeliest of places.

My adoration of the Uncanny X-Men is no secret. It’s the one comic book I’ve been reading for the longest and will most likely never stop reading. Along with my undying loyalty to Marvel’s mutants, I also have a seemingly endless supply of optimism when a new creative team starts on the book. The hope of a new day, one that will bring back the praise and the glory of yesterday is one that I very much get excited for. It’s not that I want the X-Men to go back to the Halcyon days of Chris Claremont and John Byrne or Paul Smith or Jim Lee. I know, better than most, that you can never go home again. But the idea of a new era of X-Men where we’re all excited to be reading it again? I’d very much like that. The past creative teams have come close, the closest being the past few years of Matt Fraction behind the wheel, but with Uncanny X-Men #534.1, Fraction is gone and now the sole writer is Kieron Gillen and today brings a brand new day for the mutants.

Uncanny X-Men #534.1 is the X-Men’s entry into the Marvel Point One initiative. Now, I’ve been very outspoken on the podcast and in conversations about the Marvel Point One initiative. When they announced the line, I applauded the idea. An issue meant to help people jump on, be it new readers or lapsed readers, is a great idea. Unfortunately the execution hasn’t quite lived up to the potential. Most books have fell victim to scheduling and the Point One books have either read like just another issue in a story, or they were a nice sample of the comic but the next issue would leave new readers completely in the dark. Uncanny X-Men #534.1 seems to have lucked out in scheduling department, with this issue coming in after the end of a story arc and before the next new story arc. And with that, Kieron Gillen steps into the spotlight and knocks one out of the park.

The issue itself is a simple one and done issue with parallel storylines. We watch as the X-Men’s PR person is tackling the issue of the fact that Magneto has now joined the ranks of the X-Men. With the memories of the devastation in New York (back during Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men), it has the potential to be a PR nightmare when the news breaks. And so for much of the issue, we get a lot of the heady conversation around the topic of  “what is PR and what is propaganda?” as well as some insight to where Magneto is as a character and what his beliefs are. While this is occurring, the X-Men are called in by the San Francisco mayor to address the threat of what seems to be AIM threatening to cause earthquakes. Cyclops then rallies the team and we see the public heroes that we’ve been told the X-Men would become back when they moved to San Francisco (hell, that was the premise back when Joss Whedon started on Astonishing X-Men). With teamwork and precision, we see the main characters of Wolverine, Cyclops, Colossus, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, and Namor doing their thing to neutralize the threat within an hour. But when all seems lost and disaster unavoidable, the threat story crosses with Magneto’s PR problems as Magneto, very publicly, uses his power to save San Francisco from earthquake devastation.

As Gillen steps into his own as the sole writer of Uncanny X-Men, it’s clear that he has the voice and characterization of these heroes down. Not a single line felt out of character or action felt out of step. At the same time, Gillen took the task of writing an issue that would be accessible for new readers as well as to set the stage for the next year of story for current readers. That’s no easy feat and Gillen pulled it off like a champ. Of course having a great artist like Carlos Pacheco certainly helps things along. Pacheco was able to handle the mix of conversation and dialogue along with the action and suspense with ease.

The latter half of the book, which took place over the span of an hour, was done with dramatic pacing and clean storytelling. And of course there are the fan service moments where, even hardened comics media people like me can’t help but to grin. Like when the X-Men don their costumes and run to the Blackbird to save the city. Or the moment with Magneto sitting in that chair, helmet floating behind him, and sliver of metal changing shape as he bends it to his will. And of course the image of Magneto, hovering above the Golden Gate Bridge, cars in the air, as he saves the city from certain destruction is one that we will not forget (much like the image of him in New York under Morrison, or him on trial back in Uncanny X-Men #200, or even him destroying that Russian sub way back in the day). Gillen took the challenge of Magneto and where he fits with the X-Men and deftly found a way to weave it into the story in a manner that is not only accessible to today’s audiences, but harkens back to old days for us long time readers.

Uncanny X-Men #534.1 gets all my adulation for numerous reasons. First, I’m excited to see what Gillen has in store for the X-Men as he embarks on his journey as the sole writer. If this was to serve as an audition, then I think we’re going to be in good shape over the next year or so for Uncanny X-Men. Second, it knocks Wolverine #5.1 off the list as “best Point One issue” in that it, I believe, it handled the challenge of this type of issue and succeeded in the goal of presenting a comic book that you can hand to anyone (albeit with basic knowledge of the X-Men) and they could not only read and enjoy this issue, but they could pick up the next issue and be off on their way to enjoying the X-Men.

Now, I know it’s far to early to proclaim Kieron Gillen as the savior of the X-Men, but this is certainly a great start. Between Uncanny X-ForceWolverine, and Uncanny X-Men, it’s looking to be a pretty good future for my favorite characters. Uncanny X-Men #534.1 succeeds on just about every level of expectation I’d have as an X-Men fan.

Ron Richards
Now if we can just get the artist situation addressed. Oh, not him. The other guy.


  1. WHAT

    Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good issue.  But how do you put this above Chew, Non-Player, Green Wake or (debatably) Fear Itself? 

  2. Interesting

  3. For some reason I thought Conor had the pick this week, and did a triple take when I saw it was Uncanny. 

  4. i agree with Andybmcd, the issue was okay overall, but knowing your an X-Men fan I wasn’t surprised that you picked a mediocre book and elevated its status because it was better than the usual uncanny issues have been the last few years

  5. I grew up on x-men but haven’t read it in a while and I picked this up. To my astonishment, (no pun intended) I was very underwhelmed. Madman was my pick of the week.

  6. This was pretty good, but Young Avengers: CC was my PotW

  7. I might grab this issue tonight. You mention the only other X books I read and if it is at that quality, I should love this.

    Thanks for the review.

  8. Hm, I think I’ll pick this up at my shop tomorrow. Pacheco on X-Men brings back ’90s memories that are kinda fun. I’m also intrigued by the “PR vs. propaganda” discussion.

  9. You crazy. 

  10. I like Erik as good, decent person. It’s just a shame it’s not going to last.

  11. This was my Pick of the Week as well.  Great characterization of Magneto, Namor had some wonderful moments, and there was a mention of anarcho-syndicalism (it isn’t often my love of comics and labor history combine).  I had a great time with this book.

  12. This might be the Uncanny run that I might finally be able to pick up on & enjoy, hopefully. Brubaker’s was hit or miss, Faction’s was very annoying & boring to me, so let’s hope that Kieron Gillon can deliver a great run!

  13. About a billion times better than Fraction, I couldn’t stand those dumb character captions.

  14. It was a good issue..but Pick of The Week ? Wow.  O well, to each his own..and everyone knows Ron is an X guy.  I pick Brightest Day just for the surprise alone.  Not much suprises me in comics these days..and Brightest Day sure did (!!)

  15. Well apologizes should be in order.

    After looking back at the comments earlier I realized that they might’ve been a bit too harsh. Seriously I wasn’t trying to accuse of bias, more so that I was curious on the ratio of advanced previews on ANY website to in regards to reviews. Reading it back again, it didn’t come out like I intended. So I just wanted to apologize to Ron for what I typed on Monday. It was a very good review of Fear Itself and this was a fantastic review of Uncanny X-Men.

  16. am I the only one reading Avengers the childrens crusdae? cause umm I can’t see how after reading it any1 could consider making anything else pick of the week and this is coming from a realllly big X-fan 

  17. Well, thanks for making me question my decision to make this my last issue.  I haven’t got round to reading it yet, but I had to make a cull of my standing order while going thru the latest Previews…there’s just too much stuff coming down the pipe!  Still, I understand Ron’s desire for the quality of the old days and hope this is the start of something great!

  18. Wow, just finished  reading the point 1, and you were right Kieron Gillen knocekd it right out the park with this one.  I was up and down with uncanny, but if this is any indication of what is in store for us, i am  all ready to go.  This and fear Itself ties for book of the week.

  19. I really enjoyed Chew this week.  It will probably be my pick.  I’m glad X-Men seems to be getting better.

  20. “Using his mutant abilities, professor Charles Xavier clouds Richards’ mind, willing him to forget the recent events transpired in Broxton, OK”

  21. I don’t typically read X-Men because of the standard reasons (used, but it got out of hand and now I’m lost), though I am reading Uncanny X-Force and enjoying it so far. I read this issue after seeing it was POTW and thought, let me see. I enjoyed it. I’m going to take your word on this and try the next issue in hopes that I won’t be lost. But if I am, Ron. . . well . . . yeah. . . I don’t know.

  22. Not to mention the Namor ground moving comments. Perhaps chauvinist Thor has a new wingman?

  23. Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

    Funny how you can always tell Ron has POTW . . . 

  24. Actually, @TheNextChampion, there was indeed a bias in this week’s POTW (just not the one you were expecting). But, in deference to the Negativity is Too Damn High campaign, I’ll applaud that it was a good, true, honest bias. Too many reviewers pretend they can adopt this guise of objectivity, and it’s total BS. I wish more reviewers had the honesty of Ron, and the fearlessness to admit when they prefer something that strikes them personally more strongly in spite of a safer consensus pick being readily available. 

  25. Why can’t people be allowed to like what they like, and pick the book that they liked the best? And who gives a crap if bias factors in? This is RON’s pick of the week. Not yours. Nor is it the group pick or internet consensus.

    I’ve said it before on here. But it feels like it needs repeating. I want the guys be honest with us and pick the books they enjoyed most. And for them to do so without attempting to appease the reader/listeners. The last thing I want is to get half-hearted reviews where they go against their gut and pick a book simply to look cool or diverse or to please all you goons who complain about such nonsense.

     And if that means Ron picking an X-book or two a year, Conor picking tons of Bat books, and Josh doing whatever it is he does, so be it.

  26. @j206  I can’t be pinned down!

  27. @j206  I’m usually somewhere between Connor and Josh. Wait, no, damn it. Never mind.

  28. I read it and sort of liked it until I read the “X-Mail” at the end of the issue that said Greg Land was coming back for the Fear Itself tie-on issues, then I literally sighed, tossed the book to the floor and said, “That’s why I don’t read these X-Books anymore.”

  29. @j206 You know Josh is a Vertigo/Image/Indie/Mainstream type of guy! 🙂

  30. @j206  –agreed. The one thing i love about this site, is that you guys read and review the books that you would buy for yourselves even if you didn’t have this site or podcast. If all you did was read and pick review copies then it would be shenanigan city. Of course there is bias, we’re all biased..thats how personal taste works.  I think its great that Ron honestly loves a series that isn’t as popular as it once was. Its all about fun, right?

    I haven’t really been following the Xmen since the 90s. I may give this a go. It would be nice to get Uncanny back in the rotation again. 

  31. As I was reading this I was thinking how brilliant it was and how on another week it may have been POTW, thanks for proving me wrong. Very impressed with FI & BD this week but totally agree with this as the pick.

  32. @MadMartigan – I thought exactly the same thing. I’m starting to get a very distinct Jay Leno / Conan feeling about Greg Land. In general, people who casually read comics tend to like him, but the purists don’t. Similar to the Leno/Conan issues, where comedy fans loved and appreciated Conan but couldn’t stand the more formulaic Leno. The general public likes Leno better because ihe is formulaic. Sadly I think the market leans towards the formulaic at times. Oh well.

  33. @gregbmarcus  

    I think a Greg Land drawing could work for someone as itself maybe, totally out of context, but when you have a sequential story, his referencing REALLY gets in the way of simple matters like figuring out who a characters is because he has used two different pron stars for the same person in the same book. 

    At least Larocca, no matter how impossibly tiresome his lightboxing has become, always uses Josh Holloway for Tony and Nicole Kidman for Pepper so there is a visual consistency that doesn’t befuddle the reader.

    The irony is Land has been doing some fantastic covers for Thunderbolts lately.

    P.S. Did anyone else see the production goof on the last page with the word balloons all misplaced and covering the characters faces? 

  34. Do we know who Killen’s artist will be?

    I’ve been looking to get back into X-Men for years. Recently I added X-Men and Uncanny X-Force to my list. Force has been awesome, but I’m finding Adjectiveless underwhelming. I like the sound of Ron’s review, but art is usually a deal breaker for me. If Pacheco (or someone else who rocks) is the regular artist, I’m on board.

  35. About the whole subject of Ron, POTWs and bias–it’s interesting subject matter as long as we keep it respectful. Obviously, Ron has every right to pick anything he wants. I myself often made X-Men Forever my own personal POTW just because I had a personal affinity for those characters by that writer. I would admit that X-Men Forever wasn’t the best comic out by anything resembling an “objective” evaluation of what makes for a high-quality innovative comic. But personally I just liked X-Men more.

    On the other hand, I will say that when Ron picks an X-Men book, or when any other review exhibits “bias”, readers have the right to take the recommendation with a grain of salt. I did this myself just a few days ago when reading Ron’s Fear Itself review. I asked myself, “Could I imagine Ron NOT being happily excited and pleased for the first issue of ANY Marvel event?” The answer was No. And I was underwhelmed both by previous Marvel events (which the iFanboys liked) and by Fraction’s X-Men run (which Ron liked, at least at first). I listen to the Uncanny X-Cast, and even those guys, who were such fans of Fraction at first, eventually came around and started noticing the shortcomings of his X-Men work (zero story development), which I noticed right off the bat. So, for what it’s worth, that’s just my reasoning, and why I don’t always completely trust reviewers.

    That said, I picked Uncanny 534.1 up today, read it and…enjoyed it okay. I’ll echo what a few others have said: good, but POTW-worthy? Oookay. I was disappointed in Pacheco’s art. I was hoping for a return to form. IMO his art hasn’t been great over the last few years. Compared to what he was doing 8-12 years ago, recent Pacheco is so much less dynamic. The story and characterizations were solid enough, and I enjoyed the Magneto scenes quite a bit. Overall: solid. But I’m not interested in the team going back to the Breakworld for the next four months, and then tying into Fear Itself for two months. So I won’t keep with it.

  36. In a week with a dizzying number of EXCELLENT comics, I think it is highly appropriate that Ron singled out the book that spoke to him on a personal level.  Besides, it was a great book.

    Nice Pick, Ron!

    @ Wheelhands   Its supposed to be a revolving group including Terry Dodson on the next arc and then *shudder* Greg Land.

  37. There is no “wrong” POTW since these are always personal choices from the guys. (Well . . . except for Ron’s X-Men Forever POTW . . . that — was very wrong. hehe )

    Their picks are definitely inspired by their taste in comics. If I had to do a POTW like they do, I doubt I would ever pick an X-men title since I have given up on trying to follow the team years ago.

    The guys have such different tastes — which helps make their video show (and this site) so much more enjoyable than any other comicbook website out there. 

  38. I’ve read very little X-Men stuff in the past, but I know a bit about them, like how Jean Gray died and Scott’s with Emma and stuff, so I picked this up and did really find he introduced all of it really well. I just can’t choose between this and Fear Itself for my POTW :/

  39. The type of week where you wish you could pick more than one book.

  40. Magneto. is. cool.

  41. Everything you say is true. And yet, Young Avengers tugged my emotions more, so it got to be my Pick.

    Regardless, I rated both comics a 5, ’cause you’re exactly right about this issue. Gillen fuckin’ nailed it perfectly.

  42. I bought the issue by mistake and loved it. The first point 1 I’ve bought.

  43. BEGIN RANT – I hear the argument about ordering three months in advance a lot and how it hurts comics, thing is in most cases it just isnt true. Previews comes out 3 months ahead, but Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image all offer Final Order Cutoff dates about 3 weeks before shipping. Every retailer has the ability to increase or decrease thier order three weeks before something ships. (this wouldnt help a number 1 issue, certainly 3 weeks before is still after buzz can start on a new book) Thats means they can adjust an issue after the previous one ships in most cases. the problem is when sites like bleeding cool CREATE buzz by saying “the print run is low, this may be the next walking dead/chew/morning glories” and a bunch of people buy it just to flip it, which causes it to sell out, which then creates buzz for a second printing etc. at c2e2 rich johnston joked that for $500 he’d do a piece for anyones book saying they had a small print run and might sell out, which causes a sell out etc. This problem has less to do with a flaw in the system and more to do with retailers being unwilling to take risks and unwilling to use the ordering tools at their disposal, websites getting traffic by pandering to speculator mentality and publishers desperate to compete with the hype that marvel and dc can generate. Greed, laziness and desperation are the flaws in the system. END RANT

  44. @abstractgeek  Those flaws pale in comparison to the direct market system, which is killing comics.

  45. @conor  How so?

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