Uncanny X-Men: Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Billy Tan and Clayton Henry
Release date July 31, 2007
I used to be a huge X-Men fan. When I first started buying comics on my own, it was Web of Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men, and Uncanny X-Men. I lived for when those books came out, and I find it kind of sad now that I can’t get much excitement over either X-Men or Spider-Man these days. They became victims of my collegiate lack of money, and for whatever reason, I didn’t pick them back up after I got back into comics. However, it’s always nice to slip back in and see how the old franchises are holding up. (I tried Amazing during Marvel’s Civil War even, and let’s just say I’m back to not buying it.)
In Uncanny X-Men: Rise & Fall of the Shi’ar Empire, Professor Xavier is back in the mansion, is walking but does not have his powers after the events of House of M. Most of the X-Men, Cyclops in particular, are pissed at him because of what was revealed in the Ed Brubaker-written X-Men: Deadly Genesis, namely that there is a third Summers brother, and Xavier has known about him for a long time. The third brother, named Gabriel but code-named Vulcan, is pretty messed up, and has decided to take down the Shi’ar Empire, which killed his mother and raised him as a slave. Xavier decides to take a team of X-Men (Havok, Polaris, Warpath, Nightcrawler, Marvel Girl, and Darwin, another leftover character from Deadly Genesis) into space to try and stop Vulcan; hopefully to repair some of the damage he’s done. Along the way, they get involved in a fight to control the Shi’ar throne, with the return of a few classic characters, and a few surprising deaths.
This book almost gives me reason to pick up Uncanny X-Men in monthly form again, although I think I’ll stick with the trades for now. It’s pretty decent, a fun X-Men in space story. I wouldn’t say it’s spectacular though, and held up to other titles written by Ed Brubaker, it looks like a let down. He’s using a few pet characters of his own creation, but has a problem because Vulcan is not much of a character. He does some work to build him into a proper villain along the way but he’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before. Brubaker does handle the large cast fairly well, giving each character a unique role and their own plotline to work through. The length of the story, 12 issues, does help to give it an epic feel. There’s enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested through out.
Art is split between Billy Tan on the main story, and Clayton Henry on the fill–in issues. Tan is a decent David Finch clone, so you can take that as a good thing or a bad thing. That style appeals to me so I enjoyed it. He tells the story well in his panel progression, although he doesn’t get across emotions very well. But, the action is easy to follow, and he keeps all the characters distinct. Henry’s issues largely deal with Vulcan’s side of the story. His art seems a little flat to me. It’s just standard superhero style. Not bad, but nothing stands out about it. Again, he tells the story well enough, and doesn’t bring the book down, but it’s nothing spectacular.
All in all, I had fun with the story. It’s not a great work of art, but it’s an enjoyable space story that harkens back to some of Chris Claremont’s epics. The art is decent, but not great, but gets the job done. If you’re a former X-Men fan looking to try it again, give this a shot. I’ll be interested to see where Brubaker takes the story from here.
Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire collects issues #475-486 of the Uncanny X-Men series.