Since the Utopia crossover repositioned the oldest X-book as leading the line, writer Matt Fraction has hit a run of consistent quality which eluded him during his earlier arcs for the title. The title may have come a little more introverted (for all the efforts taken to establish the proximity of San Francisco to the artificial island, the action has been distinctly inward-looking), but consistently strong characterisation and a smattering of the innovative ideas that the creator originally brought to the book deliver solid entertainment.
Taking a break from the day-to-day logistics problems of the X-Men’s new set-up, Cyclops focuses his attention on helping Emma Frost overcome the injury she sustained during the mutant’s clash with Normal Osborn’s Avengers, but may have taken one of his oldest friends for granted one too many times. What’s most striking about the Nation X story is how the writer has learnt from his earlier work on the book, retaining the aspects of his initial approach which have proven successful, whilst subtly discarding less popular elements. The Science Team continues their foreground role, but there’s no sign of Pixie or downtown San Francisco to be found. For the first time, Fraction’s work matches the fondness he has claimed to feel for the book’s early days, with the cast paired back to the surviving original X-Men, Emma Frost and Magneto. This approach serves Terry Dodson’s art well, allowing him to focus on sharp and clear incarnations of these classic characters. I don’t find Greg land’s work as objectionable as my fellow ‘Daily reviewers, but I can’t deny that Dodson’s work is a cut above his colleagues’. The schemes in a white void may have helped the artist achieve the effect, allowing him to concentrate on figures, but his sheer talent shines through.
It’s hard not to feel that the book’s strong form is in part due to the structuring of its stories. Instead of the trade-friendly four issue arcs which initially defined Fraction’s run, Utopia adopted a six issue format. Shorter than many recent event storylines, the tale didn’t outstay its welcome, and has been complemented well by the more meandering Nation X.