Uncanny X-Men Annual #2 Review
Uncanny X-Men Annual #2 review by Donna Jackson
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Mitch Bretweiser and Daniel Acuna
When you pick up an annual issue for a comic, you may expect an out of continuity tale, or a profile on an unknown part of a character's history. Instead Matt Fraction knows that in the era of Dark Reign, fans are clamoring to know how more on whom exactly is pulling the strings in Marvel. He wisely decides to give a glimpse into Emma Frost's new position of power after the Secret Invasion. She has always held some degree of stature among mutant kind, but now as one of Norman Osborne's most trusted allies, she knows that the line between hero and villain is getting blurrier, especially with one of the most evil men on the planet being hailed a hero by the common man and our new President. In many ways, the White Queen's whole persona since her reinvention by Grant Morrison reflects the state of Marvel today. It's not just good vs. evil anymore. It is about those with power and those without. Emma intends to be on the former. This issue shows how she manipulates not one, but two of the most powerful men in Marvel into doing her bidding.
Dark Reign is creating some strange alliances, and this issue explores how a meeting of the minds set the stage for two of Norman's elite. Before Emma Frost became a member of the X-Men, she and the powerful Sebastian Shaw led the New York chapter of the Hellfire Club, an elite group of supervillains who have clashed with the X-Men on numerous occassion. They try to recruit the Sub-Mariner Namor, seeing him worthy of membership. As the oldest mutants in the universe (as well as one of Marvel's first creations), Shaw thinks he would make a fine addition. Unfortunately for him, Namor turns down the request with the slickness you would only expect from the King of Atlantis. He considers himself a ruler, not a simple mutant. Shaw sends Emma Frost to bend Namor's will and convince him to be a part of the Hellfire club. But when Shaw notices what Emma Frost is doing to get on Namor's good side, he sends a Sentinel to attack Namor's Atlantis, as a warning that despite his beliefs, Namor is a mutant, and will be hunted down like one. This creates a bond between Emma Frost and the Sub-Mariner that not even a mindwipe by Shaw can eliminate, and in the present day, she keeps her promise to Namor that he would have his revenge on the Hellfire Club.
The art duties shift between Mitch Bretweiser's hard, jaggy style for the present, and Daniel Acuna's floaty designs for the past. The two artist technique, which I gave found bothersome in the past, is acceptable here because it helps to keep track of when what you are reading takes place, which is handy since this issue does quite a bit of jumping around between the now and then. Acuna's work is a mixed bag; his daylight scenes with Frost and Namor look great, but the darker scenes such as the Hellfire club offices look a bit dingy and unfinished. Also, neither artist can properly capture Namor's look.
Fraction has put Emma Frost as the most relevant mutant in Marvel with this Annual. Though she may not be the most powerful in Norman Osborne's new circle of friends, her skills to manipulate, only enhanced by her feminine wiles, are second to none in this new era of morally-ambiguous heroes.