Uncanny X-Men Volume 4: The Draco collects issues #428-434 of Uncanny X-Men, and was written by Chuck Austen. The stuff I've read of Austen so far, Uncanny X-Men Volumes 1-3, have been terrible to say the least.

Picking up Volume 4, The Draco, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when I read the prologue.

The prologue to The Draco, provides some interesting back story as to the true origins of Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), the circumstances surrounding his birth, and how he came to arrive in the care of sorceress and gypsy queen Margali Szardos. Mystique is Kurt's mother, and as it turns out Azazel is Kurt's father.

At the conclusion of the prologue however, the storyline goes down hill fast. Kurt is drawn to an archaeological dig. It turns out that a lot of teleporting mutants are being drawn to the same place, and that's not the only thing they have in common. As it turns out, they all share the same father, Azazel.

The plot... loses the plot at the point where Azazel reveals that he is actually Satan and has fathered an army of teleporting kids to free him from 'hell' so that he can conquer the world. Azazel is apparently a demonic mutant that was banished in biblical times. So I guess technically this makes Nightcrawler the son of Satan.

While this is all happening the ongoing love triangle between Polaris, Havok and nurse Annie continues... zzzzzzz... Polaris continues down the path of insanity, and the story surrounding the father of Annie's son appears to have been dropped altogether.

The only storyline featured in the collection involves the Juggernaut traveling to Canada to visit Sammy the Fish Boy, only to find Sammy being abused by his father. Juggernaut intervenes. Stuff happens.

Overall, The Draco started out promisingly enough before quickly stinking up the place. Fortunately for me I picked it up in a nick and dent sale for next to nothing. In summary, another Chuck Austen Uncanny Special. 3.5 out of 10.

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Like a sadist I picked up Uncanny X-Men Volume 3: Holy War TPB. I really should have learnt my lesson after reading Volumes 1 and 2, but clearly I'm a slow learner. The trade paper back Holy War, collects Uncanny X-Men issues #421-427. In this collection, writer Chuck Austen seems to have struck a new low in his Uncanny X-Men run.

Once again he persists with the angst ridden love triangle of Alex Summers (Havok), Lorna Dane (Polaris) and "Nurse" Annie, which culminates in a wedding and a 'surprise' (that is sarcasm) twist. Does Alex love Lorna? Or does he love Annie? Woe is he. I would write more about it, but that about sums up that plot line.

The other major plot featured in the collection is the "Holy War" itself. This story focuses on The Church of Humanity's attempts to use Nightcrawler to bring down the Catholic Church. Essentially Nightcrawler begins to show signs his faith is wavering. The Church of Humanity, led by a former nun who was raped by a priest (hence her anti-Catholic motivation), target Nightcrawler with plans on making him the next pope and then revealing him to be the devil (due to his appearance)... or something... Basically this plot line, like the rest of the book sucked, and made very little sense. I get the impression that Chuck Austen is not the biggest fan of the Catholic Church.

The only glimmer redeeming feature in this collection is the story of Cain Marko (The Juggernaut) and his relationship with young mutant recruit Sammy. Following the Juggernaut has he tries to redeem himself is the most interesting idea Austen seems to have developed in the three volumes of his run I've read so far.

In summary, this is the worst collection I've read to date, even worse than volume 2. The characterisation of Nightcrawler in particular was hard to take... apparently Austen writes Nightcrawler as an emo kid? On a side note, this is another trade paper back that has Wolverine on the cover even though he appears in the six issues collected briefly. Avoid this one like the plague, unless you just have to have the whole set. 1 out of 10
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I read Uncanny X-Men Volume 2: Dominant Species TPB straight after I finished the mediocre Volume 1: Hope. Let me start by saying that Chuck Austen's first arc, Hope, wasn't the worst thing I've read, but it was by far not the best either. It wasn't until I finished Volume 2: Dominant Species that I realized that the bad reputation Chuck Austen seems to have with X-Men fans is entirely well deserved.

Dominant Species is like the three pronged turd. Poor plotting, poor art and poor characterization. The main thread running through Dominant Species is that people with similar character characteristics gravitate toward one another. A majority of the story is told from the point of view of Angel and Husk. There's a bit of old school sexual tension.

There's also a new villain, Max Lobbo, who's head of some sort of mutant werewolf pack. Who he is, where he comes from and what his motivation is, doesn't receive much attention. He works/runs a company that is owned by Warren Worthington (Angel). Besides that Lobbo kills people and mutants for fun, and has a pack of werewolf mutants following him around that seem to do nothing more than repeat everything everyone says.

At one point Wolverine gets pummelled and then has to be rescued by Northstar and taken away to heal. Is this the same Wolverine that survived an explosion and healed himself from skeletal remains in his Civil War tie-in?

So basically, a new bad guy is introduced, but barely fleshed out, and Husk has a thing for Angel, although Angel does not really know that. Havok is brought out of his coma, and Lorna Dane (Polaris) returns.

From what I've read so far Austen applies the same template across his stories. He ticks the 'unrequited love' box, and also makes sure to include a little vague social commentary. Female characters exist solely to stare longingly at their male counter parts.

According to the Amazon description, Dominant Species was illustrated by "superstar" Japanese artist Kia Asamiya. The X-Men clearly take on a manga flavor, but in this instance, I can't say it's a good thing. Some of the characters look just plain weird, and it's often hard to get past the nose. Another thing that stuck out for me was the costume Polaris rocks up in. It looks like she has a set of wings coming out of her head, and I have no idea why.

For me, there were only two interesting elements in this collection. One, the concept of secondary mutation. Mutants mutating further, for example, Angel develops a healing factor and Iceman begins to turn into ice, full time. Two, the idea that Juggernaut is not always such a bad guy. Some people would no doubt hate this aspect, but in a story as pedestrian as the one played out in Dominant Species, people should be grateful for small mercies.

In summary, this is officially the worst trade paper back collection I have read to date. 2 out of 10

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I picked up the trade paper back Uncanny X-Men Volume 1: Hope TPB (Uncanny X-Men) in a nick and dent sale with relatively low expectations. Why? The book carried Chuck Austen's name on the cover, the guy that has been roundly criticized for steering the title directly in to some of its more disappointing moments.

This trade paper collects Uncanny X-Men issues #410-415, and covers off a couple of story arcs. The first deals with the team sent on a rescue mission only to learn that it is the Juggernaut they have been sent to help. Black Tom Cassidy is smack bang in the middle of a secondary mutation, and Juggernaut needs help. Fairly stock standard stuff. The early issues also deal with Professor X tracking down a young mutant named Sammy who has a fish like appearance. We are also introduced to Annie, a nurse caring for a comatose patient that later turns out to be Havok.

Uncanny X-Men: Hope on Amazon.comIn the final two issues, Northstar joins the undermanned group, at the request of Xavier, to assist them to bring in an explosive mutant child unable to control his powers. The big revelation for me here was that Northstar is gay, and has a crush on Bobby Drake (aka. Iceman), who happens to be going through a secondary mutation of his own.

By the end of the collection, Austen seems to have all his players in the game, and it feels like I've just read six issues of 'set-up'. One of the problems with issues #410-415 seems to be that Austen was operating with the X-Men 'C' grade squad to a certain extent. Angel? I've never been a huge fan. Stacy X? Pheromone powers? I've read Austen quoted as saying he wanted to "inject some soap" into his Uncanny X-Men run, which seems to be the exact result he achieved. Is that a good thing? I'm not so sure. A love triangle between Angel, Stacy X and Husk? I'm not sure that I could have been less interested. The whole unrequited love angle doesn't work for me either. The Annie/Havok and Northstar/Iceman thing just didn't float my boat. I want to read an X-Men story, not a rejected script from the OC. » Read the rest of the entry..

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