Title: Uncanny X-Men: Rise and Fall of the Shi'Ar Empire
Authors: Ed Brubaker, et al.
Rating: 4/5 stars
I've been a little behind on one of my guilty pleasures over the last couple of years, and that's my X-Men comics. I've been reading this series since 1986, and my interest has waxed and waned over the years, but I always inevitably come back to reading the series. I can tell how my reading preferences have changed recently, however, as reading the series in its monthly installment form has not been able to hold my interest at all, so I've instead been picking up the collected story arcs in trade paperback form. Not only is it cheaper in the long run (especially ordering them through Amazon), but it takes up much less space and is easier to organize the volumes on my book shelf.
There is so much back story with the series running for over 40 years now that it's hard to just pick up the series with any issue these days, as well as the fact that most story arcs are written into a 5-6 issue format, knowing that these will be published into a trade paperback form. I can't imagine anyone new trying to figure out what's going on with the characters these days. I've been reading for quite some time now, and I always find myself at a loss when I've taken a break. My other problem is that I have a tendency to jump around quite a bit when I'm reading some of the older but more recent trade paperbacks, so I get a little confused as to the series of events and what happens when.
Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire was one of the bigger events, spanning the course of a year, which in terms of story arc length, I think is rather involved. The story basically picks right up where Deadly Genesis left off, with Vulcan escaping Earth and going on a rampage through the Shi'Ar Empire, in search of the man that he holds responsible for all the wrongs in his life, the Emperor D'Ken. What Vulcan doesn't know is that D'Ken has long since been dethroned and is currently in a catatonic state. Feeling himself responsible for Vulcan's fate, Professor X forms a team of X-Men to go into space to try and capture Vulcan and bring him back to sanity.
There was so much that went on in this issue, it would be tough to get it all into a reasonable blurb, so I'll stop there. Basically, the issue ends with Lilandra deposed, Vulcan crowning himself emperor and half of the X-Men team that went into space is stranded there with the Starjammers, and they decide to stay to try to overthrow Vulcan and reinstate Lilandra as empress. And if none of that makes sense to you, you probably aren't alone. Like I said, so much back story makes it almost impossible to follow the story sometimes!
There was a lot to cram into this storyline, and I think Ed Brubaker did an admirable job, but there were some instances where the story jumped around a little too much, making it hard to follow sometimes. Couple that with the shear number of characters that they tried to add into the mix, and what you end up with is a sometimes overly complex story. The art is good, alternating between Billy Tan and Clayton Henry, but their styles are so disparate, that reading the volume as a whole as opposed to the monthly issues, the differences become immediate. Billy Tan's artwork is so hyper-detailed in some instances that it's hard to follow what exactly is happening in some panels. Overall, however, artistically speaking the volume works well.