Uncanny X-Men #481: Brubaker is really building steam now. The plot to overthrow Lilandra gets more and more interesting, at least in part because I wonder where it's leading. It appears that K'Tor is involved in the "Secret Order," given that, last issue, he put Vulcan in the same prison as Deathbird and the Secret Order agent who freed Vulcan sent him straight to Deathbird. However, I'm not sure where the Chancellor fits into the scheme. He seems unaware of K'Tor's actions, since he comments that one of their "people" would have not likely been the cause of her escape, so I'm not sure if the Secret Order people are his "people" or if he has different "people." I'm also not entirely sure why the Order would want to free Deathbird, since she's from the same bloodline as Lilandra. But, it's pretty clear that Vulcan's arrival in the Imperium has set a number of events in motion, and Brubaker is slowly fleshing out the details of these events. The X-Men are still more or less drifting through space, but it looks like they may actually DO something next issue, which is exciting. Alex's lament over their failures was a nice bit of characterization on Brubaker's part, even though I wish we'd one day get a confident Havok. But, I'm digging Korvus and Rachel, so at least the X-Men side of the house isn't a total wash. Bring on the Starjammers!
Uncanny X-Men #482: Mysteries wrapped in enigmas! First, the X-Men. Finally, they do something! I always love a good Starjammer story, and this one doesn't disappoint. The conversation between Corsair and Havok mirrors thoughts I've been having about Vulcan. On one hand, he's so tortured that you hope someone can make it right. You hope that his father and brother appealing to him would break through his crazy and put him on the path to redemption. But, as Alex says, it's hard to see how someone that far gone could be saved and, even if he is, his crimes are not easily dismissed. On the Shi'Ar conspiracy front, everything gets muddled with the return of D'Ken, particularly given that he appears alongside Deathbird and Vulcan. WTF? I'm still not sure if we're dealing with one or multiple conspiracies against Lilandra. If the Chancellor planned to return D'Ken to the throne, then why was he surprised when Deathbird was freed, particularly given that it appears her release played a role in D'Ken reclaiming the throne? Moreover, I'm still not sure how Xavier fits into the mix. Why exactly were they torturing him? Where they planning something beyond torture for him?
Uncanny X-Men #483: Huh. I'm still not 100 percent sure what's happening with the Shi'Ar. It appears that the Chancellor is in fact in charge of the Secret Order. As such, I'm confused why he seemed unaware of the Secret Order's involvement in the release of Deathbird in issue #481. But, I'm willing to just concede I'm misinterpreting that remark, since it's a small point. Brubaker also clarifies here that the Secret Order isn't against the entire House of Neramani, as I originally thought, but just specifically Lilandra, for her actions when she was under the influence of Cassandra Nova. I'm not sure what happened in that arc, though at least it makes sense now why they would free Deathbird. Speaking of her, Brubaker does a great job with Deathbird and Vulcan here. You can feel him slipping away, moving more and more past the point of any redemption. Again, it reminds me of the conversation Dick Grayson and Jason Todd had in his first arc in "Batman and Robin," where he admits he's beyond redemption. It's like watching an impressionable teenager get involved with the wrong crowd. D'Ken uses Vulcan's need to belong to subvert his need for revenge, bringing him into the fold of the conspirators. The last quarter of this arc has "tragedy" written all over it.
Final Thoughts: At the end of the second quarter of this arc, the X-Men were still drifting in space and Vulcan just met Deathbird. Now, he's formed an unholy union with her, on the verge of joining the House of Neramani, and the X-Men have joined with the Starjammers to enter full revolt against the Imperium. It's pretty clear this arc isn't going to have a happy ending...