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By Marc Strom
The X-Men have a lot on their plate, but thankfully writer Matt Fraction's there to help them keep it all straight.
Fraction has developed a writing style for UNCANNY X-MEN unique from his work on other series, and with issue #507 wrapping up the current "Lovelorn" story arc with artist Terry Dodson on March 18, Marvel.com chatted with him about his work on the title so far.
With its emphasis on multiple, simultaneously developing subplots and open-ended story arcs, UNCANNY X-MEN has a very different feel to it than most other books on the stands. Fraction tells us that a number of factors led him to develop a new style for the series.
"I think it's just the nature of the book, combined with—I don't know what, exactly," the writer confesses. "It's just what my gut says should be done? Intuition or whatever.
"It's such a huge cast, and there are so many great characters that deserve time onstage that I wanted to create a way that could accommodate them all. I wanted to write in micro-arcs and macro-arcs, to have each issue be satisfying and fun, each arc
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feel complete and bleed into the next, and to have each subsequent arc raise the stakes more and more. From something fun and frivolous like 'SFX' to—well, where we're headed this summer, I think a progression of tone and intensity will be pretty apparent."
The X-Men's current status quo, landing them and a large number of other mutants in San Francisco, also lent itself towards this method of storytelling.
"The idea that there's no real 'team' left, only the family, the army, the mutant race," Fraction says, noting a major theme of and influence on his writing. "It just seemed to organically flow out of the notion of there being less than 200 mutants left, the Hope mystery, M-Day, all that stuff."
As for balancing the "micro-arcs" and "macro-arcs" in any given issue, Fraction explains that the juggling act once again comes down to "intuition."
"We need big moments and small moments, over the top gonzo action and small, human, emotional beats," he elaborates. "And they need to interweave and create a symphony, a harmony, something. UNCANNY is the coolest comic in the world not just because of the powers
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and the costumes, but the soap opera heartache and heartbreak that fuels so many of these characters. We've all fallen in love with the X-Men falling in, and out, of love.
"It gets tricky to contain it all. You can see my page count rising slowly where the story gets away from me. I don't remember the last 22 pages issue I turned in."
And while Fraction knows how each of his plotlines ends, how he gets to those destinations remains open.
"Yeah, it's mapped," Fraction confirms. "It gets fuzzier the further out we go, but I know the road marks. I have a general idea of story scope, and then refine as we go. There's a lot of room left for collaboration and improvisation. Not just because of the vagaries of the Marvel Universe as a whole, but because it's just more fun for me that way."
As for what the Marvel's Merry Mutants have in store for their future, Fraction only offered up one ominous tease:
"There! Will! Be! Blood
See where the road steers next in UNCANNY X-MEN #507, coming March 18. For more by Matt Fraction, head over to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
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