Ed Brubaker is perhaps the best writer in comics, principally because of his brilliant run on "Captain America" that began in 2005. He arrived on "Uncanny X-Men" in 2006 as part of a simultaneous relaunch that also had Mike Carey taking over "X-Men (v.2)". I had high expectations for my favourite writer taking over my all-time favourite franchise; the result is somewhat hard to judge; ultimately, I would say it is middling.
To start, this story does not have a full beginning; it spins out of the events of Brubaker's good "X-Men: Deadly Genesis" miniseries, although the events therein are explained satisfactorily here, and Brubaker fairly quickly gets things moving. However, the story does not have an end either; it continues into the "X-Men: Emperor Vulcan" miniseries by Chris Yost (and will go further, based on the end of that miniseries). The main achievement of this story is a major shift in status quo for the Shi'ar Empire, before Brubaker headed back to Earth with around half the cast he took out in the first place; the rest of his run since has been focussed on more Earth-bound matters. That said, I enjoyed the story arc; Brubaker is a superb craftsman, and he does good work with a couple of characters whose status quos had been rather poor when he took them up.
The core story here sees Professor X take a team of X-Men in pursuit of Vulcan, the younger brother of the X-Men Cyclops and Havok, who has gone to seek his revenge on the Shi'ar Empire. All the standard pieces of the X-Men space operas that have played out since Claremont introduced the Shi'ar are here: Xavier's love interest and former wife Lilandra, Empress of the Shi'ar; her traitorous sister Deathbird; the Imperial Guard, most notably Superman-analogue Gladiator (Brubaker wins big points for respecting his power levels); and the Starjammers, including Vulcan's (and Cyclops and Havok's) father Corsair, and Corsair's lover Hepzibah. Brubaker shakes things up a bit by bringing a new piece into play, one that hadn't been seen in decades, which I won't spoil (sufficed to say that it's actually rather remarkable it took this long for someone to revive it).
The team consists of Xavier, Havok, Nightcrawler, Marvel Girl (Rachel Summers), Polaris, Darwin (a new character introduced by Brubaker in "Deadly Genesis"), and Warpath. Brubaker's handling of these characters is mixed. By far his biggest success is with Warpath, a character who had been around for two decades, and was tangentially a "New Mutant" in the 80s and then a notable member of "X-Force" in the 1990s, and finally gets to join the X-Men in this story; Brubaker brought Warpath centre-stage, equipping him with a couple of deadly Vibranium knives, and plays him as the team's brawler; he's the kind of physical fighter Brubaker writes well. Havok and Polaris arrived in this run after some rather terrible stories from Chuck Austen and Peter Milligan (and Howard Mackie, years earlier), and Brubaker dedicates some time to mending their decades-long relationship. Darwin, a character Brubaker created, gets some good moments too. Rachel gets a strong introduction, tying into the events of Claremont's "End of Greys" story, but this peters out, and she soon is involved in a rather unconvincing relationship with another character. Nightcrawler (nominally the leader) is a nonentity here.
The art duties here are divided between two artists: Billy Tan (issues 475-476, 478-479, 481-482, 484-486), who does the main story, and Clayton Henry (issues 477, 480, 483), who does three installments focussed on Vulcan. I actually prefer Henry's work to Tan's, whose facial expressions can sometimes be lacking; however, both are fine, although not extraordinary.
So, in the end, this is a good story, and it reads better collected than stretched over twelve months, but it is not a complete story, so that should be kept in mind when contemplating a purchase. I consider it worthwhile for fans of Brubaker and the X-Men (and the characters involved). It is certainly a significant story as concerns the Shi'ar.