Well, those stories did promise that “nothing would ever be the same!”, didn’t they? Apparently those weren’t glib statements. Delivering on such promises, the last few publishing events by Marvel Comics have left their X-Men in quite an altered state. The problem is, though, that the status quo has been so altered that they’ve all become the kinds of stories I don’t really want to read.
The issue centers around humanity’s fear and hatred for mutants. I hope this won’t be a spoiler. Except this time that fear and hatred is *ALSO* because of something that Cyclops did. We know this because characters tell each other it’s about something Cyclops did. Am I the reader supposed to know what Cyclops did? And yes, this repetition is intentional as it’s about par for discourse in the comicbook. To add another aspect, it’s ALSO-also because of the Inhuman’s Terrigen Mists that blanketed the globe in a different crossover event. It has given mutants a kind of disease dubbed M-Pox and ALSO-also-also threatens mutants with genocide by sterility. The story seems to forgo complex motivations in favor of increased quantities of motivation. Why have a simple premise when you can have four of them?
And yet, the solution to all of these problems is the same— mutants should retreat to a new place called X-Haven. Storm leads this community and the other key characters are… also there? It’s not clear what distinguishes, say, Iceman from being there and any other mutant that does some cameoing in the background, except for some expository dialogue. Magik at least has some active duty in saving and/or recruiting mutants around the world, including her brother, Colossus, who is convinced to return in order for… reasons? “You are fighter,” Magik tells him. “It’s time to fight, Piotr!” However, who, exactly, the X-Men are to fight is never clear. They are to be warriors for…? It’s not appropriate to live as a farmer by yourself because…?
They in turn attempt to recruit their friend Nightcrawler, or otherwise go to “get” him, except they actually don’t. It’s just a narrative segue to Nightcrawler, spouting scripture while ripping heads off of a giant bull-like villain. Or not. The art seems to show just the head teleported but the villain is whole and hearty on the next page. There’s no context given for this scene, although the villain team he’s facing mentions something about test subjects. All the characters’ powers and visuals are intriguing, but there’s such a complete absence of basic set-up that I’m sighing more than cheering.
There’s some more standing around and talking for the other heroes, too, like Jean Grey (should she be Marvel Girl or some other code name?) and Old Man Logan (ditto the code name question for this iteration of Wolverine here. Or is “Old Man” his actual code name? That would definitely strike fear in the hearts of evil-doers. “Beware the ravages of age! It’s… Old Man!”)
I’ve often had a love-hate relationship with Humberto Ramos’ artwork, and it all comes down to the match of his hyper-kinetic style to the scene. For his work on Amazing Spider-Man, it was lovely and a complete match. For a somber and decidedly fatalistic tone as this X-Men series seems to be setting up, this is instead a complete mismatch. By far, the majority of the issue features extended pages of dialogue between characters instead of action scenes. And even such action scenes, normally a strength of Ramos’, here display such a variety of angles/layouts that it becomes confusing to follow the action.
There are a couple of double page spreads here that are really gorgeous here, particularly in their posing and in the colors. Magik’s defense of a little girl gives us a pretty iconic image, speaking a thousand words for this new status quo.
The new costume designs, also, are hit or miss. Magik’s is quite nice, continuing to be sexy and provocative, reminiscent of something from Final Fantasy. Storm’s also. The choice of white marks a departure from her typical black and perhaps sets herself up as more of a saviour/figure of leadership. I do miss Storm’s cape, however, and so the costume loses a bit of a regal touch that might be needed. Oh, and disappointedly both feature boob-to-hip bare bellies. Nightcrawler’s is disappointing. It’s needlessly complicated and includes scale armor for some reason inconsistent with his acrobatic roots, but perhaps is indicating something more war-like in his new characterization. Likewise, for some reason, he now has claws on his boots.
As someone who loved Nightcrawler’s free-wheeling and unbridled optimism, it’s disappointing that yet again the writers seem to think he’s better suited for dark and gritty attitudes. In fact, for the X-Men to be typically concerned with being capitol-H Heroes from their very inception, it’s weird that writers seem to always want to segregate and shunt them away in their own compounds away from the world. Perhaps having a team of heroes in bright costumes fighting back would-be world conquerors is a feature of stories thirty years ago.
Meta-Quote of the Book—
Iceman: “Well, we don’t always get what we want, Jeannie.”
As a first issue, it does what it needs to do, which is exposit, exposit, and exposit. Various characters are spotlighted, but mostly in the context of showing the same aspect of this new world over and over again. We get it. Cyclops did something. Mutants have it bad. And everyone feels sad about it. Beyond that, there’s no real conversatoin about *why* we should empathize, nor about *why* our characters feel that way about it. Thankfully, the art remains edgy and kinetic, which helps in the largely static conversations people have, but seems a mismatch for the tone of doom and gloom. All in all, a pretty average effort that presents a world that fails to really connect on a personal level.