Wednesday, October 24, 2007

X-men #204 Advance Review

Writer: Mike Carey

Artists: Mike Choi and Scot Eaton

Marvel Comics

Mike Carey's run on the X-Men has been one long enjoyable game of Ten Little Indians.

...and then there was one.

Iceman is the last of Carey's X-Men registering brainwaves (though admitedly, not too loudly). Carey has slowly eased in the Astonishing X-Men cast into the book, first as supporting cast, and now as equal players. (More on the process of elimination in last issue's review)

This week's issue acts as the epilogue of 'Blinded By the Light'; Carey doesn't just wrap up the storyline, he provides a nice cap to his entire run to date using Iceman as his proxy; Bobby seems to be going from X-Man to X-Man, recounting the entire Carey run through the dialogue; it's not even obviously noticeable until you really pore through the text. Suave.

On to the plot in a hurry, before we hit 1000 words:

After their run in with the Marauders, Sam and Bobby have saved the day, but Cannonball has been left comatose. Bobby goes around being emo and angst-ridden, while Blindfold drops ominous hints for the deaths in the upcoming crossover. Cyclops is blue over Cable's death (why? Cable is one of the most oft-resurrected members of the Summers family, after Jean herself), but can't give too much time to grieve since he needs to fend off a worried Emma, rally the troops to (finally) figure out Sinister's plan, and bicker with Bobby to provide a recount of Rogue Team's scoreboard.

Over at the enemy camp, Sinister has meetings with his own lieutenants, while Remy finally gets some alone time with the comatose Rogue (so much sick-bed tending for one issue!)

Carey defines the limits of the allegiances between the three different villain camps: the Marauders, the Brotherhood, and the Acolytes. These are three very different sets of people with different priorities and agendas, and I was long expecting an explanation of how the three massive egos of Sinister, Mystique and Exodus manage to work together. It's all been built up nicely since the X-Men Annual earlier this year, and headed for an explosion during the Messiah Complex starting next month.

And now for our main feature, and what R&R (Rogue&Remy) fans have been waiting for since that solicited japanimation slash-fic cover. Without being allowed to give out too many spoilers in an advance review, yes, there is some brief resolution to Rogue's condition and a meaty sequence designed to please even the most hardcore fans in the R&R community.

During our conversation with Mike Carey last weekend in the Birmingham Comics Show, he went over his trepidations regarding the R&R issue, and how there are two extreme camps of thought (one for the R&R relationship, the other against) that are impossible to keep happy at the same time (bear in mind also, that R&R fans are the biggest and most vocal community online, with dozens of websites devoted to the romance). Carey had his work cut out for him with this issue. He has always been great about keeping an ear to the fans' thoughts, and even met with the admin couple from one of the fansites (whose name I forget, but I hope someone posts it here). Still, he -correctly for me- doesn't choose to make a statement in favour of either camp, but instead writes his own take on the character, and even does that unthinkable, attempting to look at the R&R relationship as a whole: The Jim Lee & Nicieza flirtations, the Lobdell romance, then the rift and the Seagle antarctic abandonment, the Davis mess, the Claremont happy retirement days, and the Milligan schism and further betrayal.

Remy is in full puppy-eyes mode, just like the girls (and some of the boys) like him, conflicted, trapped in the wrong side of the fence, everything he tries to embrace turning to dirt and it being his fault. Mike Carey resolves Rogue's condition with a sequence of surprising subtlety; I missed a crucial detail the first time I read through the issue, but even the second time I was confused as to what happened to trigger the events here. Did they or didn't they? And that's all I'm hinting at here.

Mike Choi is an ideal choice for this romantic wrap-up issue, capturing the fragility of the latter encounter, but also doing a stellar job in the other scenes, especially when it comes to the different character designs; Sinister has never looked scarier or sexier, black lipstick and all, the Goth Prince of Sadism, while I also appreciated the little details on Beast, with the marks on his snout from where he's shaved off his cat whiskers.

In the back of the issue we get the two (!) last installments of Endangered Species backup features. Beast has concluded his long journey around the Marvel Universe, turning every stone and looking at every possible aspect of the M-Day event and the mutant origins, finally coming up with a despairing conclusion, and a desperate final measure, as he tracks down the amnesiac Scarlet Witch to her hometown (last seen in New Avengers #26) in Transia.

Mike Carey has been a godsend on the X-Men titles, proving yet again he's got the rare gift of both rich characterisation -fueled by continuity but not constrained by it- and the ability to see the bigger picture of the thinly-spread x-franchise and channel it effortlessly to the reader. A single line could have resonance to more than 15 years of backstory, without being self-referential.

Grade: 7/10

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