Thursday, November 08, 2007

Messiah CompleX pt 2: Uncanny X-Men #492


Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Billy Tan

Marvel Comics

After Chapter 1's dramatic under-perfomance to expectations, Brubaker seems to have reformed to the fans' request

'A little less conversation, a little more action please'

(I do love a review with a good soundtrack, don't you)

That's exactly what we get with this issue, the second chapter of the 'Messiah CompleX' crossover.

The issue opens with a news report recapping the events of the Messiah CompleX oneshot from a civilian POV, followed by Scott and Emma giving the X-Men's perspective. A new mutant baby has been born, the first since the 'new mutie embargo', and as a result a whole city has gone up in flames. The X-Men arrived on the scene too late. The clues point to a battle between the Purifiers (religious mutant-hating fanatics) and the Marauders (mutant mass-murderers), but who won? And who has the baby now? You can save yourselves the trouble and money of reading the first chapter yourselves.

Xavier butts in the Emma-Scott conversation to get a verbal bitch-slap from Cyclops who seems to have grown a pair (see current issues of Astonishing X-Men for the developing story on that). Brubaker has taken Xavier down a rocky path of failure, redemption and more failure, following on past writers' footsteps, to muddy up the good Professor's boringly clean profile, and establish Scott& Emma as the rightful new headmasters of the School. I don't fault Cyclops for his reaction, Xavier has lied, abused and lied some more the past years, making some tough decisions to preserve his status among his students, trying to sweep his mistakes under the proverbial rug. Over the years, he has faked his death, turned evil on two occasions, written detailed instructions on exterminating each of his students, killed his sister, sent a team of young students to their deaths on Krakoa then erasing everyone's memories of them, hidden the birth of the living Danger Room consciousness and that's just the highlights.

BAD boy Xavier

An interesting goof to mention, at some point Xavier actually switches to telepathic talk to Cyclops. The problem? The only other person in the room is Emma, the world's current most potent telepath, since Xavier suffered the whammy during Decimation and is just now recovering. Never mind that she shares a telepathic bond with her lover anyway.

After the girls are done fighting, we cut straight to the Action! The X-Men (Colossus, Nightrawler, Angel and Wolverine) are hunting down a team of Acolytes (who have been working with the Marauders) for clues to the baby's whereabouts. It was refreshing to see some straightforward action in the books. The poor 3rd stringer Acolytes Brubaker picked had no chance of course, as their complete cannon-fodder: Gargouille, Vindaloo, Neophyte and Projector (most from the throw-away teams who premiered in Quicksilver and the forgettable Magneto War. More details on roster here) . The fight sequence and choreography is still highly entertaining, as Billy Tan steps up his game and gives us a thrilling chase. Wolverine slicing ferociously through projector's shields was a personal favourite, as it really made me jump back on my seat, as well as Angel's breathtaking high speed flight with Neophyte.

For another minor gripe, I would have liked a bit more characterization to top up this cocktail, as these characters involved have a nice bit of history between them. I.e.: this is the first time the three buddies (Logan, Peter AND Kurt) are reunited together in combat on-panel. Colossus and Neophyte have even deeper history (Uncanny X-Men #315, where Colossus stood trial to defend Neophyte's life, when they were both in the Acolytes). Colossus' previous standing with Magneto's team isn't even acknowledged, something I surely expected here (the Acolytes were always cruel towards those they viewed as 'deserters/betrayers to the cause). Instead, we get Angel fussing over Rogue's abduction, while they have never really even shared a private conversation on panel. Minor gripes from a continuity freak.

Finally, Scott and Emma welcome the X-Factor team in the mansion, linking to next week's X-Factor for chapter 3. X-Factor's mission links to the other involved team of villains, the Purifiers, as the now human Rictor is asked to infiltrate the zealot team. Nice shades of Operation Zero Tolerance there, where it was Sam and Bobby who were asked to pose as the mutant-haters. One thing that didn't jive in the scene for me was Madrox's name-dropping Proteus as he entered the room, referencing an almost 30-year old storyline; bringing up the dead ex's name (or rather, referring to her as 'your girlfriend') would have been odd and tacky enough. Was this subtle characterisation, of Madrox biting back at Emma? Since when is he that petty?

The issue closes yet again with a page of Predator-X, running through the forest, accompanied by a caption narrative talking him up. Like last week, it sticks out like an editorial sore thumb in an otherwise great issue.

After a lukewarm launch (mostly due to excessive marketing ruining the story's beats), the crossover is back on track and looking amazing! All the teams are accounted for, there is a breakdown of missions for each one so noone feels tacked-on, and the tapestry is just beginning to unravel! This looks to have all the great elements that made the x-crossovers of the past decade such a memorable hit among the fans!

Grade: 6.5/10

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