X-MEN: MESSIAH COMPLEX
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Marc Silvestri
Off we go again!
Messiah CompleX is Marvel’s newest crossover, hot on the heels of the as-yet-uncompleted Planet Hulk.
And yet, I’ve found myself eagerly awaiting its launch?
See, it’s not just another crossover. it’s an X-over, a crossover in the style popularized by the 90s X-titles, where the story is framed by two oneshots, but unfolds over the 4 or so main monthly titles, with each title’s regular team handling the chores of their respective chapters, and all teams getting their involvement in the event. Think Age of Apocalypse, the Phalanx Covenant, Onslaught. Think Scott Lobdell, and write the guy a royalty cheque.
Recap in brief: a stupidly-overpowered mutant witch decided to erase the mutant gene in existence; in an editorial fluke missed a couple hundred best-selling mutants, although she did manage to halt any new mutants from springing forward. Until now. Professor X has just registered a new mutant manifestation, so powerful it gave him a nosebleed (like, wow). The X-Men arrive on location too late, finding the area of the manifestation a burning holocaust, littered with the dead carcasses of kids and d-list villains: Reverend Stryker’s remaining Purifiers (search Wikipedia under ‘anti-mutant religious fanatics with big flamethrowers‘) taskforce has already been on the scene –before the X-Men’s super-sonic alien technology plane, fliers and teleporters– playing Herod on the under-PG13 demographic, and engaging in a behind-the-scenes bloodbath with Mr Sinister’s Marauders (see ‘cloned mutant super-killers created by Silvestri in the 80s’) –who also made it on the scene before the X-Men’s super-sonic yadda yadda yak. Oh, and the new super-mutant is a newborn baby.
Marvel had requested an information and spoiler ban on the advance reviews of the issue, although it didn’t hinder my writing this. The issue suffers from the same problems as the opening issue of Civil War. Marvel is so eager to promote the title that it has flooded the internet with information through the solicitations and interviews; there is nothing left for the issue to bring forward and surprise or entice the reader. We’ve known everything that’s happening in here from a month ago. Marauders, Purifiers, new mutant birth, abduction, blah blah.
There’s more review coming, so if you want to be spared the details:
Pretty but empty art, unsurprising and boring plot, forced emotional core, brings back creepy memories of Civil War #1.
And if you still want the long laundry list:
The Writing: This was an Ed Brubaker book? Is this what he’s come to, really?
The issue serves as the opening salvo of the crossover, but it is strictly that, like an editorially directed shopping list of bullet points that have to be ticked off within a certain number of pages. There’s no emotion, no snappy dialogue, not even any engaging action. It’s a comic version of a press release announcing the crossover and its premise.
Not to say Bru isn’t really pushing for an emotional reaction here. Burning holocaust, showing a dead kid, then going back in a flashback to show how the kid got charred, then more massacre, and when all that hasn’t moved his point home, he goes ahead and plays the burning newborn babies card to really clinch in the drama. A bit over-done, when medium-baked would have sufficed. Just a few months ago Mike Carey managed to get tears in my eye with one terrifying scene ‘killing’ a Guthrie kid I had never heard of before, all within 7 pages of back-up story (X-Men Endangered Species). That was storytelling grace. Here we have the bludgeon effect, beating us into emotional submission until we ‘cry‘ uncle. For the opening chapter of a crossover titled Messiah complex, the Herod analogies in the plot couldn’t be more obvious if they stod up and spit in ur face.
It seems you can’t open a proper crossover these days without at least leveling one fictional city and exploding a truckload of kids. Bru takes a page from Peter David’s Writing handbook, and drops a reference to Civil War’s Stamford in the opening chapter to play it safe an avoid other critics chastising him for the similarities.
At least this crossover isn’t shy on actual villains like recent ones. The Marauders are back, as a random collage of the Acolytes, the Brotherhood and the original Mutant Massacre roster; the tables havesurely turned since their glory days in the 80s, since now the Marauders are the ones used as expendable cannon fodder.
The Purifiers and Predator-X also have a prominent role. Who? If we were supposed to be paying attention to New X-Men (of all titles!) all along, someone should have said something earlier… Bru doesn’t explain more than a few morsels about who all these new names are, so you’d have to be patient to get to the pin-ups and bios in the back of the issue for more info. Lazy writing, not something I’d have associated with Bru before this. Narrative captions would sure have come in handy throughout this ‘introductory’ issue, although they’re nowhere to be found.
…until the last page that is, which feels entirely tacked on and editorially implemented, introducing the last player in the puzzle, the Predator-X. It’s the only page in the entire issue to feature narration, and in the style reminiscent of the worst the 90s had to offer.
On to the art. Marc Silvestri is still considered a ‘big’ name and Marvel is obviouly proud to have him on board the crossover, providing muddy art, busy trite covers and poor storytelling. Well, not totally -Philip-Tan-bad, but still inappropriate for such big fracas.
Once more female characters enter the scene, it starts feeling like the invasion of the mutant Pamela Andersons! All the girls have perky boobs, apple-perfect bums, fluffy 90s hair and identical flawless faces.
Despite his butchering of Emma Frost, Nightcrawler and poor poor poor Beast (more like Bast here, although Silvestri had done an admirable job on the feline design during Morrison’s closing arc of New X-Men), M.S. still manages to warm my heart with a stunning rendition of Angel – who is making his dynamic return with this issue. Not one chance is missed to feature Warren alone in a wide detailed panel, soaring in some sexy pose. Pity it probably took him as much time to do as the rest of the issue combined.
The storytelling is suffering throughout, going from one uninspired camera angle to the next, and the facial expressions are all frozen and unreadable. When Xavier first learns of the new mutant, I’m reading between the lines he’s supposed to look content/happy/excited, but instead turns out evil, scheming, and twisted. Unless this is a shade of things to come?
The issue is closed by an array of gorgeous pin-ups by the best Marvel has to offer. The Simone Bianchi Marauders especially need to be made into a poster toute d’suite.