REVIEW: New X-Men #44

NEW X-MEN #44

Writers: Chris Yost, Craig Kyle

Artist: Humberto Ramos

Marvel Comics


Messiah CompleX chapter 4

Another week in, and we’re still in massive crossover-fanboy mode here at Nexus central!

This is chapter 4 of Messiah Complex, and.. it smells like Teen Spirit!

(cue in soundtrack of the week:)

(For extra geekery, check out the illustrated video version)

The issue opens with everyno-one’s favourite Weapon-X-lite reject Predator-X (still hate that name, right up there with X-Cutioner and Soldier-X) having breakfast. These interlude pages in each chapter are about as not-wasteful as those appendices in the back of every Marvel issue this month. There’s no suspense there to build up, mr Editors, could we please just write that thing out of the future chapter? Is there still time? -sigh-

Back at the mansion, the New X-Men (addendum: the surviving mutie teen angst action force) school body presidents (a team of 10 has 3 leaders. Go figure) catch wind of the Purifiers’ (addendum: the late Reverend Stryker’s Gun-Happy Sunday Sermon group) involvement in the Great American Mutie Baby Race; still stinging from the Purifiers’ culling of the school body last year, Surge (addendum: the surely-menstruating Alpha Female leader, with a recent hobby of throwing herself at anything under 18yo with two legs and something hanging between) lobbies for yet another not-even-remotely well-thought-through suicide mission against Cyclops’ better judgment (see Chapter 3); because that went on so well last time they disobeyed orders (addendum: no, it didn’t really).

Professor-X (addendum: original Headmaster of the X-school, with an easy tendency to turn villain or simply ass, with a recently achieved level 20 self-awareness of his non-relevance) is stalking the grounds of his empty mansion, sneaking up on kids from the shadows (addendum: he does that a lot lately), providing lame after lamer attempt to feel useful and non-antiquated.

Email

To: Professor-X
Re: Hint!
Body:
Chuck,

Stop pushing it, dude, it’s not happening.

p.s. never forget the 80s

But I digress. Diving back into the plot:

With Xavier firmly and thoroughly Pwned (gee, there’s a pattern forming there, Prof), the students move the matter to a vote and a strikeforce is formed, with the out-of-left-field addition of Armour in the mix.

Meanwhile over in Antarctica, Mr Sinister (addendum: Albino Goth Prince take on Dr Mengele) is being all plotty and -well- sinister (duh) while the X-Men (addendum: oh, forget it, I’m sure you’ve heard of them by now) are making a pre-emptive strike to recover the mutant baby, setting up next chapter’s month 1 showdown in Carey’s book. The X-Men’s strikeforce roster has been trimmed down to the tres-nostalgic roster of the post-Phoenix Saga 80s: Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Angel (with Scott and Emma lurking in the mansion). It’s been so long (addendum: the ending of Alan Davis’ run, in 2000) since we had the big leagues all together in the same team, as marketing forced the big money makers to be spread around for better profit distribution. Actually seeing the three friends and their ‘little sister’ on the page together again brought me shivers. Good ol’ times.

In another running subplot from last chapter, Madrox-2 and Layla Miller have arrived in one of the divergent futures and make their way around trying to discover what’s happened to the remaining mutants. Couldn’t really have been a real X-over without a tiny bit of time-travel and parallel realities, eh?

The issue wraps up with the New X-Men infiltrating the Purifiers’ Church, and basically kicking ass, taking names and saying ‘freaking’ a lot, to stay hip and stuff. The action sequence works well, with a few nice touches, like Anole’s infiltration, and some cringeworthy goofs, like X-23 smelling the enemies’ telepathy implants. Reaaaally now, let’s get it together, people.

Anole learns from the undercover Rictor that the Purifiers don’t have the kid, but they do have a new ally, yet another blast from the past and one of the x-men’s most important adversaries: Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers (addendum: Wolverine’s psychotic and rather grabby ex, with her team of robo-junkies). Hey don’t shout, it’s not a spoiler if you had actually read last chapter’s cover previews in the back. All we’re really missing now is the Hellfire Club, Stryfe’s MLF and Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen to really get things boiling! Of course, such a highly-anticipated (addendum: sic) return, couldn’t have happened without a little gratuitous shock-value death for the cliffhanger! I won’t spoil the death in the end, but it’s a bigun’.

Last year’s bloodshed has been a constant ghost looming over the kids’ heads, and everything comes to a boil in this issue as Surge bursts at Professor X, and then leads her team against the Purifiers to exact sweet sweet revenge. The writers finally prove here that all the death and devastation wasn’t merely shock value; it served a purpose of maturing, hardening the kids and bringing them to this current characterization. Since we’re spreading kudos, an extra helping to Kyle&Yost, as well as the rest of the x-writers summit for managing to integrate all the ongoing plots from every x-title into this crossover, and giving the overall feel of a very well planned and orchestrated event. After all, once the dust is settled this is it for this book, so everything needs to be resolved in the best fashion before final curtain.

While we were drafting this year’s Nexus Awards for Best Death (coming soon!), we suddenly came to the realization that after last year’s horrific 45-50 death count in New X-Men, not a single student had died for the whole of 2007! I guess Kyle&Yost were biding their time, lulling everyone in a false sense of security before this issue’s shocking finale. I just hope this doesn’t turn into another ‘New X-Men cannon fodder’ ploy by the end of the crossover.

After Skottie Young’s celebrated short run as artist, he passes on the final honours to Humberto Ramos. It’s fun to see the book rise in status to attract such big names (or is it just the crossover appeal? either way), since its really humble beginnings with Keron Grant and Randy Green. As high-profile as Ramos is these days, the result in the art isn’t really satisfying; some sequences tragically suffer from his lazy storytelling approach, especially in the following sequence:

The X-Men are waiting for Nightcrawler to report in, literally frozen in palce for three static, boring, stale panels. Was it so hard to swap camera angles around a bit, play with perspective, do a few close-ups, anything? The designs of the X-Men and their villains still look snappy, but unfortunately this is not a pin-up book, and the fight scene is again mainly limited to a single splash page (a bad habit from Ramos’ X-Men run as well).

Messiah Complex is proof positive that great engaging crossovers are still possible following the classic multi-title model, with appropriate forethought and editorial prowess. The writers are working flawlessly together to bring to the readers this feeling of a great strategy board, with multiple players and fronts, each chapter focusing on one specific team’s activities while catching the rest of the action in the peripheral vision. An instant classic in the making!

Grade: 7.5/10Revie

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