The final story of the X-Men has begun.
Title: X-Men: The End: Book One: Dreamers and Demons
Author: Chris Claremont
Illustrator(s): Sean Chen
Original Publication Date: This six part series ran in the last half of 2004. The trade paperback is due in 2005.
Cover Price: $14.99 US
Buy from: Amazon.com
The X-Men were lulled into a false sense of security by a prolonged peace when they were attacked. Several of them are dead.
This is Book One in a three book series. (They keep calling it Claremont’s Lord of the Rings.) Book Two hasn’t been solicited yet, as they want to give the artist time to work ahead and get everything lined up to keep a regular schedule.
Storm has never gone down easily. Her scenes, particularly her last one, are the most compelling parts of this future version of the X-Men. This surprises me, as I was never a big fan of the character.
The only reason to do this as three books is because you want to copy Lord of the Rings. There is by no means a complete story, or even a seemingly natural ending point here. Maybe it’ll make more sense when the next book starts coming, but this one doesn’t show any indication that it really is a place to leave off for a while. Yes, there is a moment of some signifigance, but it’s happened so often that Claremont talks about how often it happens right in this series!
This doesn’t feel that original to me. Maybe it’s my cynical response to reading this just after the “Avengers: Disassembled” story arc, but it just seems like yet another story about the heroes getting suddenly wiped out. The only difference is that we know how it’s going to end: the branding of Marvel’s “The End” line is all about telling the final stories of a character. The first was still the best; in Hulk: The End, we were given a story that really drove the character forward. The death of the Hulk (which didn’t even come!) was a side note. This story strikes me as just showing us how the characters could die, without any drive to reveal anything else about them. It’s all combat, and we’ve seen loads of that before. Claremont and Chen still have 12 more issues to turn this around and do something with it other than just killing these characters off. Give us new insight! Give them enough down time for us to see how they deal with this. All we’re getting is a slaughter. Nightcrawler almost had a scene about this, but one page in all of this just didn’t cut it. Too much of it was spent filling us in on his family history to this point. I give it 3 out of 6.
The artwork is very well done. The pencils, coloring, and the artistic storytelling are all on target. Chen just needs to get some real character moments to work with. I give it 5 out of 6.
The story is incomplete and primarily about killing off the heroes. There are hits at political machinations, but we’re not seeing them yet. All we’ve got to look at are a series of (well drawn) tactical strikes, and some brief moments of “where they are now.” I give it 3 out of 6.
The characterization is the part most lacking. We get some characters acting out the one mood they’re best known for, and Cyclops acting out his two moods, but we don’t see any development for anyone. Some life altering decisions have been made, but they came before these events. We don’t see enough of the process. I give it 2 out of 6.
The emotional response is, as you might have guessed, poor. I think I may just switch to picking up the other two books as trade paperbacks instead of following by the issue. Reading a given issue just didn’t fill me with the desire to get the next one as soon as possible. This should be a pivotal book, showing the definitive end to the characters, and yet I suspect it’ll be ignored by those who come next. (If I were a writer on Hulk, I’d be trying to aim my work at Peter David’s wonderfully crafted ending. If I were a writer on any of the X-books, I wouldn’t be compelled to pay attention to this.) The brief high moments just weren’t high enough. I give it 2 out of 6.
The flow is rapidly paced, with a lot of scene changes. The biggest problem is the amount of time needed to form any sort of picture of what is going on. At least with Lord of the Rings, the heroes, goals, villains, plots, and consequences in the big picture are known in the first book, so you have a reason to come back and see what’s happening. Here, any desire to come back for book two will be fueled by wanting to know what the heck is going on. We’ve got some action scenes that are well drawn, so the flow within an individual scene works, but we don’t have enough of the big picture to knit it all together. I give it 3 out of 6.
Overall, it’s, well, odd. It’s a bunch of empty combat at this stage. If that’s what you want, enjoy. If it’s not, I’d suggest waiting until the next couple of books are out, and watching here to see if things pull together into something more coherent. I’ll probably get them as trades, but I doubt I’ll shell out for individual issues. I give it 3 out of 6.
In total, X-Men: The End: Book One: Dreamers and Demons (which may have more colons than any other comic title in history) receives 21 out of 42.