Comic Review – “X-Men: Messiah Complex”

The latest Marvel event gets its review. I should have time this weekend to review Sinestro Corps War, the other big (and really, really fun) DC event.

General Information

Title: X-Men: Messiah Complex
Authors: Ed Brubaker, Peter David, Craig Kyle, Chris Yost and Mike Carey
Pencils: Marc Silvestri, Billy Tan, Scot Eaton, Humberto Ramos and Chris Bachalo
Inks: Marco Galli, Joe B. Weems V, Carlos Cuevas, John Dell, Tim Townsend, Allen Martinez, Danny Miki, Andrew Hennessey, Jonathan Sibal, Dave Meikis, Al Vey, and Victor Olazaba
Colors: Frank D’Armata, Edgar Delgado, and Brian Reber
Cover Dates: December 2007 through March 2008
ISBN: 0-7851-2899-9
Cover Price: $39.99 US as hardcover, or $39.87 cumulative total as individual issues. The individual issues were the original “Messiah Complex” one shot, “New X-Men” #44-46, “Uncanny X-Men” #492-494, “X-Factor” #25-27 and “X-Men” #205-207.
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The first mutant birth since the Scarlet Witch went nuts is born, and everyone wants to control the baby’s future.

High Point

Cyclops was very much in command. He’s always been my favourite character in the X-books, and here he really shines.

Low Point

The dropping of one major thread. There are two possible futures, and two individuals sent to investigate them, yet we only ever hear from one of them.

The Scores

This is billed as the first major line-wide X-event in over a decade, and it is that. It’s a story that hasn’t been told before, as it depends heavily on “House of M” and “Endangered Species” (the latter of which, in retrospect, may exist primarily to set this up.) Even so, the meat of this thirteen part story is actually pretty slim, as the bulk of it is an ongoing series of battles that end up killing off several of the mutants that were still around when this whole thing started. That’s a lot like the big events of the 1990s. I give the originality 3 out of 6.

The artwork varies a lot with the art teams. Marc Silvestri kicks things off with a very realistic style, which matches well with that of Billy Tan and Scot Eaton (though Eaton’s photoreferencing of Patrick Stewart for Prof. X and Scarlet Johansson for Mystique could have been much less obvious.) The work of Humberto Ramos and Chris Bachalo are similar to each other, but not to the other teams. As a result, there are some jarring art changes that hit between issues, which will be far more dramatic in the collected editions. If it were just Silvestri, Tan and Eaton, I’d love it. Ramos and Bachalo aren’t among my favourites. Mixing them together will be jarring for anyone; the whole is definitely less than the sum of its parts. I give it 3 out of 6.

The story features a whole lot of groups chasing after an inexplicably powerful mutant for no readily apparant reason. The reasons for each faction are generally revealed, but those reveals are spread between parts 6 and 11 of a 13 part series, leaving the motives of the X-Men to the last being revealed. Reading this in one setting works well enough, but reading it weekly as it came out left me hanging too often to care about the story as it developed. It reads much better in a single sitting, particularly when it’s already been read once, so the little clues that were given stand out a bit more. I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization isn’t too bad. There’s a huge cast to balance here (including the casts of “Uncanny X-Men,” “New X-Men,” “X-Men” and “X-Factor,” plus some of their villains) and most get their moments in the spotlight. Cyclops was in his prime right up until his last line of dialogue, which would have seemed out of character even if I hadn’t read issues 42 and 43 from 1968. Details under spoilerguard: In issue 42, at the peak of Cyclops’ insecurity in his own abilities, the team thought Professor X had died. Cyclops took over the team and they kept on moving to honor the Professor’s dream. Early in “Messiah Complex,” Cyclops tells Professor X to back off and let him lead the team. In the end, when Xavier takes a serious but nonfatal gunshot wound to the head, Cyclops declares that the dream is dead and the X-Men are going with it. Huh? For the most part, things are good, but that one line is really out of place. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response was much stronger in a single, continuous rereading than in the original reading that was spread over 13 weeks. It’s pretty fast paced action, but it reads much better when you know why everybody’s fighting so fiercely and why the X-Men were the last ones out of the gate. I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow would have been great with a consistent art style. Instead, the extreme art changes and some unlabelled scene jumping broke things up and made them difficult to follow. I give it 3 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a decent story that X-fans will want to read, but the rest of the world can safely pass. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, X-Men: Messiah Complex receives 26 out of 42.

One reply

  1. nonfatal?
    "In the end, when Xavier takes a serious but nonfatal gunshot wound to the head…"

    For some reason that line made me laugh.

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