Friday, October 7, 2011

X-Men: Schism....really? (SPOILERS AHEAD)

Pretty bad ass image right there huh?  Make you think Wolverine & Cyclops are going into a serious throwdown with one another doesn't it?  Makes you wonder just what could drive these two men who have essentially been the two pillars of the X-Community since the move to San Francisco & the founding of Utopia.  Cyclops has been the general, leading his army into war, and Wolverine serving as his first in command, carrying out orders with little question, willing to get down and do the dirty work with his secret X-Force cabal. Yes there have been some rough patches in the road, especially with Cyclops' insistence on X-23 & Wolfsbane being a part of the initial incarnation of his X-Force, but for the most part Wolvie acted like a good soldier, taking care of the wetwork in secret.

Obviously that all got blown to hell when X-Force was outed during "Second Coming" but it didn't stop Wolvie from forming Version 2 underneath Cyclops' radar with a different band of mutants. 

So there's groundwork laid out I suppose for the philosophical tensions between Wolverine & Cyclops that are obviously the basis for Schism, shallow though they may's the depths to which these issues are explored that I find shallow, not the issues themselves.

So there's lots of death in X-Force, there are various attempts to salvage the mutant race as depicted in Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine is running off with pretty much every team that exists in the Marvel U, and there's very little done to push a burgeoning issue between the two X-Leaders, certainly nothing that justifies the image I started this blog with.

"Second Coming" comes and goes, Wolverine has some issues with Hope that are weakly, at best, laid out an issue of Uncanny X-Men, shows a minute interest in the Generation Hope cast as a whole, and then we're dumped into the whole "Prelude to Schism" mini.  I may be skipping some beats here as I am doing this primarily from memory, with a little google referencing for accuracy to issue references (turns out that was actually necessary given that I couldn't remember if the Wolvie/Hope story was a UXM or GenHope story), but that's being done with purpose.  I really wanted to see how much of the build-up to "Schism" actually stuck with me in any sort of relevant manner.  

So the "Prelude" books dance around the impending threat that is heading toward Utopia (I guess this little aside takes place between issues 3 & 4? Sometime during issue 4? During GenHope 11?), but certainly presents that threat as the impending death of everything on Utopia, totally unavoidable annihilation of the mutant species, so much so that is requires four different issues from the perspectives of Cyke, Wolvie, Magneto, and Xavier to decide if it's a fight or flight.  Obviously they decide on fight, now it's just a matter of reading the actual "Schism" story to find out just what they're fighting.  Suffice it to say that when the two stories finally converge, "Prelude" really feels misleading...
Alright now it's time for "Schism"...the big event that we discover (can't quite remember if it's before or after the story starts) will ultimately tear the team asunder, shuffle Wolverine & crew off into his very own team book, and hit reset on Uncanny X-Men with a brand new #1 issue!  Honestly getting all that information prior to the conclusion of the story sucked and certainly sucked the life out of "Schism" for me because it boiled the story down to one question: what cause the schism?

It was a moment I kept waiting for throughout the first 3 issues; with the return of Quentin Quire (which should have felt bigger than it was), the baby Hellfire Club, the mutant museum, the rebirth of the Sentinels, none of it feels particularly important.  The moments of tension with Wolverine & Cyclops feel just like that...moments, moments that could lead to a bigger issue down the line yes (maybe if down the line was a year's worth of stories like this), but nothing to justify the huge rift we all know is coming by issue 5.  Wolverine & Cyke have bonded like never before in the years (Days?Weeks?Months? Who knows in comic book land) since Jean's death and none of this seems like a payoff, just more build-up.  As I read the first 3 issues I found myself constantly wondering "Is that it?", I was constantly waiting for something more to happen to give a logical reason for this rift in the relationship of Scott Summers & Logan.  It never came...

Idie killing the Hellfire Club goons to save lives is a terrible thing for a child to have to endure no doubt, and when that kid already thinks they're the Anti-Christ it only exacerbates the situation.  Idie is most certainly a damaged kid,  but what interest have any of the X-Men shown in these kids since they were introduced?  Cyclops & Hope both want them to be soldiers, Wolverine hasn't given a damn, the end.  Where does Wolverine's sudden interest in her mental state come from?  Yeah it's pretty brutal that she had to kill some people, yes it is awful when she later expresses that she thinks it's just part of being an X-Man, but as the whole foundation upon which a philosophical Grand Canyon is built?  Seriously?  I've been reading X-Books as long as I've been reading comics and Idie killing a few people is far from the worst thing that has gone down between Cyke & Wolvie, to say nothing of incidents that deservedly drove wedges between characters (say perhaps Prof. X hiding the existence of a brother from Cyclops).

And while the visual of a Wolvie & Cyke fighting it out while a giant Sentinel looms over Utopia is quite cool, the two of them scrapping after the robot makes landfall is pointedly ridiculous.  This isn't Wolverine & Angel from the added pages of Classic X-Men #1, these are two men who have gone through hell together for years now who are giving their personal grievances import over the impending doom of Uber-Sentinel.

A quick aside RE: Uber-Sentinel....really? Seriously? Go back to "Prelude" and see that this one Sentinel is putting the fear of annihilation into every living mutant on Utopia, including those on the Alpha power levels of Magneto, Xavier, Storm, & Cyclops?  These are the warriors who faced down Dark Phoenix, the entire Shi'ar galaxy, the Legacy Virus, X-Tinction Agenda, Cassandra Nova & her wild Sentinels, Magneto himself...and they are quaking in their boots over a one freakin' Sentinel!  Now go back to "Schism" proper, issue 5, and now that Sentinel is barely an afterthought, dispensed of by the populace of Utopia without anyone really being in danger of a stubbed toe at the hands of Uber-Sentinel much less death.  Wolverine & Cyclops do more damage to each other (Claws through the hand? Damn!)

The total lack of words, captions, sound effect, etc during the majority of this issue is a neat effect, I assume trying to put the emphasis on the violence being perpetrated by two friends upon one another, and it makes sense given that most people wouldn't speak in soliloquies while spitting teeth in blood.  It's just an odd choice given that X-Books tend to be overly expository, especially in combat situations.

So the Wolvie/Cyke knockdown drag-out ends, Uber-Sentinel gets beat, some caption boxes over the top of moving day lay out the aftereffects, and Wolvie's crew heads back to the mansion that has been left in complete rubble since..."Messiah Complex" I believe.  That was probably the coolest moment of the entire "Schism" series for me right there... but man, you'd think these X-people would care enough to at least rebuild their ancestral home even if they haven't been living there recently.  That's just rude...

So when all is said and done...I think it's pretty obvious I'm let down by this entire experience.  I don't think there was enough meat to justify the Scott/Logan rift, I don't think there is any question that the hype-job the "threat" got in "Prelude" was overkill, and I'm really disappointed that this was how the landscape-changing event went down.  "Messiah Complex" and "Second Coming" were far, far better stories that actually conveyed the possibility of a real threat to the mutant race, that actually paid off LEGITIMATELY built-up issues while simultaneously paving the road for future arcs.  Those stories did not feel forced, did not feel thrown together to accomplish some sales-boosting goal (What else would you call two new #1's?), and I would liken them more to "Messiah War" and "Necrosha" as opposed to the other two recent X-Overs.

All in all, I label "Schism" as a fail, not an absolute fail because I found the art in pretty much every issue to be quite good.  I absolutely hate having a different artist on every ish of a book like they did here (and DC did in "Return of Bruce Wayne") but at least it was good art.  Some small issues here and there, but it would just be nit-picky stuff, mostly with Acuna's art.  It also presented some interesting storyline points going forward as far as the overall fallout from "Schism" & its impact on the rest of the X-Family of books (it can't/won't be as simple as these guys hopped on this bus while the rest hopped on the other bus) as well as providing some intriguing concepts in the L'enfant terrible incarnation of the Hellfire Club, the reborn Quentin Quire, and the reemergence of a Sentinel program amongst governments worldwide.  I guess we shall see what Regenesis brings us in the coming months...I just hope the bricks building this new house turn out stronger than the foundation...