X-Men Messiah Complex: Chapter 1

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Marc Silvestri
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

The end of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men was a watershed for the X franchise, and not a good one. After a period of great creativity and interest within a number of the titles, almost everything fell back toward recycling of old ideas and tropes. Even 2005’s desperate attempt to reinvigorate the line, House of M, did almost nothing to remedy this; falling completely flat when Marvel chose to not actually use it’s implications or possibilities to change any status quos. Since then the entire X-line has really been wallowing in mediocrity, with only X-Factor demonstrating much sense of direction or consistency of quality over the last few years. Ed Brubaker’s recent 12 issue space epic in Uncanny had some high points, but in the end failed to deliver any sense of conclusion or real forward movement for the team, and while Mike Carey’s recent X-men run has shown some promise, and at least a hint that there is an overall plan beyond the next issue, there is still a spark of something missing. Having recognised this Marvel has decided to yet again re-boot the entire line, and what better way to do this than with a good old fashioned X-over.


The X-over in question, entitled Messiah Complex, will run for 13 chapters and cross through all the main X-books (Uncanny, X-Men, New X-Men and X-Factor) over the next months, in a selfless display of dedication to the art of comic book reviewing, I will be reading all 13 chapters so that you don’t have to. As always with such big events, there is much hyperbole and promise of seismic shifts that will change things forever, for the purposes of covering this event I’m going to try and ignore the potential for the future and focus on the actual story, we’ll deal with the aftermath later next year. Going in to this event I have to confess to somewhat mixed feelings, given the current state of the X-books I have little reason for optimism, but I so want to see this deliver on it’s promise and the part of me that remembers reading X-tinction agenda and the like is thrilled to see the return of 13 part X-overs and cinematic covers.

Regardless of how well this actually pans out Marvel’s pitch and presentation is perfect. The media build up, Finch’s covers, the checklists in the backs of the issues, the team profiles and pin ups in the back of this one-shot; the whole thing is very slick and reeking of nostalgia. Some people are going to hate that, but for me it’s part and parcel of the experience. A large number of people have been reading the X-books out of habit for decades, we’ve all been riding a wave of nostalgia through periods of total drivel where these books are concerned and this is almost a celebration of that…only without the drivel…hopefully.

This first issue is all about introducing the players and the concept, and as writer Brubaker has a somewhat difficult job, because he is playing to a rather diverse audience. He has to introduce concepts and characters from books like New X-Men to people who only read Uncanny and X-Men, while not boring those readers who collect the whole line. He has to appeal to old-school X-readers who may have returned for the X-over to test the water, but he also has to keep the interest of people who have stayed on board for the whole miserable ride and engage new comers to the line. He has to introduce the concept of the entire cross-over to people who don’t stay abreast of the comics news, while making that same introduction interesting to those of us who know exactly what the set up is, because we’ve read the press releases and the interviews. To be honest the guy was on a hiding to nothing from the start and actually does a fairly good job of making a nothing issue quite engaging.

The choice of cast is a sensible one, recognisably old-school with Cyclops, Nighcrawler, the ubiquitous Wolverine and even a returning Angel, accompanied by cameos from Professor X and Beast in flashback, and rounded out by the popular Emma Frost for a dash of the contemporary. In general Brubaker has the voices and characters of Emma and Cyclops down pat now, with both coming across as in character. Nightcrawler and Wolverine both seem slightly stilted, almost caricatures of themselves, but that’s a difficult trap to avoid with those two and one most writers fall into. Angel falls somewhere between those two extremes. In general the story flows fairly well and the team interaction, while occasionally a little stiff, has been much worse, and given this issue is almost entirely setup it would be hard for anyone to make things more dynamic. Plot wise there isn’t much going on that people familiar with the premise of the X-over won’t already know, since this issue is basically an introduction to the characters of the series and the idea that a new mutant has been born and is now probably in the hands of Sinister. As an introduction it serves its purpose well, functioning together with the back matter to bring all readers to an acceptable point of understanding that will allow them to hit the ground running when the X-over starts proper in the next issue of Uncanny. There’s nothing here story wise to blow your mind, but it’s all done with Brubaker’s signature quality so there is equally not much to complain about either.

Art wise this is the kind of book that people will love or hate, since Silvestri’s style here is embedded in 90s Image, but does have some contemporary flushes. It does a fantastic job of evoking the style seen in the last big X-overs of that era, but facial expressions are more pronounced, the backgrounds more fleshed out and the action sequences more digestible. Personally I found it highly successful, but others will disagree, and if you dislike the 90s Image style art in general this won’t be your cup of tea. There are some nice pinups at the back of the book, in particular an X-Men spread by Marko Djurdjevic and a fabulous double page spread of the Marauders by Simone Bianchi. It’s a nice package, but I’m not sure there is enough there to warrant the inflated price tag.

If you’re a long term X-reader this is a no brainer, it’s at least equal in standard to anything else that you’ve been subjected to recently so go for it. If you’re re-joining the franchise for this X-over than to be honest this is a take it or leave it issue. There is nothing in here plot wise that you won’t get from a quick google and the catch up page in the next Uncanny issue, so flick through and if the pin-ups and Silvestri’s art take your fancy put your money down. If not give it a miss and save your cash for next month when the real action starts.

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  • RossHaving recently finished a PhD in Immunology Ross is currently working for a UK biotech company. He lives in Cambridge where he reads comics, spends too much money on music and attempts to learn Portuguese. He owns at least 7 lightsabers, yet still manages to have a very attractive girlfriend who he misses very much, thus proving anything really is possible.