Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Comics!: The "Regenesis" Edition #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I'm posting these reviews in the order I read them, which came from the checklist, of sorts, published in the back of "X-Men:  Schism" #5.  I'll get to my thoughts on the whole enterprise at the end.  Enjoy!

X-Men:  Regenesis #1:  For all my bitching about "X-Men:  Schism," I have to say that Gillen does the best he can with the hand he's dealt here.  I've never seen more character development in a single issue.  It's hard to break down an issue that essentially consists of 20-30 conversations, but I'll do my best.  First, the framing scenes of Cyclops and Wolverine as tribal warriors were brilliant.  Tan does an amazing job artistically with them, and they convey the message Gillen is highlighting here, that the X-Men are now officially two different tribes.  Second, I thought all the conversations were great.  Tan has a gift at drawing faces that actually convey emotions, making him an inspired choice for an issue that, at its core, is all about emotions.  Stand-out conversations for me were Dani/Sam and Scott/Storm.  Despite my initial skepticism, I actually buy Storm staying.  I thought Gillen would go this route, that Storm would serve as the moral conscience of the team, and I think Gillen really sells it here.  (Of course, I'm left to wonder how she's going to commute to be on the Avengers as well.)  I also thought he did a great job with Dani and Sam, making it about the places where they find themselves in their lives and what they need at the moment to be the people they want to be (and, one day, be together).  Somehow, as he also does with Magneto and Rogue, Gillen actually makes their burgeoning relationship seem more viable for the decision to be apart.

At the end of the day, I can't point to any conversation that didn't ring true to me.  I loved Emma showing her commitment to Scott by liquidating her corporate holdings to fund Utopia (and still being Emma about it, telling Scott not to get all weepy).  I love that it looks like Bobby and Dazzler finally are going to get the leadership roles it's time for them to have.  As shocked as I am to say it, I'm probably most excited about "Wolverine and the X-Men," since it's where most of my favorite characters are.  (Actually, I'm most excited about Alex and Lorna re-joining "X-Factor," but it's always existed more or less outside the sphere of the rest of the mutant world.)  But, I'll keep getting "Uncanny," because, well, it's "Uncanny."  I am, though, to be fair, also intrigued by how Scott handles the divide.  We just saw him get delivered a major loss, and I thought Gillen did a great job showing his desperation as he handles his team dissolving around him.  That should be interesting to follow in the coming months.

I've made it clear that I think the premise of "Schism" -- that Wolverine decided that kids need to be allowed to be kids -- is flawed.  It's hard to see how it's Wolverine leading the school and not Storm.  But, I'm willing to look past it, because of the amazing work Gillen does here.  I think we're going to get some really great stories over the next few months as the mutant world re-arranges itself, and I can't wait.

Uncanny X-Men #544:  After the awesomeness of "X-Men:  Regenesis" #1, I have to say, I was a little disappointed with this issue.  Previously, in "Uncanny X-Men" and in "X-Men:  Regenesis" #1, Gillen gave us my favorite Cyclops, showing him with a sense of humor and a semblance of humanity.  But, the Cyclops we get here is more in line with other portrayals we've seen of him in the last few years, as completely detached from his emotions as he is his teammates.  "He's more machine now than man," to quote Obi-Wan.  Bobby tries to get a tearful good-bye, but, in the end, realizes it's simply time to go.  By using Mr. Sinister as a framing device, Gillen gives us a sign that maybe we're going to see Scott really tested here.  I think I could enjoy "Uncanny X-Men" in this post-schism world if it's about taking down Scott a peg, and I don't think anyone could do that better than Mr. Sinister.  In other words, I'm excited to see where Gillen takes us in this title, even if my favorite characters are in "Wolverine and the X-Men."  Speaking of the devil...

Wolverine and the X-Men #1:  Reading this issue, it's hard not to think that you've suddenly awoken from a dream -- a dream where everything was just a little wrong, a little off-kilter -- and found yourself relieved to discover it was, in fact, just a dream.  The X-Men return to Westchester and suddenly I realize why "X-Men:  Schism" was necessary.

Seeing the X-Men in the Westchester campus again makes you realize just how much Wolverine was right, that Cyclops had failed the younger generation, to the extent he even thought about it.  Aaron throws a lot at us in this issue, establishing a number of patterns and schticks that I'm sure we're going to see in future issues.  Given the scope of ground he covers, I'm not going to try to mention everything.  I will say that the idea of the entire mansion becoming the Danger Room is emblematic of what Aaron does here, taking core concepts of who the X-Men are and always have been and modernizing them.

It's all not glitz and tech, though.  The most poignant scene in the book, for me, was Logan running past the statue of Jean, asking her to wish him luck.  It's another nod to who the X-Men were and who Logan is trying to make them be again.  Along those lines, Logan's conversation with Charles is excellent, particularly their mutual acknowledgment that he's the last person they thought would be re-opening the school. Aaron also hits a home run by making much of the issue focus on Kitty and Logan.  We haven't really seen them together in this way in ages, something I hadn't realized until I saw them standing next to one another and thought, "Of course, Kitty would be the Headmistress.  Why didn't I see that coming?"  All these scenes -- Logan and Jean's statue, Logan and the Professor, Logan and Kitty -- accomplish what Aaron intended them to do, reminding us that, of the two core books, this one is the one rooted in history, in the relationships these characters have had for almost 50 years.  Cyclops has his rock full of murderers and psychos; Logan has his school full of family and friends.  (Speaking of friends:  Lockheed!  'Nuff said.)

Aaron underlines these changes by having members of "New Mutants" and "Generation X" in teaching roles, showing us just how far we've come (and how old some of us are).  (By the by, I LOVED the staff chart.  I'm a little surprised that Cannonbal is a "junior" staff member, though.)  But, lest the issue descend into touchy-feely hugs, Aaron kicks it up a notch by introducing Kade Kilgore to the mix at the end.  You spend most of the issue thinking it's just going to be a new take on the standard story you'd see every once in a while, particularly in "New Mutants," with the state inspectors playing the square.  Instead, we end the issue with an enormous monster poised to eat the mansion.  I mean, wow.

I began this issue the least excited about this title and end it possibly the most excited about it.  I'm on board, folks.

Uncanny X-Men #1:  Gillen goes where I was hoping he'd go here, giving us a Cyclops here who seems increasingly unhinged and an X-Men team slowing sliding into becoming the bad guys.  I loved Storm polling the room about who has gone through a "mainly super villain" phase and telling Scott he might be acting too quickly when he raises his hand saying he hadn't.  I'm glad Gillen is putting Storm at the center of this book.  She's been gone for so long, and it's great to see her back here.  You can just feel her discomfort, with Scott comparing the X-Men favorably to Iraq and North Korea and Magneto appearing at her side in combat.  The fight with the Dreaming Celestial was awesome.  This book is going to be pretty grim, so Gillen is going to have to keep delivering these sorts of epic battles if it's going to be fun to read.  I also hope it doesn't focus entirely on the "extinction team" but also gives us some of Dazzler's street team.  We shall see.  Overall, it's a pretty solid start.

Final Thoughts:  As I've mentioned before, I didn't buy the central conceit of "X-Men:  Schism," that Wolverine would get all touchy-feely and Scott would be all militant warrior.  But, Gillen and Aaron actually more or less get me to buy it here.  We see a changed Wolverine, particularly in "Wolverine and the X-Men," showing that Aaron all along wasn't arguing that Wolverine was the same person he was, but that he had actually come to the end of a journey.  I'm still not entirely sure I buy it, but I'm not going to hold it against this new enterprise, because these issues were some of the best "X-Men" issues I've read in a long time.  In the past, the X-Men would occasionally go on walkabout and leave Westchester, only to return in the end, the school being the X-Men' symbol of rebirth.  Aaron puts that pattern on its head by only having some of the X-Men be reborn, if you will, giving us, for the first time, both the more aggressive walkabout stories with Cyclops' crew and the more redemptive school ones with Wolverine's.  It almost makes you wonder why no one thought of it before.  But, here we are now, and I'm excited to see where Gillen and Aaron take us.

1 comment:

  1. This was a great read, JW. I think it's safe to say that we're on the same page with the post-Schism X-world. Like you said, I was extremely dubious about Wolverine running a school(just typing that STILL seems wrong!), but I'll be damned if Jason Aaron didn't make it fit! I will say that two issues in the art is a bit hit or miss, but other than that, Wolvie and the X-Men turned out better than I'd have expected.