Or – “First Superman, Now The X-Men… I’ve Totally Gone Mainstream.”

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I admit it… I was once a huge X-Men fan, enamored of Wolverine and Colossus and company. I remember totally marking out when Juggernaut and Colossus destroyed an entire pub for no real reason, and Wolverine just let them fight to teach Colossus a lesson. I enjoyed Longshot’s return, I still love X-Men Annual #11, I even felt bad when they died in Dallas… In my “personal continuity” (the term I use for my mental belief in how the stories SHOULD have gone) they never returned from that mission, but apparently, fifteen years of stories have accumulated, adding both epiphanies and barnacles to the adventures of five freaky kids, until Charles Xavier has a virtual army of beautiful children with angsty powers at his disposal. The next big Marvel earth-shattering event is the X-Men-centered ‘Endangered Species,’ and while I don’t promise a review of every issue, I thought I’d at least touch on it’s genesis and see how long my noblesse oblige will last us…

Previously, on X-Men: A large group of beautiful people with no visible scarring or malformation (unless you count beautiful angelic wings) get called freaks and are X1.jpgsomehow known to be different than the other superheroes of the Marvel Universe who, up until recent years, were uniformly loved and respected. Eventually, more heroes joined, most of whom had accents and/or healing factors, and they walked the Earth and had adventures. Recently, the X-Men have been sub-categorized into three teams, one led by Cyclops, one by Rogue, one by Nightcrawler (I think.) When Wanda Maximoff lost her mind, she depowered most all of the world’s mutants, and the few remaining were pretty much all X-Men, by a wild coinkydink. Now, the three teams are all returning home to find that the chickens have come home to roost, and some of them have super-powers of their own. In recent issues, this particular adjectiveless X-Men team visited Cable’s island nation of Providence, to try and save Rogue, who was suffering from a seemingly fatal virus. Instead of helping her, the team ended up BEING SAVED by Rogue, who absorbed the entirety of an alien hivemind called the Hecatomb, leaving her own mind subsumed by what the story tells me are 8 BILLION others…

We start this issue in the French Quarter, as someone named Quiet Bill (and I think that we’re supposed to know him) tries to reach “the guild” (presumable Gambit’s Thieves Guild.) Since it’s always Mardi Gras in the French Quarter, he finishes his call and slips into an elevator full of revelers. At the last minute, a man in a trenchcoat slips in, kills everyone on board, and says “One down. No complications.” Apparently we ARE supposed to know Bill. As for the X-Men, (consisting of Rogue, Cannonball, Iceman, Mystique, Lady Mastermind and Omega Sentinel) they’re in Caldecott County, Mississippi, entering the house where Mystique raised Rogue so many years ago. Rogue is all over the place, burning her way in rather than just opening a door, and not being sure what she has and hasn’t told the X-Men…

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Rogue is obviously not all there, though with that many people screaming in her head, you can’t blame her. Back at the Xavier institute, Cyclops and his Astonishing people are getting word from Iceman on Rogue’s situation. “You remember what she was like when she first came to us? After she absorbed Ms. Marvel? Well, it’s like that, only WORSE.” Umm… You weren’t with the X-Men then, Bob. You were an accountant in New York… Aaaanyway, Cyclops decides that it’s time to bring in the best telepath left, and he and Emma take off for Mississippi. Mystique isn’t happy with this development, noting that though Rogue was once her daughter, she now “belongs” to the X-Men. That’s a little ominous, isn’t it? “All the things we built are falling down… Do you feel it?” Iceman doesn’t understand, but Mystique points out that the Brotherhood is gone, the Xavier Academy is nearly empty, and that Genosha is a radioactive crater. She feels like the world is ending, and grabs for the only thing she can trust…

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Aww… that’s sweet. But what a WEIRD couple! Back on Providence, Cable tries to pick up the pieces of his destroyed kingdom, but his computer system (nicknamed “Professor”) asks why it’s clock is wrong. Cable explains that it’s the backup program, and that the island (which used to be his headquarters Greymalkin, and before that X-Factor’s sentient Ship) is abandoned after recent events. “Negative,” replies the computer, “Current population: two.” Uh oh. At the house in Mississippi, Lady Mastermind scrounges for alcohol while Omega Sentinel runs a diagnostic on her computer systems. Suddenly, her little laptop screen starts flashing…

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Wuh-oh… That can’t be good. Another interlude in New Orleans, as the man in the trenchcoat has been joined by a mysterious woman. They seemingly kill an old man (I’m not getting all of this) and we cut right back to Providence, where Cable has busted out a giant Liefeld-blaster to check out the possible threat. Suddenly, a baby doll flies out of nowhere and EXPLODES in his face, nearly killing Cable. As the son of Cyclops rolls out of the blast wave, an old pal steps out of the shadows.

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It’s the mighty Gumbo! Yay! In the Mississippi house of exposition, Rogue visits her old room, remembering a time when she was happy to call Mystique mama. Cannonball arrives, looking very Naruto, and asks what she’s thinking. Rogue replies, distantly, “This is where she lives… This is somewhere Rogue thought of as home.” I suspect that at least part of that isn’t entirely true, but Sam takes her at her word.

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Back at Providence, Cable and Gambit square off, and the Cajun offers to show him a card trick. Cable telekinetically stops his explosive cards before they reach him, and confidently smugs, “Not gonna happen.” Gambit smiles, “Well, I said it was a trick, Cable,” as Sunfire sweeps in from behind and set Cable on fire. Cable falls right on the explosives and is blowed up real good, and forced to flee. “Let de man run, Sunfire. Only hand we got to win is de last one.” Wit’ dem french-fried toad-haids, mm-HMM! Dey’s gooooOOOD wit’ de white wiiiine. Sorry, Gambit’s accent always reminds me of Justin Wilson, De Cajun Cook. Two-thirds of the Astonishing X-Men arrive at casa-de-Mystique and the White Queen prepares to psychically enter Rogue’s mind. “Can I add a few stipulations about her accent and her choice in men?” Heh. Emmy-Sue Frost enters Rogue’s mind and finds only a burnt wasteland, filled with screaming humanoids…

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Emma explains that she’ll have to build some “flood-walls” to protect Rogue’s mind, but she’ll need time to figure it all out Lady Mastermind watches this with a very peculiar look on her face, and I wonder about the sheer number of former villains on this roster… Cable has managed to limp back to the command center of his Island fortress, ordering his computer to “chase this down for me. A phrase. Four words. “One minute before dawn.” I presume it’s scanning the history banks for something, but Gambit and Sunfire arrive too quickly to find out what…

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Gambit and Sunfire evacuate, as the entire structure seemingly explodes, taking the powerful future-man out of the picture. Back in Mississippi, the non-telepathic team members talk about Rogue’s situation, and Cannonball points out that Rogue originally only ever came to the X-Men out of desperation. “What you DO when you’re desperate is what defines who you are,” replies Wolverine sagely. Mystique suddenly reports that her alarms have been tripped, and someone (actually someONES) have slipped in, somehow cloaked from detection. The teams scramble, but White Queen knows something is wrong…

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Oooh, that’s bad. Beast and Wolverine realize that their senses are telling them something odd: the invaders are IN THE HOUSE. They’re calling from the upstairs extension!!!! Iceman tries to power up, but fails, and Cannonball wonders why they can’t see the insurgents. “Oh. Sorry,” says Lady Mastermind. “That’d be ME.” With a snap of her fingers, the Marauders appear, and I count Harpoon, Vertigo, Prism, Arclight… um… Hairydudewithgun… um… GuywhoColossuskilled, GuywhoThorkilled and someone who looks like Horshack. Even I can’t remember EVERYTHING about comics. The X-Men try to attack, only to have Omega Sentinel turn on them as well. Iceman is shot, and the noise wakes Rogue who rushes in to save the day. The battle rages for a moment before the hairy guy (Scalphunter, I b’lieve) levels his sights on Rogue, and Mystique takes him down.

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HOLY $#!+! Rogue falls, and suddenly I do the math on this… Her team has seven members. THREE of them have just revealed themselves to be moles. But certainly Mama Mystique didn’t really hurt Rogue, did she? After all, she’s probably just trying to smoke out whomever is the big bad behind the new Marauders, right? No, dear friends, she already KNOWS who the brains of this particular outfit are…

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…because it’s her. Okay, that’s a little bit of awesome right there, and not just because I don’t care for MISter SinISter. She has been infilitrating the team, working on her daughter’s sympathies, boffing the most powerful team member, probably recruiting Lady Mastermind and preparing to take over Omega girl for MONTHS now. I enjoy it when a villain shows herself to be the equal of the heroes in a way that makes SENSE, rather than just overpowering them every time. The cliffhanger for the main story ends here, but there’s more to be had. We see a closeup of the House of M heroes fighting their way out of something or other, and we see The Beast speaking… “We were fighting for our lives. Because our lives had been stolen from us by Wanda Maximoff. By the Scarlet Witch.” A digital voice from off-screen asks why they don’t remember any of the information, and Beast explains that the universe returned to hit’s original state when they won. He recaps the “No More Mutants” moment, and explains the Decimation…

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After these events, The Beast locked himself in his lab, searching for a way to reverse what happened, but to no avail. Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank Pym all assisted, but they all failed in anything but identifying the root cause. “It’s as though there was a lock on the very building blocks of matter. As though DNA itself had declared WAR on us and no refused to parley.” Maybe DNA heard about the human rights outrage that is Iron Man? Heh… In any case, Hank is speaking to the mysterious voice in the hopes of finding help outside regular means.

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“I meant the insult to be explicit.” Heh. I enjoy this Beast a lot. He explains that they misunderstand, as his experiments may not have fixed the mutant problem, but they have uncovered quite a few other insights… “Some of them were BIG. One or two, if I can put it like this… real Road-To-Damascus stuff.” He admits that normally the thought of giving this to his unseen audience would frighten the hell out of him, and admits that the giant discoveries are off the table, but he’s willing to give whomever helps me access to his research. “Or, say no. And watch me close the deal with one of the others.”

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Holy crap. If I’m reading that correctly, we’re seeing (clockwise from Top Left) The Red Ghost, MODOK, Dr. Chandra from the Astonishing X-Men “Cure” story, Mojo, Dr. Doom, Arnim Zola, The High Evolutionary, MISter SinISter, and The Sugarman, a baseball team’s worth of mad scientists who are together responsible for more monstrosities and grotesqueries than the programmers at the Fox network. For McCoy to open up relations with ANY of them (save maybe Chandra) is proof of his desperation…

While I kind of liked this issue, there are some largish problems for me in it’s execution. There’s not a lot of clear explanation of what’s going on, especially with the New Orleans cutaways, and while the Rogue plot is established and explained somewhat well, I don’t know who Lady Mastermind and Omega Sentinel are. Granted, that’s from not reading the book for several years, but a little context would be appreciated. Humberto Ramos and Chris Bachalo have very stylized art styles, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I find that they synthesize funny, and the ‘pointy hair and big eyes’ undermines my appreciate of the drama, just a little. Still, it’s not a bad effort, it drew me in and gave me a couple of gasps (Mystique and Beast’s respective actions are pretty shocking.) It’s a well constructed piece, though one that (to my mind, anyway) bears the fingerprints of group-writing, and one that was sadly spoilered by solicitation images… It’s certainly worth 3 stars out of 5, though it probably won’t cause me to add X-Men to my hold list again, it wasn’t by any means a waste of money.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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16 Comments

  1. Brent F.
    June 28, 2007 at 2:18 pm — Reply

    While I haven’t bought an issue of the X-Men in years (since the infamous Morrison run began) I have kept up on the goings on. I was really hoping Mystique would stay good.

    How did Gambit return to his normal pigmentation?

  2. June 28, 2007 at 3:00 pm — Reply

    1) Don’t think it was a ‘coinkydink’…I think maybe Wanda only spared those she knew about.

    2) Bachalo’s Pencils ROCK. It’s like Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Strikes Again”, except cool. And my eyeballs aren’t bleeding either.

    3) Bobbie and Mystique make the cutest couple, in my opinion…wait…DAMMIT!

    4) Cyclops! When are you goig to Lose that crappy costume and visor!

    5) Sure that ‘Top Left’ isn’t The red Ghost, but the new boy, Pandemic?

    6) It’s GOTTA be Magneto as the Beast’s secret helper.

  3. Mark I.
    June 28, 2007 at 3:21 pm — Reply

    Ut oh…Doctor Doom’s involved here? Add to that the fairly obvious role he’s about to play with the USA vs. Atlantis thing? Might World War Hulk wrap up more insanely then first assumed?

  4. June 28, 2007 at 3:23 pm — Reply

    5) Sure that ‘Top Left’ isn’t The red Ghost, but the new boy, Pandemic?

    Not sure, as I’ve never heard of him. If he looks nearly exactly like the Red Ghost and his name is that bad, I’m not sure I WANT to know… :)

  5. June 28, 2007 at 3:24 pm — Reply

    How did Gambit return to his normal pigmentation?

    They haven’t, to my knowledge, revealed that.

  6. June 28, 2007 at 3:24 pm — Reply

    Ramos should not be doing something as dramatic and serious as an X-event. He should be on something lighter where his style can contribute to the feel of the book.

  7. Brent F.
    June 28, 2007 at 3:50 pm — Reply

    Dr. Strange is actually responsible for preventing a lot of the X-Men and related characters from losing their powers.

  8. June 28, 2007 at 4:10 pm — Reply

    I love the Ramos style art – one of my favorite artists.

  9. quelonio
    June 28, 2007 at 4:25 pm — Reply

    No clue about Doom’s role here, buy one thing is clear, he deserves the biggest screen!

  10. June 28, 2007 at 4:56 pm — Reply

    Ramos should not be doing something as dramatic and serious as an X-event. He should be on something lighter where his style can contribute to the feel of the book.

    Art is, as always, in the eye of the beholder, but I don’t think it was so much that Ramos can’t pull off serious. He can. I just found the synthesis of Ramos and Bachalo to be a bit… manga-esque for my tastes.

  11. Mark I.
    June 28, 2007 at 5:19 pm — Reply

    Very Manga-esque. For me it comes down to the giant Speed Racer “OHHH?” mouths and it makes the characters seem more cartoony, like this is X-Men Adventures or something. It’s a sign of the times. more young artists being raised on manga and SD, and adopting the broad, more simplistic elements that seem trendy until everyone starts using them.

    At least Ramos isn’t lazy. “Manga Mouth” as annoying as it is outside of its original context at times, is just how he does his characters. If the rest of his art was simplistic or just a ripoff of some Japanese artist’s superior work, it would be one thing. But he’s got a good eye for detail and his pages can convey plot points with or without dialogue in the space of a few panels: the sign of a guy who’s doing something right (though a well-written script helps.) I appreciate his art a lot more now than the first time I saw it: the JLA: WORLD WITHOUT GROWN-UPS specials. I didn’t care for that one much… though the thin story was kind of at fault as well.

    Also, for some reason, Ramos’s Wolverine reminds me of “Flip” from Little Nemo.

  12. Sean Curley
    June 28, 2007 at 11:32 pm — Reply

    I’m pretty sure “Red Ghost” is actually Pandemic, the villain from two arcs ago on this title (Carey confirmed he’d be back in this crossover).

    I can’t imagine how difficult setting up that conference call must have been for Beast; the “hardest to contact” prize would have to go to either Zola or Sugar Man (who was seemingly killed in his last appearance).

  13. June 29, 2007 at 1:31 am — Reply

    He’s the only artist so far who’s made Mystique look pretty for me. That’s got to count for SOMETHING.

  14. Josh
    June 29, 2007 at 2:03 pm — Reply

    Pandemic is suppossed to be someone Rogue met in her short-lived series a few years ago. He was the villain for Carey’s second X-Men arc.

    It’s definately not clear if it’s the Red Ghost or Pandemic. I’m going to go with the Red Ghost only because Pandemic was so recently used as a villain and it doesn’t look like he’s wearing a metal face mask.

    I’m surprised Dark Beast isn’t on there. Then again, it’s distinctly possible that Dark Beast is Beast’s secret partner since he’s been mentioned in the solicits.

  15. chromega
    July 9, 2007 at 12:53 pm — Reply

    Just little correction to your list of villains in front of Beast there. Dr. Chandra = Dr. Kavita Rao

    Cheers

  16. Winter Decay
    August 17, 2007 at 10:14 pm — Reply

    I believe that it is The Mad Thinker not Mojo who has the honor of being next to Doom.

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