With only about 200 mutants left on Earth, the X-Men are more cautious than ever when it comes to their security. That’s really only partially true, as you’ll see after taking the jump to read about this kick-off issue for the X-Men Universe’s latest event, SCHISM.
Title: X-Men: Schism #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciler: Carlos Pacheco
Inker: Cam Smith
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Covers (including variants): A) Carlos Pacheco, Cam Smith & B) Nick Bradshaw, Jim Charalampidis & C) Frank Cho, Morry Hollowell
Assistant Editor: Jordan W. White
Associate Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99 (33 pages of story)
Previously: Thankfully, we’re provided a recap paragraph that catches us up on the X-Men family. The X-Men, led by Cyclops (still Scott Summers – glad some things don’t seem to change!) and 2nd in command, Wolverine are located off the coast of San Francisco on the island of Utopia. There are still only about 200 mutants left on the planet (see House of M, if you really want the details) and most of them have entrenched themselves on Utopia. As the issue opens, Cyclops and Wolverine are about to address a global arms control conference. Cyclops makes a humanitarian (well, more mutantarian) appeal to the assembled powers, asking that any and all Sentinel programs are summarily dismantled and decommissioned. Wolverine is on hand as moral support and more importantly, as personal security.
A Lapsed X-Men Fan Returns Home
In full disclosure, I have not actively participated in the X-Men Universe for quite some time. I’ve dabbled here and there, trying my best to keep up to speed with Marvel’s favorite mutants. The other night on Twitter, I put out an open call for suggestions on mainstream books I should consider for this week’s review. A trusted retailer in the Seattle area recommended that I check out X:Men: Schism #1. Even after I confessed my lapsed readership, he explained that it makes for a great jumping-on point for ‘this next big event in the X-Men Universe.’ I looked at the creators involved and decided to pull the trigger. Now we just need to find out if that trigger was attached to the barrel of a gun cradled in my mouth.
The Smallest Moments Are Strongest
Jason Aaron’s most bankable writing gift is providing strong characterization. He has an uncanny ability to infuse his fiction with a sense of realism and dynamic human emotion, thereby making the immersion into the suspension of disbelief a rather flawless journey. X-Men: Schism benefits from his storytelling prowess, especially apparent in the relationship he paints between Cyclops and Wolverine. Aaron’s true power manifests itself in the small moments. Members of the X-Men family make short, staccato appearances during this issue. It’s amazing how much power is focused in just a single panel. For example, Emma Frost is introduced to us after the main story drama begins to escalate.
In a very humanizing moment, Frost says, “…I’m afraid I’m going to have to cancel my 3:00 pedicure. On account of what? How about the supreme stupidity of everyone else in the world but me?”
Frayed Plot Threads
However, things start to unravel a bit when it comes to some of the plot progression within the story. The major ‘event’ that kicks off the latest threat to mutantkind all traces back to security breaches. To begin with, a 12 year-old egomaniacal boy by the name of Kade Kilgore breaches the X-Men’s own security.
In his words, “…A psi-proof helmet, light-bending wetsuit & 5 minutes of my time were all it took to free him from Utopia.”
Utopia is the last final bastion of refuge for the world’s remaining united mutant population. A 12 year-old kid pulls a heist in 5 minutes? My suspension bridge of disbelief is starting to sway precariously in the wind.
Security Breach Is The Name of the Game
The second security failing comes to us from the recently rousted jailbird himself, Kid Omega. He dispatches 2 security guards before storming into the meeting hall containing a majority of the world’s leaders. Kid Omega opens up a can of telepathic posterior pummeling by forcing the world’s leaders to voice their deepest, darkest secrets. Of course, this is a heavily televised event so the entire world gets to bear witness to a European leader proclaiming his love for latex and that he eats Big Stick popsicles by the metric ton. Okay, that last part may have been a personal deep, dark secret. Moving on…
Keeping in mind the low security threshold for a worldwide arms control conference, there does happen to be a semi-truck or SIX parked outside, housing a few Sentinels. Y’know…just in case something goes awry. This works out well for the otherwise missing action element of the story.
While Kid Omega has skipped the scene, Wolverine & Cyclops find themselves targeted by the recently unleashed Sentinels. Optic blasts and sharp claws ensue and we get a gorgeous Carlos Pacheco splash page. Speaking of which…
Pacheco’s Panels are Pleasing
Pacheco’s pencils are always a delight. His layouts are dramatic and the cinematography moves the story forward very well. His design for Wolverine has him much wider in the shoulders than I’m used to seeing him, but in context with Cyclops, the physique doesn’t appear as unusual. His figures don’t contain unnecessary lines and the backgrounds share that same fate. Occasionally there is a blandness when it comes to the details of figures seen from a distance. In summary, the art is solid with only a few minor half-stumbles. Speaking of stumbles…let’s talk about value.
Is There Value To Be Found Here?
33 pages of story for $4.99 amounts to 15.12 cents a page. From my perspective, this is unrealistic pricing and it does not serve to motivate me to come back for more. I’m much more likely to ‘trade-wait’ with this elevated price tag. In this marketplace, publishers need to provide value to their readership. 15 cents a page is closer to what we typically pay for oversized prestige hardcover collected editions.
X-Men: Schism kicks off a huge event in the X-Men universe. Kilgore has a plan to bring down the X-Men and to take over his dad’s role as the new Black King of the Hellfire Club. In this first issue, he’s taken dramatic steps to realize his ambitions. Yet, to my knowledge, this 12 year-old kid has come out of virtually nowhere and suddenly become a global threat. I’m sure we’ll learn more once the story has the chance to unfold. If the creative team and publisher’s efforts have met reader’s expectations, we’ll all be back for more. So…am I coming back for seconds?
Bottom Line: Value Doesn’t Line Up – I’m Trade-Waiting
The creative team puts in a solid performance. The art is pretty to look at and the characterization makes the book a pleasurable reading experience. However, there are some pretty sizeable plot holes (I’ve mentioned a few above) and our new villain just doesn’t project the intended threat level. Finally, the pricing on this book is out of the ballpark of reasonability. Marvel continues to lose my patronage thanks to the schism between their perception of value and mine. X-Men: Schism earns 3.5 out of 5 Stars. If the pricing remains consistent for future installments, I will wait until the collected edition is offered so that I can find out how everything finally pans out.