Friday, August 17, 2012

X-Men Jumpstart #47

Uncanny X-Men hit a milestone with issue #500 in late 2008, and you know what that meant: Marvel taking the team in an entirely new direction. It's been tried before, a number of times. Headquarters for the team have either been spruced up or relocated entirely; goals for both the school and the team itself have been redefined, due to present circumstances; team members have been shuffled; in short, it's a chance for the editors to simply drop the entanglements of the past and start fresh. With a team as large and widely spread as the X-Men, readers also get a chance to breathe a sigh of relief and to catch said breath.

Issue #500 is no different in these respects. The problem is that these "new directions" are always seemingly built on a house of cards--because it doesn't take long for the team to once again be thrown into disarray. And that's the best term with which I can describe this issue: disarray. It's not surprising, given that the story has not one but two writers--not one but two artists--not one but two inkers. Can you imagine the bill for the conference calls?

The story attempts to squeeze several concepts into one issue, and in doing so raises some disturbing issues:
  • The X-Men are now headquartered in San Francisco, to the delight (and almost gushing) of the city's mayor. Tell me--knowing what disasters and collateral damage have followed the X-Men (for instance, do you think the Mayor bothered to look up "Genosha"?), would you want this team using your city as its base of operations? Why is she all but handing them the keys to the city?

  • An art exhibition with two Mark I Sentinels as its centerpiece inspires a gala event with smiling X-Men fans getting their party on. I don't get it. It sets the stage for the battle to follow--but people are clinking champagne glasses at what the Sentinels inspire?

  • Magneto is involved with the High Evolutionary in some kind of interaction with the Sleeping Celestial. That lays interesting groundwork. But isn't it curious that a Celestial--a Celestial--standing anywhere on Earth now inspires not one ounce of panic from anyone, but only casual indifference?

  • Cyclops calls on all surviving mutants, friend or foe, to join them at their new "sanctuary," assuring that they'll know "safety and protection" such as they've never known. Way to go, Brainiac--pull the last surviving mutants into one convenient strike area. You didn't bother looking up "Genosha" either, did you?

  • I wonder how the Mayor would feel if she knew that Cyclops has created and sanctioned X-Force, a secret team that terminates threats with extreme prejudice? Not exactly the green, enlightened people you were introduced to at Marin Headlands, eh, Mayor? Maybe those conference calls should have included the writers of X-Force--it doesn't seem like Marvel's left hand is talking to its right.
Uncanny X-Men #500 was a nice shot in the arm for the X-Men, particularly with Greg Land doing the artwork (at least partially)--but the X-Men seemed to have taken an inexplicable giant leap toward both gaining acceptance and pulling its members together, when just a couple of issues ago the team was disbanded and splintered into God knows how many separate groups. (Does Scott give a passing thought to what his brother's up to, for instance?) Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, since the X-Men could certainly use some structure. But just once, I'd like for one of these "new direction" issues to have some lasting effect. After all, such issues wouldn't exist without prior new directions having failed.

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