Writer: Chuck Austen
Artists: Ron Garney (p), Mark Morales, Nelson & Randy Green (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with the X-Men returning from a mission to discover the bodies of several student crucified on the front lawn. As the tensions among the various members of the group reach a boiling point, we see the frayed nerves & short tempers have the group biting each others heads off. However, they do manage to get the bodies down, and once they get to into the infirmary we see Warren and his magic healing blood is used in a rather risky bid to bring these students back from the dead. With little to do but wait to sit on their hands and wait we see the X-Men decide spend their time looking for the group responsible for this horrific attack. However, as the group goes over the information that they know we see Nightcrawler tells the group that he's given up the priesthood, which strikes the rest as rather odd considering they never even knew he had been ordained. As Kurt states that they were all present when he was made a priest, we see the group starts to suspect this mystery is contacted to the attack, and faster then you can say plot recanting, the X-Men descend upon the church where Kurt was carrying out his priesthood. What they find there is a nightmarish experimental lab, that is using mutants as test subjects. Meanwhile back at the X-Mansion the miracle cure brings back all but one of the students.
This is a 25 cent issue, so presumably this is the issue that Marvel is pushing to new readers who saw the movie, and have found their way to the comic store. So with this in mind I have to wonder why Chuck Austen decided this would be the ideal issue to present the idea that religion is simply a screen for intolerance & hatred. Now I'm not a particularly religious man, but I was raised a Catholic, in that I fidgeted my childhood through the seeming endless sermons at church, but I haven't set foot in a church (with the exception of a handful of weddings) in years. Still it always bothers we when people lump religion in the same group with fanaticism. I mean yes one encounters you're going to hell bible thumpers anytime the subject of homosexuality, or a women's right to choose is discussed in a public forum, but the simple fact of the matter is that these are people who are using scripture to prop up their cause. I mean Chuck Austen's delivers an opening sequence in this issue, that is downright vicious in its attack against religion, that even goes as far as to suggest Hitler & the Nazis actions were driven by religion, which is an incredibly shortsighted attempt by Chuck Austen. I mean the Nazis were looking the stamp out an entire race, and the determining factor was one of genetics, not faith.
One also has to love the way that Chuck Austen attempts to build a sense of trust with his readers, as he opens the book with a fairly shocking moment, and then spends the rest of the issue undermining the impact he had made, by bringing these characters back to life. Now imagine if the final half of "Psycho" had brought Janet Leigh's character back to life. Would that film be the classic it is today if it had cheated the viewer out of its big shock. What's more does Chuck Austen honestly expect readers to trust him now that he's gone to this well twice. He shocked us with the death of Paige during the werewolf story only to bearing her back to life, and now he shockingly kills Jubilee & then surprise, surprise guess who isn't dead when this issue ends. Now I'm sure there will be fans who write me pointing out Chuck Austen did leave Angelo (Skin) dead, but I can't imagine anyone being all that upset over this death so he's basically delivered a "safe" death that won't cost him any fans. It's rather irksome to see Chuck Austen has adopted a kill them for shock value, and then bring them back to life via Warren magic blood plot device. At least he finally acknowledged Xorn's existence, something which he had steadfastly avoided up to this point. Still, even with the lower price tag this issue is one better left on the shelf.
Ron Garney is not exactly making me into a fan of his work, as not only has he proven to be incapable of delivering art on a monthly basis, but the work he does deliver leave me wondering why he's unable to deliver a string of issues that extends longer than six consecutive issues. I mean artists like Bryan Hitch & Frank Quitely deliver art that is so meticulously detailed that it's easy to see what is taking them so long. On the other hand Ron Garney's art is almost simple looking by comparison to many of today's artists, and while there's nothing terribly wrong with it, his low panel counts, and fairly simple backgrounds leave me wondering why he can't deliver an issue each and every a month. I also have to say that the art isn't exactly the top notch material that I know Ron Garney is capable of, but this might be partly due to the fact that Chuck Austen has saddled him with a script that has next to no action. I mean one of the main reasons why Ron Garney's work caught my eye during his Captain America runs, was because he delivers some wonderful shield slinging action shots. However, on an issue where the art is called upon to deliver the nightmarish horror of finding students crucified on the front lawn, or what is discovered in the basement of the church, the art simply isn't up to the task. The issue does have itself a great looking cover though.
This is an issue that would seem to be aimed at building up the fan base, and while it's a sight better than the convoluted mess that was being offered up when the first X-Men film made it's appearance, I do have to question if this is really the best introduction that one could have to the X-Men. I mean Chuck Austen employs all the subtlety of a sledgehammer in his examination of the idea that people use religion to justify downright wicked behavior, and honestly I rather dislike the heavy-handed methods that he employs to make his point, as one almost gets the sense that Chuck Austen is trying to say religion is bad. Now I'm sure he'll say he's merely trying to expose the idea that people will commit great evils in the name of religion, but he simply doesn't look to possess the writing prowess to pull it off. As it stands instead of an easily accessible adventure that would produce a new crop of fans, we have a clumsy bit of writing, that is simply isn't entertaining, nor is it as insightful as I suspect it was hoping to be.
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