Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Humberto Ramos (p), Carlos Cuevas (i), Edgar Delgado (colours)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Half of Rogue’s squad go after their boss which leads them to a direct confrontation with the man known as Pan. Things don’t go their way. So it's Cannonball and Cable to the rescue onboard the Conquistador with a secret weapon in the hold: Sabretooth.
Overall, I’m enjoying Carey’s take on the X-Men. It’s a back to basics approach for a team and a franchise that has been marked by the personal imprint of the creators who have written them for the last several years. Personally, at this point, I regard this as a good thing. After a couple of consecutive jarring changes in direction, it's nice to settle back into a superhero versus superpowered villain formula. This may sound a bit unimaginative and uninspiring but unimaginative is not the word to use when describing Carey’s run thus far.
Carey’s second arc on the book is a 3-parter that has introduced a new villain to the X-Men’s rogues gallery: the enigmatic Pan, a.k.a. Dr. Richard Palance. Carey’s first arc also introduced a new threat for our merry mutants in the form of the Children of the Vault. In the past, I have found new writers arriving on established books and then immediately introducing their own new villains to be rather irritating. Surely there are enough bad guys running amok in the Marvel Universe to find someone to fit the role without having to invent some new, and often not very well thought through, opponent. However, the X-Men currently find themselves in a situation in which they have a distinct lack of enemies to fight. Following House of M and "M-Day" a little more than a year ago, most of the “Evil Mutants” throughout the world have been depowered, and a lot of those who weren’t have been protected by the X-Men (Scalphunter, Arclight, Sack, Fever Pitch) or killed off (Mammomax). Even Magneto lost his powers for a while but now it looks like he’s got them back and might be back to wreck havoc this summer. Add to this Lady Mastermind, Mystique and Sabretooth now on Rogue’s squad and there’s not much out there anymore. So if Carey can come up with some interesting opponents, that’s fine by me.
Unfortunately, whilst he succeeded with the Children, Pan is a slightly less inspiring creation. A doctor who has treated mutants from Xavier’s and elsewhere for years, he’s gone over the deep end and is now a multi-powered… something. This is the problem: what’s his motive? He sure appears to love his powers and genetic samples collection but why is he doing this? Because he’s a bad guy. Fair enough, and I’m sure that this arc won’t be the last we see of him, so there’s still a lot of time for fleshing the character out, but right now he’s just not very interesting. Inspired by Rogue’s powers, he has somehow managed to gift himself with a variation of said abilities that allow him to absorb other mutants’ powers by touching them, or rather by acquiring any amount of their genetic material. His genetic banks seem all important to him. It’s unclear why at this point, other than the fact he’s an obsessive compulsive gene collector, but that’s already Mr. Sinister’s shtick. Why does he need Rogue now? Just what is his goal? There’s still an issue left to go so it might be a bit early to judge things on this issue alone. But so far Pan lacks any real characterisation to make him appealing as a villain.
The lack of characterisation is something that the X-Men suffer from as well. Though most of these guys have well established personalities, there are times when the team dynamic bores down to a couple of clever quips and lots of action. Most of the characters are a bit two dimensional; Mastermind in particular comes across as the most shallow of the bunch, maybe due to the fact that she’s the one who’s enjoyed the least focus in the past.
In spite of this, this issue still isn’t bad. The action sequences are great, and it’s nice to see the X-Men actually go looking for the bad guys and taking the fight to their enemies rather than just sitting in the mansion waiting for the next evil mutant or mutant hater to attack, which is what they’ve been doing for the last four years or so. Even if the different members haven’t really been fleshed out yet, this line-up does offer some potential with such a mix of personalities and moralities. The one I still can’t quite wrap my head around though is Sabretooth, but Carey has managed to justify his inclusion as it does make sense to have him as far away from the mansion as possible. And it fits Cable’s M.O. to launch him at Pan as a living weapon, which makes for a great final page.
Art wise, the final splash page of Creed being dropped out of the Conquistador is the best. Humberto Ramos is definitely one of the more distinctive artists out there, and his art really enhances the action sequences. His Wolverine Civil War arc was great; Ramos’ exaggerated pencils really fit the feral little mutant and were a perfect match for Guggenheim’s action-heavy script. However, I’m not as thrilled with his work here. It’s just not as smooth a match for this assemblage of characters, except Cable and Sabretooth. Also, I’m a bit of a Bachalo fan. After the excitement of him being the regular penciller on this book, he only managed the first arc (one issue of which had fill-in art from Clayton Henry). I rather liked his take on Rogue’s boys and gals and want to see more of it. It would also be interesting to see what a more “conventional” artist could do on this book (most of Henry’s issue was Creed’s flashbacks).
Though the rating at the top isn’t very flattering, this is far from being a bad book, it just isn’t a particularly good one either and not one to capture the interest of the non-X-fan out there. There’s still a lot of untapped potential in this book, and if Carey can make his characters’ personalities click, this could come together quite nicely.
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