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X-Men: Divided We Stand #1 (of 2)

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2008
By: Steven M. Bari/Christopher Power

Matt Fraction, Mike Carey, et al.
Jamie McKelvie, Brandon Peterson, et al.
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: X-Men: Divided We Stand #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 16.

Steven Bari: 4.5 Bullets
Christopher Power: 2 Bullets




Steven Bari 4.5 Bullets

Rebel! That's the theme of X-Men: Divided We Stand # 1, an anthology of short stories about some characters left behind in Messiah CompleX. Each story confronts the major existential queries that have surrounded the X-Men for years: Who's dream is the X-Men fighting for and is the dream even plausible anymore? Each character questions where he or she fits in into all this, especially now that the X-Men are "no more." And in providing relevant answers, this series is a milestone in the X-Men line of comics, defining its future and giving much needed texture to its myriad of characters.

Each story deals with different aspects of Xavier's dream of social cohesion between mutants and humans, and the consequences of being an X-Man. Out of these five stories, the tale of Nightcrawler's act of mercy and Hellion's need to belong are the most profoundly written.

Matt Fraction and Jamie McKelvie follow Kurt Wagner the German born mutant we all know and love whose Christian faith has been hallmark of his persona as much as his devilish tale. Fraction takes the character on a spiritual quest and comes to pertinent and academic conclusion. It's unusual to see such blatant religious discussion in any medium, let alone comics, but Fraction does so palatably and respectfully. McKelvie's art is very clean and bright, which contrasts the ominous meeting of Kurt and the man who nearly killed him in Messiah CompleX.

In "Belong," Chris Yost and David LaFuente bring us up to speed with New X-Men Hellion after he was nearly killed by Lady Deathstrike. Waking up from a long coma, he discovers the home he knew gone, his friends gone, and his life flushed down the drain. Forlorn and furious, Hellion seeks a new affiliation for himself, namely one that will justify his anger towards the X-Men. His quest is valid, and you cannot help but feel sympathy for his dream deferred: to be conditioned and trained as the future of the something great, only to be dropped as if he wasn't significant. Essentially, it's a question of self worth, and Yost gives Hellion his answer, though it is bittersweet and foreboding.

Among all these great narratives, the most surprising was Skottie Young's "Blend In." Not only is Young a very lively artist, but he's a pretty damn good writer too. As the X-Mansion crumbles to the ground, New X-Men Anole returns home and discovers that he is emotionally scarred and intellectually hindered from his time with the X-Men. It's a great study of a soldier's post-war trauma and difficulties integrating back into any sense of normalcy.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the next issue. Unfortunately, the series is only two issues, and frankly, that's ridiculous. There are so many stories left untold, just in general within the X-Men mythos, which could use a simple short story treatment. I really do hope this series will be extended and give even more texture and meaning to the X-universe.




Christopher Power: 2 Bullets

Did you ever wonder what happened to Cannonball, Scalphunter and a few others in the wake of the dissolution of the X-Men? No? Neither did I. This book is the answer to the question I never asked.

This book is a set of small stories about disillusioned X-Men after Scott Summer declared the team defunct. It is intended to explore the one major flaw I detected in "Messiah Complex": Why does Cyclops get to make the call that the X-Men dissolve? He doesn't take a vote. Heck, he doesn't even ask Emma. He just declared, in no certain terms, that they were done. Well, it turns out that not everyone was really happy about that decision, and many of them are starting to realize what the X-Factor team discovered: there will always be mutants and those who hate them.

This is pretty heavy stuff to explore, and it is right at the heart of the X-Men concept. Unfortunately this book fails to evoke the necessary gravity to make the reader really care. The jumping art and writing styles, most of which do not complement each other well at all, leave the reader lurching back and forth from B and C list characters that need more exposure and expose for the reader to really care about them. As it is, the only stories that feel cohesive in and of themselves, and feel like they carry a plot, are Mike Carey's Cannonball story and Matt Fraction's Nightcrawler story. These two stories are worth reading, and Fraction's story "Migas" is very good. The rest of the stories are not long enough to make the readers feel "enough" if they do not know the characters. For example, the story of the boy Victor seems like a good one, but I am not familiar with the character and his history, so the story does not carry enough information for me to care about him more than any other random kid. Sure, I felt something, but it was detached when compared to what the story was likely supposed to evoke.

The art varies wildly in quality. Sana Takeda paints beautiful scenes of Wakanda, and it is probably the highlight of the book in that Takeda shows that you can do motion in painted work and do it well. The work of Brandon Peterson stands out as the most out of place, with Sam Guthrie looking like some kind of robot and Paige Guthrie like the biggest skank in town. While technically good, and I usually like Peterson's work, but something about his depictions of these two characters just did not sit right with me. Skottie Young has an interesting style, but the lack of detail and poor use of panel transitions between Victor and North Star poorly illustrates the emotion in the story.

This is worth reading only if you are a die hard fan. Otherwise I would imagine that many of these stories will be retold in recap panels in upcoming issues in the X-universe.



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