Editor's Note: X-Men #211 arrives in stores tomorrow, May 14.
Awwww… I was hoping the Juggernaut was going to wreck stuff. Even if that wasn't the case, there is promise of future smashing which excites me, and a solid entry by Mike Carey to add to the depth and character of Charles Xavier.
Let's face it, after 40 years it would seem to be an impossible task to add anything new to the character of Charles Xavier, but Mike Carey and the art team are delivering some great stories exploring the broken spirit of the once leader of the X-Men. His dream has died, he has nothing really left, and he is on a quest to remember more about who he was and how he came to be who he is now. I really like this exploration, and I think it is the only way that one can rejuvenate a character: have that character re-evaluate and grow beyond what he/she was previously.
Much of the issue is committed to reviewing previous events in the life of Xavier including those revolving around his twin, the long forgotten Brood episode, Proteus and, of course, arguably Xavier’s greatest failure: the Phoenix. The review of events seems to point to Charles missing obvious signs of his own failings, not noticing the subtle signs of cracks in the façade of his control. It also exposes the dramatic flaw of Charles: he always has to be in control.
The events surrounding Charles' childhood, and his former friend Carter Ryking (Hazard) are muddled at best. Carey does an excellent job of weaving a mystery about what experiments were being conducted on Xavier and Ryking by a scientist working with Xavier's father Brian. I will dodge too many spoilers, but these tests fit a long pattern of another X-villain, and his appearance in Ryking's life finally answers the question about what the link is between Hazard and the character that appears at the end of the book at Xavier’s door. I cannot wait until the next issue to see if Carey exposes what Hazard was working on with Fontanelle (that should be enough hints for long time fans to piece together who I am talking about). I must give props to Carey for weaving recent and ancient history together into an interesting tale.
Carey is also playing with the audience a little bit, with covert ops teams hunting Xavier. They know who he is, and they know his powers, and they are out to kill him. In this issue we get no clues as to why they are doing this, but by the setting and the way it is presented (the idea of a mindscape that Xavier monitors) creates an overwhelming sense of dread. Carey has Xavier cleverly use his powers to interact with his environment. Finally, we have a writer who remembers that Xavier is powerful, very powerful, and can actually do things without Cerebro/Cerebra.
The second story line in the book, about the Hellfire club, is less engaging. For some reason, the panels fell a little flat. I love the Hellfire club, and Sebastian Shaw is one of my favourite X-villains; however, he just doesn't carry the menace I expect. The Hellfire club felt more like I was watching the British parliament than a true secret society.
Now for the question you have all been asking: what about Juggernaut? Well he gets one page, with the promise of more. He is clearly back in the thrall of Cytorrak after the events in World War Hulk. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem like the tortured soul I was expecting, doing compelled evil. Instead, he seems to have completely reverted to his "my rotten half-brother" routine. Please Mr. Carey, Juggernaut has grown a lot, and while I want him smashing stuff, do not toss away all of the interesting things that have been done with the character's personality.
The art is beautifully rendered, with the first page with Juggernaut being fantastically coloured. Shadowed crimson just popped against the stark background. The pencils on Cain Marko were outstanding. I also have to say that Eaton produced the single most gorgeous panel of Jean Grey I have seen in years; the detail on her hair alone after she gets into the Phoenix costume is gorgeously rendered. Kudos have to go to the inkers and colourist as well for the memory montages: they could have been very muddled, but instead they are clear and distinctive.
I must admit, I did not expect to write this glowing a review. When I finished the book, I considered it to be average. After analyzing a number of aspects though, I have to say that it is far above a lot of the recent material I have read out of the Big Two in the last year. Solid story, interesting plot developments, great art, it is hard to ask for more out of a comic book. Between Mike Carey and Ed Brubaker the X-Men stable of books is in great hands right now.
What did you think of this book?
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