Messiah CompleX

'Wow!', 'Awesome!' and 'How cool is Warpath!' were some of my reactions to the Messiah CompleX crossover. So I liked it. Here are some other thoughts:

You've gotta admire Marvel's editors and their organisation. The story stretches across 13 issues, and is told through four ongoing series (Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, New X-Men and X-Men). The entire thing came out in three months. With four writer-artist teams working on it, you would expect the thing to be a mess. But it isn't. In fact, it's very tightly plotted. The momentum never sags. I find this very impressive, for the story is long and features around 40 characters, most of which are new to me. Marvel's ability to co-ordinate all this and turn out good product is encouraging. I think it has learnt some lessons from television, where there are a pool of writers sharing ideas, before individual writers are sent off to do their thing (see the Mutant Enemy writing process). More recently, this has been employed on Brand New Day Amazing Spiderman. I've read the first 6 or so issues, and the tag-team approach appears to be working well.

Getting back to Messiah CompleX, maybe I shouldn't be surprised at liking it. Ed Brubaker (Uncanny X-Men) and Peter David (X-Force) are brilliant writers. Mike Carey (X-Men) I'm less familiar with, but I know he's an established name and has done stuff for Vertigo. The real surprise, however, was the New X-Men issues, jointly written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, and with some really great artwork by Humberto Ramos. At certain moments, these guys totally overshadowed the illustrious company they were in. I'm looking forward to great things...

There are some truly iconic scenes/images throughout the story, giving it the sense of Lord of the Rings epicness that all superhero stories should strive for. They are, after all, our modern myths.

Brubaker has his characters say 'damn' or 'dammit' maybe a bit too much. Sometimes it gets a little silly - it's difficult to sound like a noir hardass when you're wearing spandex. Perhaps it would have been better to go the way of Bendis and use @*$%! instead. It conveys the ridiculousness of superhero comics better, I feel.

It's strange, but I found Marc Silvestri's pencils on the issue that launches the crossover a bit disappointing. In some panels, Wolverine was too dashing. And Emma Frost often looked like Michael Jackson when not in close-up (I know she's had surgery, but she would have only the best surgery).

Like Secret Invasion, there is a lot of mayhem and excitement. All very well and good. But, also like Secret Invasion, the ending delivers an emotional hit that makes the whole journey worth it. The birth of the first mutant since M-Day unleashes a whole host of hopes and fears, among various groups and individuals. Their contrasting aspirations and ideas about what this birth means is what fuels the various battles in the story. The different actors project their own agenda onto an innocent human being. The baby girl is turned into an object. A 'messiah complex' infects all the characters - they see a saviour/destroyer rather than a human being. This is encapsulated in one heart-rendering scene near the end, where the revealed villain tries to kill the baby as a means to a greater end. Cyclops finally understands their shared mistake, deciding to 'let her be herself - choose for herself - and not be a key, or a strategic resource, or a playing piece in someone else's game'. The thematic punch is immediately followed by an emotional one: 'give her the freedom I was never able to give you' - Cyclops is talking to his own long lost son. The weight of these words gives a justification for all the preceding plot twists and cliffhangers. This is what crossovers should aim to do. It's not enough to just have exciting, radical plot developments, there needs to be something extra that gives them meaning. Messiah CompleX manages to do both, and that's why it's brilliant.

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