12/23/2012

X-Men: the Messiah trilogy

Like a lot of people my earliest significant exposure to the world of X-Men and mutants came in the form of the 90s X-Men cartoon. When the film X-Men: First Class came out I briefly flirted with the notion of reading the comics, and began in what I thought was the logical place: the 60s comics by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby.

That...didn't go so well.

For a lot of reasons.

Since that doomed endeavour I have pretty much stuck to stuff published after 2000, and for the most part I've been reading Avengers comics rather than X-Men comics. I did some research and put together a bare bones reading list to get up to speed on the mutants of the Marvel U, beginning with the first story of Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men, E is For Extinction. The Sentinel program is reactivated by a mysterious woman named Cassandra Nova, and while the X-Men fight to take Nova down, Sentinels destroy the mutant nation of Genosha, killing almost all of the island's population (approximately 16 million people). Emma Frost is found amongst the rubble, having survived due to a new 'secondary mutation': the ability to turn her body into a living diamond. Nova attacks the X-Men HQ and unbeknownst to the team switches bodies with Xavier, promptly shooting him to prevent him cluing the team in. Later, Jean Grey and Scott Summers (Cyclops) reflect on their recent marital problems, only to turn on the TV to witness 'Xavier' outing himself to the world as a mutant.

(at some point after this, Jean Gray dies, for like the four hundredth time, but Marvel has actually exercised a great deal of restraint this time and apart from the odd fever-dream appearance, she's remained dead for about eight of our Earth years so far. Fun comics time fact!)

Next, I read the first six issues of Joss Whedon's critically acclaimed run on Astonishing X-Men, called 'Gifted'. In this arc, Dr Kavita Rao announces that she has produced a mutant 'cure'. Beast (Hank McCoy) obtains a sample of the cure, intrigued by the possibility of a 'normal' (ie non-blue non-fuzzy) life. The X-Men raid Rao's facility and learn that an alien warrior calling himself 'Ord of the Breakworld' is behind the cure's production, and that they have been illegally testing it on human beings. Previously deceased X-Man Colossus is reunited with his girlfriend Kitty Pryde.

Now since Jean's death, Scott has gotten involved with Emma Frost, and Logan (Wolverine) reacts to this in a totally normal way. By which I mean he crouches on the end of their bed and asks how Scott is mourning his dead wife.



Cyke proceeds to blast Logan out the window. Totally normal behaviour from totally normal people who are in charge of a school for children. Later, Kitty tries to assure one of the students that everything will be just perfectly fine and dandy, and his response is pretty perfect.

Nothing good ever happens to mutants. Ever.
Logan confronts Hank about him wanting to maybe take the cure, saying that as an X-Man he has a responsibility to send a message that mutants have a place in the world, and their fight attracts some student attention. Emma puts them in a psychic time out, and is kind of a badass.


Next up was the 2004 event called Messiah CompleX which follows up on what happened in the event House of M where basically a mentally unstable Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff, daughter of Magneto) uses her reality-warping powers to wipe out mutantkind. All but a handful of the most bestselling mutants lost their powers, but in Messiah CompleX the first mutant child since the decimation is born, triggering a race between the X-Men, the Marauders (villains or dark anti-heroes led by Sinister. Side note: if your boss' name is Mister Sinister, I would recommend examining your choices in life), the Acolytes (more villains, but I literally can't remember who) the Reavers (a team of criminal cyborgs who I also don't remember), the Purifiers (militant Christian wackjobs hell bent on wiping out all mutants), and Predator X (some kind of mutant-tracking genetic experiment gone wrong, literally feeds on mutants) to see who'll get to her first.

Honestly a whole bunch of shit goes down, including the fact that Mister Sinister was actually Mystique this whole time, who was after the mutant baby because she was told it would heal her daughter, Rogue. Gambit, who was in on Mystique's deception, says Rogue wouldn't want an innocent child to die for her, and Rogue wakes up and disowns Mystique for that very reason.

There is also a REALLY AWFUL sequence in which Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man) and Layla Miller (Butterfly but I don't know that anyone actually calls her that yet or at all) from X-Factor (which is my very favourite of all time and you should all read Peter David's 2005 reboot in its entirety for it is brilliant and amazeballs and objectively the best comic in existence) visit one of the possible futures created by the baby's birth in which everything is hella awful and there are mutant concentration camps and the two of them get branded with M tattoos on their eyes and ugh it was the worst.

Anyway the main thing to take away is that Nathan Christopher Summers (Cable) who is the time travelling son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey is doggedly pursuing the baby, despite his father's insistence she be surrendered to the X-Men for protection. There's a confrontation and Scott demands Cable hand over the baby, with Professor X telling Nate he should do it, but then Scott remembers having to give his own son up so that he could survive some kind of techno virus, and eventually tells Nate to take the baby and give her the childhood that Scott wasn't able to give Nate. I TEARED UP, BECAUSE FOR ONCE SCOTT WASN'T THE WORST FATHER OF ALL TIME, and actually made a good call, since Nate is THE BEST TIMETRAVELLIN' COMBAT-TRAININ' HAIRBRUSH-BUYING FAKE DADDY A GIRL COULD ASK FOR. Ahem.


Then in Messiah War Scott sends X-Force into the timestream after Cable and the baby, now called Hope, because he's worried they haven't checked in and might not be safe. Theeeeeeere's some kind of weird confrontation with Bishop (Lucas Bishop, comes from a super dismal future [in fact the one I mentioned earlier that Layla and Jamie visit] and will stop at nothing to prevent his future from becoming a reality) and Apocalypse (En Sabah Nur, five thousand year old Egyptian bad guy who takes the whole 'survival of the fittest' thing waaaaay too far, oh by the way there's a child version of him currently studying at Wolverine's school calling himself Evan and everyone is pretty terrified he'll grow up and try to destroy the world) but it is crazy boring and confusing and not super relevant. There is a Leper Queen? And Deadpool (Wade Wilson) has apparently lived for several centuries and has gotten INCREASINGLY unstable?

Anyway then there's the story Second Coming where Hope and Nate return to the present from the future and are hunted by even more bad guys, who erect a huge spherical barrier all around Utopia, cutting the struggling mutant nation off from the outside world. Scott asks everyone on the island to prepare themselves for battle, even the young students, a call Logan (Wolverine) is deeply uncomfortable with. Some crazy strong Sentinels start attacking Utopia and the surrounds, and there's a big fight, and there's a portal open to a different time and there's 170,000 crazy powerful sentinels waiting to come through. They is gonna fuck shit UP, y'all, so X-Force goes through to shut that whole thing down. The revelation that X-Force exists and is condoned by Cyclops surprises and dismays many of the X-Men who thought their fearless leader was an all round awesome apple pie kind of guy, when in actual fact he's a cuntbag. Like okay your species is on the brink but you are asking children to go to war and lose limbs and lives and also you kind of sponsor a team of murderers.

ANYWAY Scott's douchebaggery aside, X-Force shut down the army of Sentinels and need to return home through the portal except X-23 (Laura Kinney, lady clone of Wolverine) was almost burned to death trying to go through it so they figure that only inorganic material can pass through unharmed, so Cable (partially a cyborg? I guess? Due to some techno virus I don't know he confuses me a lot) sacrifices himself to hold the portal open long enough for the others to escape. The story ends with Emma Frost rushing to warn Cyclops of the vision of Hope as the Phoenix she just saw, and Cyclops telling Emma that they have detected five new mutants around the world.

This turned out WAY longer than I thought it would so I'm going to wrap things up here, and make a new post about Scott and Logan's big manly break up over ideological differences, otherwise known as the Schism. But before I go here have a screencap featuring two of my favourite things: Atlantean king Namor being sexually objectified and wordplay, from the end of this Captain America comic, in which Cap and Tony were basically a pair of James Bond motherfuckers and there was an army of tiny robot insects and it was awesome).

I guess for the pun to work you need to know that Namor shouts "IMPERIUS REX" whenever he's about to kick ass. That, by the way, is his costume. A pair of green, scaly man panties. That's it, that's the whole outfit, which I guess makes sense since for the most part he lives in the ocean.Also don't worry I took a lot more screenshots for the Schism story so the next post will hopefully be fewer walls of text but I PROMISE NOTHING.

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