Monday, June 29, 2009

Uncanny X-Periment # 152: "Divided We Stand"

X-Men: Legacy # 208-214, Wolverine # 62-65, X-Men: Divided We Stand # 1-2, X-Force # 1-6, Young X-Men # 1-5, Uncanny X-Men # 495-499

Turns out Professor X’s body was stolen by the Acolytes right from under the X-Men’s nose – thanks to Tempo. They’ve spirited him away to their neat little hide-out, where Sentinel and Exodus seek to restore him. Unfortunately, even after his brain is repaired, his mind and memories are fractured. Exodus has no choice but to reach out to Magneto. Magneto and Sentinel are able to revive Professor X, but his memories are still fractured. Cargill seeks to kill Professor X, but Magneto steps in and takes her out. Shortly thereafter, Exodus goes to kill Magneto, only to be stopped by Professor X. After a psi-war, Exodus proclaims that the reason he wanted Professor X to live was to lead the Acolytes into a new future. Professor X refuses, speaks to Amelia (who he barely remembers), and he, Magneto, and Sentinel leave, opting to go their separate ways.

A few days later, Professor X decides to pay a visit to the now powerless and insane Carter Ryking (aka Hazard). Carter helps Professor X regain some memories of what their parents did at Amalgodo. At the same time, a machine Sebastion Shaw’s father created explodes and Juggernaut is assaulted by a strange and brief mental attack that his helmet repels. That night, Ryking comes up dead and Professor X is targeted by assassins. Saved by Gambit, the pair head back to Amalgodo. On their way, the assassins strike again – this time taking Xavier hostage. Shaw and Gambit then team up and track Xavier down. Turns out that Sinister did experiments on Shaw, Ryking, Juggernaut and Professor X as children – imprinting his own DNA onto theirs and upon his death, a machine called Cronus would transform them into Sinister, ensuring his immortality. However, this machine has fallen into the hands of Amanda Mueller. Sinister took control of Professor X and battled Amanda. As Gambit and Shaw appeared on the scene (then were captured, then freed), the pair proceeded to fight Sinister/Xavier and eventually destroyed Cronus. Mueller escaped and Xavier banished Sinister from his mind. In the aftermath, the trio parted, with Professor X desiring to talk to Cyclops urgently. Sinister returned, this time in the shape of a female clone and allying herself with Shaw.

Elsewhere . . .

Cyclops orders Wolverine to get Mystique since she slipped out during all the chaos. Wolverine tracks her to the middle-east, where she has killed innocents and risked the lives of children and soldiers setting up traps to stop him. As Wolverine tracks her, we are regaled with a flashback of their first meeting. Mystique and Logan met when they were to be executed. They escape, since they’re Mutants, and head to Kansas City. Once there, Logan joins Mystique’s little group of freaks. Eventually, this group goes to rob a bank. Mystique escapes with the money, but the freaks are all killed. Logan, who was working with the cops, set them up. Presently, the two of them have a confrontation in the Syrian Desert, where Mystique calls him out on being a hypocrite for going after her for betraying the X-Men when he betrayed her band of freaks decades earlier. Logan tells her that he works everyday to make up for his mistakes. After one last brutal assault, Mystique is left naked with a gun in the middle of the desert.

In the meantime, the X-Men are scattered to the four winds. Cannonball goes home and meets up with Paige. Once in town, however, he beats up a Cabot to make himself feel better, then takes off, unable to deal with the fact that he’s constantly going to be under threat. Former student Nehzno returns to Wakanda, with his condition worsening. Despite the Black Panther and (of course) Storm accepting him, his people does not. Even after his saving his brother, his mother rejects. Nehzno realizes then how much he misses his fellow students. Northstar checks up on Anole when no one has heard from him; Anole himself has trouble adjusting to life outside of the X-Men and runs away from both his home and the X-Men. Hellion, feeling abandoned by the X-Men, goes to Magneto; Erik sees this as Hellion wanting to use him as a weapon against the X-Men. It doesn’t work and Erik advises that Hellion relish and enjoy his powers before the inevitable war consumes him. Scalphunter, on the run, becomes a cook at a diner. Nightcrawler hunts his down and confronts him, only to forgive him for his sins.

Back at the devastated X-Mansion, Beast goes through various files and retrieves Maratha Johansson before taking off. In Limbo, Illyana struggles with trying to regain her humanity. She visits the remains of the mansion, finds it destroyed, and returns to Limbo, vowing to reclaim her soul by torturing those who wronged her. In deep space, the captured Havok is told by Vulcan about the baby’s birth and that the X-Men are all dead as a result. Havok finds hope in the baby’s birth and rises from a depressed stupor into a rage against his brother. Back on Earth, Forge is recovering from his injuries and obsessing over Cable’s time machine; after reverse engineering it, he’s attacked by Bishop. Seeking protection, Forge creates a massive security system and starts work on a new project. Surge goes to visit Dani since she’s feeling pretty bad about herself; Dani basically tells her to deal with it.

In the aftermath of recent events, Cyclops reactivates X-Force, this time with Wolfsbane wanting to join. X-23 is already investigating a Purifier break-in into a SHIELD facility, much to Wolverine’s chagrin. Wolverine tells Wolfsbane not to be involved. Then he, X-23, and Warpath search for what Matthew Risman and his new ally Eli Bard were retrieved from SHIELD. The trio fight the Purifiers, but it turns out they captured Wolfsane. Unable to fight back with Wolfsbane prisoner, X-23 blows up the base. Risman escapes and places the head of Bastian on Nimrod’s body, thus restoring Bastian. As X-Force re-groups at Worthington’s Aerie, Reverend Craig shots up Wolfsbane with drugs. And Bastian gets a hold of the remains of Magus and uses it to resurrect Boliver Trask, Stephen Lang, Graydon Creed, and Cameron Hodge – as well as gain control of the Leper Queen and Donald Pierce. This is affront to Risman and after X-Force rescue Wolfsbane (and she’s healed by Elixir), she sees Archangel and her brainwashing kicks in. She rips into Warren’s wings and takes them back to Risman. Risman in turn finds the Apocalypse strand within them and creates his on Archangel. Angry with Bastian, he sets them out to destroy the Purifiers under Bastian’s command. X-Force gets involved; Wolfsbane kills Reverend Craig when he stands in front of Warren’s amputated wings. Archangel, feeling the use of his wings on this other people, transforms into his former self and goes on a rampage. Once he’s finishes with his rampage, he returns to normal. Meanwhile, Eli Bard goes to the remains of Magus and steals part of him; Risman enters and Eli reveals himself to be some kind of servant of death and kills Risman. He then escapes. Wolverine fights Bastian, but Bastian escapes as well . . . just as Wolverine gets a look at who he has brought back. The gang once more regroups at the Aerie to lick their wounds.

Blindfold is having visions of the near future in which she, Dust, Rockslide, Wolf Cub, and two new people are involved in a battle with Donald Pierce – who then kills one of them. She goes to Rockslide and in turn, the two of them are recruited by Cyclops to join a new X-Men team. He also recruits a new Mutant whose has any tattoo on his body become a new ability. Cyclops then sends them after the leader of a new Brotherhood and the Hellfire Club, Sunspot – who he claims has been joined by fellow New Mutants Cannonball, Moonstar, and Magma. Ink and Blindfold are sent after Dani, who is taken down by Blindfold. Blindfold is then knocked out by Ink; he delivers them both to Pierce. Rockslide, Dust, and Wolf Cub grab Magma – as Sunspot and Cannonball watch on TV. Even though Magma is taken captive, Dust is stuck in a glass form due to Magma’s attack. Ink arrives and tells Cyclops that Dani beat them; not knowing that some creature is watching over them and plans to kill Cyclops. As the Young X-Men attack Cannonball and Sunspot at the Hellfire Club, Cyclops is in turn attacked by the mysterious gray-skinned guy – who discovers that Cyclops is none other than Donald Pierce. Magma is freed, Pierce escapes and everyone ends up at the Hellfire Club. They eventually track Pierce down into some of Mole Man’s old tunnels, where he engages the Young X-Men and the vision comes true. Wolf Cub dies and Pierce is defeated.

So in all this, where are the X-Men proper? Well, Wolverine (apparently after his bout with X-Force and hunting Mystique) is off with Colossus and Nightcrawler in Europe. After bopping around Germany, they head to Russia, where Peter tries to handle all of the tragedies in his life. They are of course captured by the Russia government and – surprise! – fight Omega Red. They of course defeat Omega Red.

Meanwhile, Cyclops and Emma Frost are on vacation in the Savage Land after Scott has some words with Iron Man. Of course, trouble brews as some of the other X-Men converge on San Francisco. The other city has become a hippie haven at the will of the “Goddess.” Cyclops and Emma battle some of their fellow X-Men before Emma uncovers that the Goddess is none other than Lady Mastermind (the brunette, not the blonde). She escapes, the X-Men converge and Archangel appears after having saved the Mayor of San Francisco. Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler then get a call to head on home . . .

So basically what we have here is a not-so-cohesive story centering around the theme of the X-Men being scattered to the four winds. While an interesting concept, the execution leaves something to be desired. In short: it’s a little much.

I can see how Marvel saw this as a chance to launch the X-Men into a new direction and get some new books out there. It’s mixed results.

The best of the best are most certainly X-Men: Legacy and Wolverine. X-Men: Legacy is like a candy-covered continuity treat. Revisiting old sites and characters, replaying old scenes and then placing it against a present-day story makes for a nice, grounded tale. It certainly feels like we’re seeing the slow redemption of Professor X, whose reputation has become very tarnished lately. And hey, he’s actually more action-y than ever before. The series thus far adds a lot of wrinkles to the long history of Professor X and really puts Xavier on the right road. The use of two different artists is a welcome sight, adding to the different layers of storytelling here.

Wolverine is what I wish Wolverine Origins was. A present day story tying back into a previously unknown story. The characterization of Wolverine and Mystique are well done. Ron Garney’s art adds a great energy to the arc. This segment is fun and engaging.

Divided We Stand was decent, though a lot of the stories were very much the same. Sad, angst, rejection, anger . . . it’s made very clear that all these characters don’t like being without the X-Men. Some of them are better than others, but not many.

I maintain my opinion that X-Force is just a step too dark and gory for my tastes. Granted, it’s great to see Bastian again – but not so much some of the other characters. Don’t get me wrong. I love some of the stuff being done here (Archangel, Bastian, and Magus), but I hate a lot of the rest (I’m sick of the Purifiers . . . and did Rhane eat Reverend Craig?).

Wish I could say I’m a fan of Young X-Men. Honestly, I thought it was uninteresting, predictable, and slow. The art wasn’t too bad, but there was nothing really in there to keep me hooked. Which is really shocking, as Guggenheim is a great writer.

Uncanny X-Men kinda fits in that same category. Outside of some of the smaller moments, it’s a very lackluster book. There’s a threat and the X-Men instantly overcome it. Brubaker is a brilliant writer, but his run on Uncanny has yet to excite me. The art by Choi has been gorgeous – better than Greg Land and Billy Tan. Seriously.

Overall (and I know I’m skimmed over the reviews), this is very much a sort of “holding pattern” time for the X-Men. While there are some interesting nuggets in here, a lot of comes off as boring, uninteresting, and more of the same. A lot of it seems just like “we’re putting something here to get back to later,” which is never a good choice when it comes to X-Men.