Current Reviews


X-Men #188

Posted: Monday, July 17, 2006
By: Diana Kingston

Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Chris Bachalo

Publisher: Marvel Comics

I'll admit, I had my doubts. Mike Carey is no slouch, but the X-Men have a tendency to turn British and Irish writers into laughingstocks (the Scottish somehow evade the curse). Don't believe me? Let's talk Ellis' Excalibur. Or that time Alan Davis' brain went to Vegas and we got "The Twelve". Or, you know, the guy who was writing X-Men last month.

Imagine my delighted surprise, then, to find such a strong first issue, executed almost flawlessly by Carey. Plot-wise, there's so much going on: new villains are introduced, the fallout from Deadly Genesis continue to affect everyone, several familiar faces turn up at the mansion, and a new X-Men squad is put together.

Carey's characterization of Sabretooth, Iceman and Rogue is spot-on; I especially like the moment where Rogue pulls her hood over her head after using her powers. It's simple, it's subtle, and it's so much better than some contrived thought balloon. We're still missing a bunch of cast members, but based on how well Carey writes this issue's cast, I feel confident enough to predict further success at writing Mystique, Cable and whoever else joins the team.

Even Chris Bachalo's artwork, usually a point of contention for me, was very... well, let's just say this was one of the rare occasions where I actually understood what was happening most of the time. But if I could change a single thing about this book, I'd get rid of him; the odds are simply too high that sooner or later the art will look like someone swallowed a bottle of ink and regurgitated it onto the page. And if this were some kind of high artistic book like Neil Gaiman's Death, I suppose there'd be some call for a touch of "weirdness"... but Bachalo's zig-zagging while Carey walks a straight line, and it's an ill fit.

One thing that pleases me about this issue is Carey's effort to justify his roster. Like Brubaker, he isn't exactly working with an A-list cast, nor with characters most commonly associated with "X-Men." The fact that he's trying to sell us on this team means he's aware it's unconventional, and he uses that: characters openly question whether Rogue could be a proper team leader, but the rationale immediately follows. And it's a very interesting take on Rogue herself - the traditional approach has always been to have her play the role of frightened victim, someone whose powers are more of a disadvantage than practically useful. But Carey seems to have locked onto a much more interesting use of her abilities: she can absorb and combine multiple powers, which makes her something of a wild card. This certainly makes her a far more interesting character, especially as a leader.

I'm giving this issue a perfect score because I think the odds were against Carey pulling this off. Not only has he done it, but he's done it really well.

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