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It’s enough to give someone a Complex: Graeme looks like Jesus, so they say.

Graeme McMillan

Considering my recent X-Men reading frenzy has included Ed Brubaker’s first two forays into mutant territory, Deadly Genesis and The Rise and Fall of The Shi’Ar Empire, it’s only fitting that his first chapter of the first big X-crossover in years, X-MEN: MESSIAH COMPLEX #1 turns out to be a reminder of all things good and bad about the whole Xavier kit and kaboodle.

The good includes the slightly scary way in which Brubaker is able to write the characters in character; like Mike Carey over on X-Men, Ed somehow manages to channel his inner Claremont in the exchanges between the title characters in such a way as to make them seem more like themselves than they have in years – Even Whedon and Morrison’s takes weren’t as faithful or familiar as they appear here. Whether this signposts a good writer able to adapt or the product of a fanboy youth is open to question, but between the characterization and a plot that harkens back to the glory days of the franchise, complete with Professor Xavier discovering a new mutant and the heroes racing to reach them before the bad guys do, it’s an enjoyable trip down memory lane. There’s something about the core idea – that there is a new mutant at all, as opposed to the melodrama and depression of the oncoming extinction of the entire race – that appeals as well, a reminder of when it wasn’t all relentless doom-and-gloom for these characters.

On the minus side, there’s still a confusion of characters on display here without adequate introduction (despite the pin-ups with mild commentary in the back of the book – and Predator X? Really? Bring back the Brood; at least their names didn’t have that damn letter in there), and unclear motivations for all involved with the exception of the heroes. It’s not necessarily a massive problem, of course; this is the first chapter of thirteen, so there’s a lot of time to get everything sorted out, but I can’t help but feel worried by how similar it all feels to the opening chapter of the mutant massacre storyline years ago, which took years to explain away (A similarity helped by the presence of Marc Silvestri, who got to draw the first Mister Sinister appearance way back when, his art not that much better twenty years later).

In a weird way, it’s such an X-book that it’s difficult to grade – If you like X-Men books, then it’s Very Good. If you don’t, then it’s an Okay example of modern superhero books nonetheless.

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