Carlos Pacheco, Cam Smith
Jared K. Fletcher
Carlos Pacheco, Nick Bradshaw, Frank Cho
Following off the back of Messiah Complex and Second Coming, Schism is the next big thing to shake the X-Men universe, and in this case the ramifications are more than just changes to the uncanny mutants status quo, but will shift the dynamic of the comic titles with the separation of the group into two unique titles: Uncanny X-Men #1 and Wolverine and the X-MEN.
The outcome of this event is thus a foregone conclusion, but the story isn’t about where we’re going, but how we’re going to get there. The plot operates off the basis that Wolverine, Cyclops’s go to guy for nasty wet works and combat training of the new recruits, is slowly being worn down. His relationship with Cyclops is beginning to degrade, and old grudges are coming back to the fore. Soemthing cataclysmic is coming and it is this Schism that will split the two men ideologically and fracture the X-MEN forever. Yet none of this is overly evident bar the writers intent this issue. There’s a brief flashback to the grudging relationship the pair had pre Messiah Complex (when Jean Grey was still a love to be won between Marvels two most recognisable mutants), but barring that we aren’t immediately supposed to suspect that there’s a problem. This is a slow burner, so anything but.
The issue builds off with a fatigued Logan shoehorned into bodyguard duty for Cyclops on a diplomatic mission to the U.N. during an International Arms Conference to issue a plea for the decommissioning of sentinels globally. The relationship between the pair is painted nicely by Aaron as cooperative if not amiable. They clearly don’t love each other and you can see there’s history. Exactly how it should be.
Some humorous touches lighten the gulf between the two men and you can sense that while Logan will never really like Scott very much, he respects his leadership. Similarly Cyclops sees the uses of having such a deadly asset as Logan on hand, but could never forgive him trying to steal Jean away from him.
The pair arrive at the conference and of course nothing goes to plan, with the formerly imprisoned trouble maker Quentin Quire, a mutant with a penchant for stirring it up (see Grant Morrison’s run on NEW X-MEN), bursting in and unleashing his new mutant revolution in the midst of Cyclops disarmament speech. A third party activates sentinels to gate crash the conference and Scott and Logan are left to battle the machines while Quire escapes.
This whole misfire in front of the U.N. serves as a catalyst for the U.N. leaders to unite against mutants by actively upping their sentinel’s defences in their respective countries and setting the ball rolling for a return to the bad old days for the X-Men and mutant kind in general. The use of Quires powers to disrupt the U.N. is a nice touch and doesn’t hold back on letting people know exactly how Aaron feels about our political representatives, and reaffirms humanity as the inherent bad guy against the underdog mutants.
The best X-MEN stories have always managed to show the inhumanity of amidst humans and can often be seen as moral masterpieces with a love note to tolerance, and Aaron brings in familiar tropes that light the thread for where this story’s going. Of course this is no Ordinary crisis and bigger players have a hand in the background (I’ll not spoil the surprise), but the genius of it is the playing off the tempestuous relationship of the two most recognisable and stalwart X-MEN and watching what happens to their necessary alliance come boiling point.
This is an exciting book and the relationship between Logan and Scott is thoughtfully fleshed out and given the values of old comrades despite their fundamental disagreements. The story is building into a larger arc and there is some nice wide scale ramifications (global sentinel response in various countries) and some touches of humour to balance the scale of what is going on.
Aaron has a particularly decent grip on writing Wolverine, his time on the characters solo title giving him a seasoned handle on the mutant he was born to write. That said Aaron has clearly got the same eye for character amongst the other X-crew and we shouldn’t be surprised, from the calibre of his work on books likes DC’s Scalped. Pacheco’s art is cleaner than usual and I particularly liked his return of Wolverine to a compact killing machine, as opposed to the often more slender variants of the character that we’re never in his original mandate. Overall Schism is a decent read; an in-depth plot, good characterisation and a well laid out action set piece to keep us from getting mired down by the politics. It’ll be interesting to see how this story gets to where it’s going, because it’s all downhill for the mutants from here.