I’ve had an odd struggle reading Matthew Rosenberg’s work on the X-Men line. When Phoenix Resurrection brought Jean Grey back to life, I was sure he was the worst writer to hit the X-Men since Chuck Austen blessed me with enough content to score thousands of hits from across the world (thanks, readers!). But then I tried to find others that mirrored my thoughts on his work, and everyone seemed to remain very positive about it. Even saying it was GOOD.
This bothered me greatly. I began questioning my own fandom, worrying that I had become so jaded over Marvel’s years of running my beloved X-Men through the muckity muck that I was just immediately assuming that everything was bad. He put out more work – a New Mutants mini that was supposed to be an ongoing to go with a movie that may never be released, then a run on the third string Astonishing book, and a Multiple Man mini-series – and I found myself second-guessing my initial takings of content. Was I the problem and I just couldn’t enjoy comics that didn’t meet my admittedly decent standards for what is considered “quality” storytelling?
But then he launched Uncanny X-Men out of the Disassembled event and I felt vindicated. So we’re going to be going through his run issue by issue so I can explain exactly what I don’t like about his work in a jovial mocking tone, rather than trying to blather it out in spoken form. I am far better behind a keyboard.
We start with a bunch of dramatic phrases, finishing with the statement that “this is the last X-Men story”.
And that’s cool sounding and all, but since this is the first issue of an ongoing series of a cornerstone franchise of the Marvel Universe, I’m going to say that it’s not going to fly. Unlike that statue of Angel in front of the Worthington building, which happens to be getting spray painted by a couple of no good kids who get some talkin’ to from a shadowed man covered in a hood, a hat, and them shadows, yet still is immediately identified by the kids as Cyclops. But that’s okay. Cyclops has his cool pants on today and delivers the line “Maybe you didn’t hear, kid…”
Well, of course they didn’t hear him, because it took him until they had run a good 50 yards before he delivered the BAD ASS punch line. Or hook? Is it a hook? Anyway, it’s really cool. Are you impressed?
So now that those kids have been given the ol’ whatfore, we cut to the classic X-Men hangout from the days of yore, ‘Harry’s Hideaway’, the Salem Center establishment that generations of Xavier School students dined in before being led to their deaths by the ebs and flows of the upper class. A waitress comes over to Scott Summers’ table and comments that she’s been reading over his shoulder and that what she sees is weird. I would agree, since all he has on the table is a bunch of manilla folders with WORTHINGTON stamped on them.
Cyclops mentions that she must be new and she says that she’s been there six months and sees him in there just about every night with that stuff. I don’t know if that means he’s oblivious (which is odd because she is the type of girl he usually finds himself drawn to) or she’s just never taken a moment to chat him up. She gets distracted by some hoods roughin’ up a girl outside and mentions it to Mr. Mystery Man, but HE”S ALREADY VANISHED FROM THE TABLE! I wonder where he went.
Spoiler alert! He went to confront the guys, taking issue with them calling her a “mutie”. Them’s fighting words, you know! And such fighting words them’s be, that Cyke goes full kung fu on the young hoodlums, all while keeping ice cool.
He says his subtle days are behind him, but I don’t think that Cyclops really knows what ‘subtle’ means, since in the days behind him, he used to do stuff like this:
Tangents aside, the damsel that Cyke rescued from distress just happened to be Blindfold, former Xavier Student and Young X-Men member, who showed up just speak in mysterious riddles because that’s what she does. When you want to sound cryptic, you use Blindfold. Unfortunately, their conversation is cut off by one of the punks getting a second wind and charging Cyclops from behind, and he does the heroic act of PICKING UP THE PERSON AND HURLING HIM 15 FEET AWAY THROUGH A WINDOW.
His subtle days once again behind him, he looks to pick up his chat, but Blindfold has vanished. So, with only a vague riddle about the X-Men being dead to go on, Cyclops does what any tactical genius would do – he goes to a reporter and says he’ll give him the scoop if he helps him find the X-Men.
That’s a very vague deal there. And even though a reporter the level of Ben Urich says that Cyclops is “a damn Pulitzer” he says that it’s not the best time to announce to the world that the one X-Men head that goes up on everyone’s dart board is alive and well. But maybe it’s because Cyclops said that Phil Sheldon was a better reporter.
Now this is something that Matthew Rosenberg does that always gets me. He name drops Phil Sheldon, the protagonist of the iconic mini series Marvels. Phil Sheldon is not a widely used Marvel character, nor does there tend to be many instances where his name pops up, being that his career came to an end around the death of Gwen Stacy. With this mention, all of us who have read and probably hold Marvels to some degree of love and affection will go “Hey! He mentioned Phil Sheldon! I loved Marvels!” And that is what you will get out of this scene – an appreciation of Marvel history.
But what that pointless trivia drop flavors up is a completely pointless scene in which Cyclops walks into Ben Urich’s office and says “Help me find the X-Men and I’ll tell you everything!” only for Ben to tell him that he already went looking for them and couldn’t find them so they must be dead. Because Ben Urich decided that he needed to go looking for the X-Men when they were blasted away in a massive battle. I’m sure he looked everywhere.
And so, with no help or hope to offer, Ben gives Cyclops the only thing he has left. Scotch. So then Cyclops gets hammered and starts shooting bottles with his eye beams in Hell’s Kitchen. I would ask what all that stuff he was looking at about Worthington Industries was about, but I guess that wasn’t important to the story.
Now that Cyke’s all tipsy-doodle, in walks the mantlepiece of great decisions, Jamie Madrox who has answered the calls of bright optic lights shooting into the night sky. Cyke asks for Madrox’s help to find all of the mutants and…well, you know what? I’m just going to give it to you verbatim.
Madrox hands out a wad of cash to Cyclops, then creates a bunch of duplicates, who are all also holding cash.
When I first saw this, my nerd alarm went off screaming “THAT ISN’T HOW THAT WORKS!” That alarm seems to go off rather frequently when I’m reading Matthew Rosenberg X-Men stories (like when he made Bishop a Time Cop with a belt buckle time machine), but on this one I had to pump the brakes. The immediate thought was that Madrox duplicates his body – thus he can’t generate a copy of an external physical object like money, because there’s nothing in it to multiply. It would need to be a part of his body.
Then I realized that Madrox has been spouting out fully clothed duplicates for decades now and I have never once spouted a single complaint about how that shouldn’t be possible. It was just accepted. So thus, if Madrox can multiply with a coat or a belt, then it should be no problem that he could also duplicate a handful of cash. It’s just that it’s never really been a matter of a plot device used…EVER. The worst that could happen is that the fake money would just be reabsorbed should he touch it. Kind of like that baby that he had with Siryn that we should probably not bring up again because it was really sad.
But that also makes me think that if Madrox was holding someone, like say his wife Layla Miller, in his arms and duplicated, would he make a duplicate of her? Would it just be organic/inorganic? See? This is why we don’t do these things. Two unimportant panels got me going on a tangent. And Cyclops doesn’t even use the damn money in the story.
So now that Cyke has sobered up and moved on, he takes his ill-gotten booty (or his ill-booten gotty) down into the sewers to find the only mutants left,
the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Morlocks. Now I don’t even want to start thinking about the logic of having the Morlocks back in the tunnels underneath New York, especially since Cyclops and Madrox just mentioned that they and entire governments couldn’t find anymore mutants to lock up.
Now I am assuming that there is a colony of Morlocks here, but this is a case where the art really fails. I usually love Salvador Larocca’s work. I’ve been a fan ever since he was the bright point of X-Treme X-Men (back in a brighter day), but this really falls apart. Cyclops meets up with Callisto and is then confronted by Chamber (of all people), but not another soul is drawn anywhere. It’s all brick backgrounds. In fact, all of the art seems very hollow and subdued. But I guess art can only work with the story it’s given, right?
Anyway, back to that story, Chamber announces that he is in charge of the Morlocks for some reason and tells Cyclops to piss off. And that’s the scene. No explanation to how Chamber got there, what the Morlocks are doing, nothing. Just scene.
So back we go to Central Park, now in a blizzard, where crews are bulldozing the ruins of the X-Mansion, which got all blowed up during Disassembled. Cyclops is there, of course, and so is Madrox, who hands him an address of where Blindfold is living. He then tells him to leave him alone and to not even go to the address that he just gave to him. But he does anyway.
And he finds this.
I’ll get back to this.
Now we go to a political rally for a new character named ‘Prestel’ who is running against Senator Allen from Disassembled. You see, Senator Allen had a change of heart on the whole mutant cure thing, but that doesn’t work because you need the violently anti-mutant politician in the Robert Kelly/Graydon Creed role. So here she is. And Cyclops, of course, is in the middle of the sea of fans, yet manages to call out and catch her attention with his pro-mutant rhetoric. The crowd responds exactly how you would think a crowd gathered for a bigoted politician running on a platform of intolerance towards a race would. Unfortunately, they knock his glasses off, and you know what that means.
But that’s okay, because CAPTAIN AMERICA is here. Because of course he is.
Cap hands Cyclops his glasses back and the two have a friendly chat in the sea of bloodthirsty anti-mutant hysteria. Well, that is until Cyclops decides to go back to being a dick to the guy who just saved his life.
So with news cameras focused on him, Cyclops finally makes his big stand. Well, after he makes them PROMISE to broadcast it to EVERYONE, UNEDITED. And his message? “Hey, X-Men. Wherever you’re hiding, uh, I’m going to be at the old grounds in Westchester in two days. Be there! BYOB.”
And that’s his message. To me, my X-Men.
And so, two days later, Cyclops shows up at the one of the ruins of the X-Mansion (not the one we saw earlier) all alone like he was Michael Scott in that episode of the Office where he throws a party in his hotel room. You know the one.
It’s not all bad for him, though, because he did get some attention from the Reavers, the Purifiers, and the Sapien League. You could say it’s like all of the groups that have faceless foot soldiers who can be slaughtered in a big battle scene came together right at the climactic point of the story. If only there was someone who last seen was at odds with Cyclops whose differences could be settled through gratuitous violence.
Okay, I don’t want to be the sound effects police here, but the iconic “Snikt” of Wolverine popping his claws isn’t exactly a sound effect you can stretch out or really intensify for volume. I mean what, did he very slowly pop his claws through a megaphone so everyone could hear it?
Anyway, Wolverine shows up, they all fight and all the villains die.
Now that we’re all friends again, it’s time to end the story proper and go on to something else. There’s a backup story about how Wolverine ended up deciding to get over nearly a decade of bitterness towards Cyclops and get back together (without mentioning that the X-Men get to be cool again eventually now that the Fox deal is done). First, Wolverine sees baby Cable overlooking Cyclops and hands off the babysitting job so he can go be in a much better story over in X-Force.
Cable hints that “something” is coming and suggests that Wolverine goes looking for someone who knows stuff about the future. So he goes and hits up Layla Miller, still happily retired and raising a family with Jamie Madrox. This is something I love, because it restates that Jamie and Layla have their happier ever after that Peter David left them with in X-Factor, but also something I hate, because it suggests that a) Layla Miller has a precognitive vision of the future rather than a handful of events directly affecting their lives and b) that Wolverine is aware of that.
For whatever reason, that leads Wolverine into the midtown sewers where he comes across a bunch of armored soldiers, which he quickly kills. Callisto arrives and identifies them as O*N*E, the Office of National Emergency, or the United States government branch designated for, well, national emergencies. And what are they doing here? Basically slaughtering mutants. Seriously.
Which begs the question why was the politician running on a campaign of forcing a mutant cure when the government is actively just gunning down mutants on sight?
Anyway, now that Callisto has no point of being in this story, Wolverine moves on down the sewer line and comes across the next
random name picked on the former X-Men side character list familiar-ish face he finds. This time, it’s Velocidad. What, you don’t remember Velocidad? Okay, go back a handful of X-Men relaunches ago. Back when there were no more mutants until the messiah baby showed up, went into the future, then came back as a Jean Grey red herring/future host for the Phoenix/savior of mutantkind and gathered the “FIVE LIGHTS” who were supposed to be REALLLLLLLY important to the future of mutant kind. Turns out they weren’t, but the one who could make time slow down at the expense of making his own aging rapidly increase is now really old.
Oh, you wanted there to be a point to him being in the story? Remember what I said about Phil Sheldon during the Ben Urich scene that you’ve probably already forgotten ever happened? This is another one of those things where a trivia name drop is thrown in to try to cover that the entire last two scenes were completely and utterly pointless.
So pointless, in fact, that in the next scene, Wolverine is sitting in a park in Brooklyn when Blindfold just wanders up to him. So you could have removed the last five pages of government murder and gotten to the same point. Anyway, all Blindfold tells Wolverine is that he needs to help Cyclops. Which is what Cable told him way back at the beginning of this retch. That done, Blindfold sees Wolverine off so she can go kill herself. But we’ll get back to that.
There is also a scene with Wolverine showing up at the political rally, but getting stopped by Black Widow and Winter Soldier. I’m not up on my Avengers right now, but I assume that’s all well and good? Finally, we get to the finale where all of the lambs have gathered to be slaughtered and Wolverine decides that it is time to throw back in with his old pal, Slim. The end.
And then we get to the final story. The one that tries to make sense of that one-page mess with Blindfold in the bathtub. It starts off by doing the old favorite act of killing off one of the last lingering remnants of the New X-Men student body by having Loa killed off-panel with no reasoning or explanation. Then it cuts to Blindfold with a younger Velocidad apparently living in the Morlock tunnels before the O*N*E started a government-approved mutant massacre saying that she has to go find Cyclops.
She then buys a lottery ticket so she can buy a house to die in. Then we see her set Madrox with the information to give to Cyclops, we get the scenes with Cyclops and Wolverine, and then we get this:
This is titled “The Last Blindfold Story”. I suppose that’s supposed to go with the last X-Men story that this one started as. When I read this issue, I was taken aback by it. Blindfold had always been a cryptic character, and her death came out of nowhere, with the instant realization on Cyclops’s part that she had done it herself. The message was written “This is forever.”
So I waited for something to come of this. Don’t worry about following it up in the next issue. There’s nothing more about Blindfold whatsoever in the story going forward. So this story basically told that Blindfold’s power of precognition stopped showing her anything, which meant her death, so when it came time, she killed herself.
My eventual reaction to this was “This is bullshit.” I don’t know what it is about the young generation of X-Men characters that makes creators so eager to horrifically kill them off, but I am sick of it. There’s no point here to what Blindfold did. She adds nothing whatsoever to the story. Her message doesn’t give anything to Wolverine or Cyclops about the X-Men. She has no reason to be here other than to have a big splash page of her lying in a bathtub dead. The storyteller in me is angry because a character is being wasted, a dramatic point is being given without being built towards or having any consequence of.
It’s finally what I’ve found to be my most hated thing about this writer’s style that I could never put my finger on. On the small screen, it’s called ‘Crash TV’. If you are a wrestling fan, you might associate it with the booking style of Vince Russo. It’s coming up with a big moment that you think will be awesome, then going ahead with it without doing the work to build to it or get anything from it in the bigger picture. It’s lazy storytelling. It takes out the depth of feeling that you should get when something major happens because it just shows that nothing matters. Everything just happens because it’s really cool.
I read an interview that came out the same day this book hit the shelves with Matthew Rosenberg talking about how big of an issue depression and suicide is to him and how he wanted to show with this that, as was written out in the image, that suicide is permanent. There is no coming back from it, and the victim’s loved ones have to suffer through the anguish long after the act has occurred. And I’m not knocking that. That’s an important message. I’m sure he feels deeply about it.
But this wasn’t the place to do that. He decided that he had a big first issue of Uncanny X-Men off of a mega event and decided that he needed to make a public service announcement about suicide. But the only thing the issue gave was the death of the character. It’s not like the series 13 Reasons Why that goes through all of the factors that leads a girl to suicide, establishing who she was, what went wrong, and how it affected anyone else. This would be like taking that and cutting out everything except for the suicide scene itself.
And if it was supposed to be something of a public service announcement about teenage suicide, it would have helped to add something about awareness or getting help. There was none of that here. It was Blindfold committing suicide just so you can have the big splash image. And eff you for killing Loa.
This issue was crap. And I am fine saying that. Next week we’ll bring some more players into the game and kill them too.