When Brian Wood’s all-female X-Men comic book series launched last year, I was quick to applaud the book as being fresh, fun and on it’s way to being the best X-Men title published by Marvel Comics. To my disappointment, things quickly went astray and a once-promising comic book fizzled into mediocrity. X-Men #12 continues the downward spiral and is unfortunately the worst issue of the series to date…
In fact, what should be major events in this storyline and the X-Men universe as a whole happen without weight throughout the issue. For example, the much-hyped resurrection of Madelyne Pryor also takes place completely off-panel, as if it’s a trivial side-note. Considering what a pivotal character Madelyne Pryor is in X-Men history, an event such as her revival should be handled with appropriate care and reverence–not just as a throwaway incident that occurs off-page. We need to be shown an incident like this to feel it’s momentous–not just told about it.
Most of the high points of the issue involve the X-Men’s climactic battle with the Sisterhood. Monet earns some much-needed credibility facing off with the Enchantress in Monet’s most high-profile match-up in the Marvel Universe to date, while Psylocke tangles with Typhoid Mary in a solidly-rendered fight that many fanboys have fantasized about for years. Both of these battles have been convincingly illustrated by artist Kris Anka, whose work has been a high point on the title since he joined the book in #10. Unfortunately, the story is all downhill from here.
Storm in particular is written poorly in this issue. What does Ororo say when she first comes face-to-face with the unbelievably deadly and long thought-dead Selene and Madelyne Pryor? “Maddie. Selene. This is… I don’t know what this is.” Wow, that’s some dramatic stuff, Brian Wood! Brian Wood can and has written terrific dialogue in his work at Marvel, but this was not it.
Furthermore, Storm immediately acts out-of-character afterward, asserting that she’s willing to let the ridiculously dangerous Madelyne Pryor and Selene walk away scot-free (What?!), and the villainous duo quickly abandons Arkea. If you take into consideration the damage those characters caused as the lead antagonists in “Inferno” and “Necrosha”, it’s extremely difficult to believe that Storm considers Arkea the greatest threat out of these three, and it feels downright irresponsible to let Madelyne Pryor and Selene freely escape. It makes me wonder if Rachel Grey’s assertion is correct that Storm really isn’t fit to lead this team!
The story ends with a whimper when Karima shows up with a deus ex machina “self-guided psychic microbial smart bomb” that instantaneously renders Arkea’s menace moot. It’s too bad that Karima didn’t bust out this MacGuffin several issues ago, saving the X-Men trouble and us readers several dollars, because this is one of the flattest endings to an X-Men story in recent memory.
The shocking cliffhanger of the previous issue was Jubilee disappearing into vampiric mist, with her students panicked and unable to locate her. The very first page of the story this time out invalidates that cliffhanger, showing Jubilee popping out of the mist safe and sound and attacking a Sentinel. Yes, that’s the real resolution to last month’s twist ending. This is a cheat and a cop-out, rather than any kind of fulfilling story advancement.
There are some sweet character moments between Mercury and Bling, and I never cease to be amused by Quentin Quire, but this whole backup reeks of being inconsequential fluff. As Jubilee ogles Hellion’s short shorts and asserts that the main X-Men team can handle Arkea Prime on their own (which we know to be true, having already seen Arkea Prime’s fate earlier in the issue), this backup story clearly reveals itself as nothing but page-filler.
Overall: I’m still a fan of Brian Wood and all of the characters that he’s featuring in this Marvel NOW! X-Men series, but I honestly don’t know that I’m an advocate of this series itself anymore. Despite taking the bulk of the first twelve issues to tell this Arkea story, the mess of a story ends up somehow feeling both rushed and never-ending.
It’s blatant that this whole long, drawn-out arc was contrived primarily for the purpose of bringing Selene and Madelyne Pryor back to life–but if that was the true goal, there are a multitude of stories that Wood could have told that would have ultimately been more satisfying and interesting than what we got here.
While I’ll keep coming back to this book each month because I love Monet and Jubilee just that much, if you’re thinking about giving X-Men #12 a try as your first issue of the series, this is an impossible book to recommend. X-Men #12 not only isn’t representative of what Brian Wood is capable of— it’s some of his worst work at Marvel.