to die for divx Messiah War is the sequel to Messiah Complex, the 2007 story that re-energised the entire X-franchise and managed to turn it back into a coherent entity. Chris Yost and Craig Kyle, whose superlative and self-aware work on X-Force has proved a massively enjoyable book, have masterminded it. And it places Cable, one of the more textured and interesting X-Men, at the forefront of the story. So why do I feel underwhelmed?
The answer is the quirk known as the “Twenty Years Rule”. This arises due to the fact that it takes twenty years from reading a comic and being inspired by it to rise to a position in the industry from which you can write your own riff on those concepts. Twenty years after Chris Claremont killed off Jean Grey, Grant Morrison constructed a 40-issue arc in which he did exactly the same thing. Twenty years after Frank Miller reduced the light-hearted side of Batman to a throwaway addition, Chris Nolan gave us Batman Begins. And about twenty years after Steve Parkhouse and co used the pages of Doctor Who Magazine to throw the fifth Doctor into a stream of mind-bending adventures, Alan Barnes took the character back to Stockbridge. And what’s happened now? The clue lies in the return of Nathan Summers’ shoulder pads. Twenty years after Cable was introduced as being locked in a bitter conflict with Stryfe, his clone has been dusted off to resume his position as the character’s nemesis. Just as Mike Carey’s decision to work Sinister into the fabric of X-Men Legacy was a stretch too far for that book, so the return of the one dimensional “Chaos Bringer” threatens to overwhelm this title.
It’s a monumentally uninspiring development. While Kyle and Yost have created something wonderful out of the disparate stands of history that X-Force has woven together, this early nineties dynamic has little appeal so far other than nostalgia. Mike Choi continues his strong work from recent issues of X-Force, although his Bishop looks a little too youthful. This is off-set, however, by the attention that the artist pays to the difference in age that has now emerged between Nathan and Stryfe, with the former now considerably older due to the time he has spent looking after Hope. Kyle and Yost are obviously still firing on all cylinders here, with a magnificent one-line gag about Warpath’s Warren Ellis-granted flight ability and Deadpool receiving some of the best jokes he’s had since Gail Simmone was writing the character. As a stand-alone issue, it’s a solid effort, with the previously trailed elements of the story all introduced with speed, to allow new material to take centre stage from this point onwards. It’s perfectly possible that the writers have a new concept lurking in the wings, ready to work the same alchemy on Stryfe that they bestowed on the Leper Queen earlier this month. But in seeking to revive what’s unquestionably the X-Men’s dullest villain, they’ve set themselves a very difficult task.