It’s been a few weeks since we checked in on the middle act of the X-Men’s Messiah trilogy, but events in the year 3000 haven’t moved on as far as hoped. Where initially X-Force’s quick thinking and rapid twists succeeded in energising the crossover, recent issues have seen Cable “winning” with a leaden pace and some clunky storytelling. All in all, it seems that a scenario which would have made for a compelling four-issue arc has suffered because of its extended duration. In this sixth chapter, the scuffles in the citadel continue, but the more pressing dilemmas for X-Force come from outside of the main fight, with two members’ old acquaintances threatening to derail their mission.
As you’ll have guessed from the précis here, there’s a significant amount of padding in this issue, with only the subplots really moved forward. The instalment both starts and closes with Style having the upper hand over the heroes he surveys, while the discovery of the nature of the temporal interference and the re-powering of En Saab Nur constitute around five pages of story. It just goes to show that a book doesn’t have to be priced at four dollars to leave its readers feeling short-changed. The revelation of Deadpool having been controlled by Stryfe has absolutely no impact, with the undead mercenary continuing to act at will throughout. Little niggles persist throughout. After Elixir’s strangely low-key restoration of Cable’s psi-powers in the previous issue of this book, Duane Swierczynski makes reference to use of this power to stop the spread of Cable’s techno-virus, a development that will irritate both causal readers and fanboys. Both parts of the audience will be puzzled as to how Cable was keeping the virus in check before Elixir restored his abilities, and for Askani’son fans that saw the character definitively purge the infection from his body in Cable & Deadpool, the lack of attention to detail is irksome.
Instead of any real plot development, we’re treated to another few pages of Cable versus Stryfe versus Wolverine versus Predator. There’s nothing wrong with a good fight, but we had this exact same tussle in X-Force a fortnight ago, and Ariel Olivetti’s static and overly posed imagery compares poorly with the dynamic and gripping work that Clayton Crain turned in during the previous chapter. Despite an impressive re-bulking of Apocalypse, Olivetti’s character likenesses have deteriorated from the star of the arc. There’s now little to distinguish between his Warpath and his X-23, while the moment of horror that should result from an eyeless Logan is instead rather comical, due to his deployment of black dots for eyes, Georges Jentry-style.
The main outcome of Messiah War seems to be to put the jewel in the X-line on hold for three months. Can I have X-Force back, please?