Review by C.J. Bunce
If you happened to miss this year’s X-Men event from Marvel Comics, X-Men: Schism, now is a good time to get caught up. The mini-series was released in a compilation edition Wednesday at comic stores and is available elsewhere January 11. It’s also available at a discount for pre-order online. Noteworthy at a minimum for this limited series is that it serves as the lead-in to the current X-Men storyline and main ongoing Marvel X-Men titles Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine and the X-Men. “Marvel Architect” writer Jason Aaron created the events that culminate in the break-up of the X-Men into two teams. The new hardcover collected edition includes Schism Issues #1-5, Generation Hope Issues #10-11, and X-Men: Regenesis, the book where each mutant chooses sides. Unique to this series, several top artists participated in the complete work, with Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis and Adam Kubert each contributing an issue, among others. Ultimately, like a lot of other series, it’s the lack of visual continuity that causes the entire work to slightly suffer, but ultimately Schism is a tight piece of storytelling and individual issues of the series are notable for the artwork, particularly Schism Issues #2 and 3, by Cho and Acuna.
The battle in the storyline at first appears to be between a growing sense of anti-mutant hatred around the world and the almost arrogant mutants led by Scott Summers aka Cyclops, who at first seems to be toting co-leader Logan aka Wolverine along for the ride. Ultimately the battle turns to X-Man versus X-Man. Writer Aaron fans the flames of discontent growing from the ongoing arguments over the years between the two leaders, prompting each to dig their heels in as they clash on how to respond to the anti-mutant sentiments by the non-mutant population. But the surprising puppetmaster behind the demise of the X-Men unity is a mutant himself, young, annoying, too big and rich for his own good, Kade Kilgore. Kilgore throws his own father from a plane and leads a group of psychopath children in his own strange arms deal, ensuring that he is the supplier to the world of 1980s-ish strategic defense initiative-type humanoid, robotic, giant automatons called sentinels. These sentinels serve as the non-mutant population’s defensive shield against the mutants, now numbering only a few hundred, and living off the coast of San Francisco in an island called Utopia. Kilgore creates the conflict, with the successful result of being able to benefit financially from it.
Ultimately the question the X-Men must face is whether to use children mutants to defend all mutants against the attack by the sentinels. Wolverine says children should not be used as soldiers under any circumstance. Cyclops believes the circumstances are too dire, and if he doesn’t use the children and their powers there may be no mutants left to defend. Mirroring this storyline is the fact that Kilgore is leading his own band of children to attack and attempt to destroy the X-Men.
Although each of Summers and Logan gets ample time to lay out their positions, the reader can’t help but find it hard to support Summers, who comes off as arrogant, isolationist, and dangerous, versus Logan’s concern for not only mutants, but the rest of the planet and the overall big picture of Earth’s future. Behind this Aaron hints at this result the culmination of the never-ending fallout from each X-Man’s care for the late Jane Grey aka Phoenix, and it seems these two will never be able to get along. In the final panel Logan arrives at a destroyed Xavier School for the Gifted, and Summers remains at Utopia, paranoid, maybe rightly so, and locked into the idea that mutants need protected from the rest of the world. In the last part, X-Men: Regenesis, a strange thing occurs, as Wolverine seems to get the short end of the stick, with the majority of the big name X-Men sticking with Scott Summers. Yet, after Schism, the stronger and more entertaining series follows Wolverine in Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men title, and Summers’ ongoing storyline in Uncanny X-Men unfortunately just doesn’t carry the same spark. Added plus to look for: the five-image cover gallery by Frank Cho, one of his best superhero works to date. X-Men: Schism, the hardcover compilation, retails for $24.99.