Tag Archive: Schism


Review by C.J. Bunce
Spoilers!
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.

First of all, there needs to be some ground rules when you tackle a “best of” list for someone as talented as Frank Cho.  With Alex Ross, we took his entire body of work and picked our 15 favorite images, whether from cover art, interior pages, or marketing pieces Ross painted.

But with Frank Cho, the world renowned artist known for his voluptuous women characters and funny and sarcastic animals, it was a bit harder to choose.  In particular, his work on Liberty Meadows, and before that, his hilarious college series University².  Cho’s drawings of Brandy and her animal friends are so expressive and fun that we think they beat out all his other work.  And we think Cho would approve–he told us this summer that he doesn’t sell any of his original Brandy pages.  We wouldn’t either!  You can see some of the Liberty Meadows covers behind Brandy in the image above from Cho’s great website, full of his blogging and galleries, apesandbabes.com.  If you don’t know Frank Cho’s comic strip-turned-comic book, we suggest you start with University², available in a compilation of comic strip humor called University Squared: The Angry Years that is my personal favorite.  Beyond that, Liberty Meadows is available via Image Comics in Liberty Meadows: Book One, Eden, Liberty Meadows: Book Two, Creature Comforts, Liberty Meadows: Book 3, Summer Of Love, and Liberty Meadows: Book Four, Cold, Cold HeartLiberty Meadows is about Brandy, a animal psychologist at an animal sanctuary/rehab clinic, her animal friends, and Frank, a veterinarian, who is in love with Brandy…but won’t tell her.  It is funny in the vein of Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, yet dramatic like Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise.

So before taking on a “best of” or “favorites list” for the other comic books series Cho has created covers for, could we select one Liberty Meadows piece that stands for them all?  We came up with this cover, with Brandy sporting her Beltsville shirt.  This image is classic Frank Cho.  But even this is sort of a cheat, since it is a cover to Cho’s Liberty Meadows: Cover Girl compilation book, as opposed to a regular series comic, but it is the cover Cho chose for the book on his own covers.  Hey, you try and pick the best from Liberty Meadows!

Oftentimes we think you can see his Liberty Meadows characters Brandy the brunette and Jen the blonde as the superheroes in the mainstream comics he draws.  They are fun to watch for.

It’s probably easier to discuss Cho’s best cover art by referring to each series he has drawn.  And we’ll focus here on just a dozen of his cover projects that blow us away.   You’re dealing with a body of work that includes Shanna the She-Devil, New Ultimates, Fear Itself, Schism, Ms. Marvel, Red Sonja, and New Avengers, and his many variant covers, which often eclipse the regular issue covers of other artists.

First up is his work with “dinosaurs, Nazis, guns and babes” in Shanna, the She-DevilThis cover to Issue 3 is a standout, with Shanna in about as much danger as a human in the Jurassic era can get into!  If you like this also check out his Jungle Girlseries, his Red Sonja series, and, coming soon, his Guns and Dinos.

A lot of Cho’s work has the feel of 1940s pin-ups.  This Dark Horse Comics Hellboy: Weird Tales, Vol. 2 cover image has a great retro look, and shows that, like Alex Ross, Cho gets to work with a variety of publishers’ star characters:

We only wish we’d see Cho take on more DC Comics characters!

Cho hasn’t come close to hitting his full stride yet, with some of his best work coming out in 2010 and 2011.  Check out these covers for the Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn.  And his interior work is as good or better than the covers.  In fact, most of the cover work featured here reflects covers of books where Cho drew the interior art, too.  When you usually find a great cover but lesser art inside with other creators’ books, Cho’s books give you top illustrations, cover to cover.

   

Cho practically re-ignited Ms. Marvel through his drawings of this once minor Avenger.  Two covers with Ms. Marvel stand out:  the Mighty Avengers cover that was redone for the Irredeemable Ant-Man series, and this stunning cover for her own series:

  

The other Avenger Cho brought into the limelight was Spider-Woman, especially in this cover to New Avengers (left), yet check out this incredibly powerful image in the variant of Secret Invasion (right), with Cho showing his pre-Raphaelite influence:

 

Cho has said that his favorite superhero to draw is Spider-man.  Here he drew Spider-man in contrast to this dark, Gothic, seemingly medieval woodcut-inspired image in Ultimate Spider-Man: Death of Spider-Man, one of his best variant cover pieces:

  

The second piece above is the Scarlet Witch from Ultimates 3: Who Killed The Scarlet Witch? (v. 1), and it is just another example of a great Cho female character.

Right now on the shelves, Cho returns to his Gothic imagery with the Fear Itself: The Fearless series with these two incentive comic covers from one original grand Cho artwork.  Contrasted with his beautiful Valkyrie on the left is his self-described “fugly” character Sin, daughter of long-time Marvel villain, the Red Skull.  Good luck to whoever gets in the way of either of these women.  Doesn’t look like anyone will stand a chance against either of them.

 

Keeping with the angel theme, this early Witchblade shows another, earlier Cho style, likely influenced by the paintings of Maxfield Parrish:

Finally, to get the full effect of this next image, Cho’s magnum opus of X-Men in X-Men: Schism, you’ll need a wide screen.  In the alternative, click on each image to see how nicely done this new pentaptych is close-up.  Again, Cho’s work gets the exclusive variant edition status…those comics that don’t easily get into readers’ hands, unfortunately, because they are issued in limited numbers to comic shop owners as incentives.  But no doubt the trade edition will include these images not long from now.  Pretty hard to pick a favorite just from these five covers:

Although the most recent work isn’t out in trade versions yet, a lot is still on the shelves as individual issues (see links in the series names above to check out what is available).  Original prints of Cho’s work and other cool stuff is available at Cho’s website.

So… what do you think?  Any glaring omissions?

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

*All images posted above are owned by Frank Cho or the respective publishers listed above.