Supernovas --I agree with Medium, this is probably the most fun I'e had reading a title where a team is formed, and it's clear from the opening of the first issue of the arc exactly what kind of team this is going to be, with Scott praising Rogue for her quick-thinking and 'take-no-prisoners' approach to battle. The CotV are established as pretty hard-core, and I don't want to call them villains, because essentially they're the X-Men's dark reflection in a lot of ways-- a minority who want to survive, but not through co-existence, but by ruling. The pre-established dynamic between Bobby and Sam is barely touched on in this arc, but it's pairing Cable and Cannonball together that made me intrigued, and I feel it was a slightly wasted opportunity to have the two of them on a team together and not having a moment where Sam admits he finds it weird seeing Cable taking orders in battle... but there was so much else to cram in, I can forgive it. Northstar and Aurora cameos were great, and seeing Mystique actually come to the defence of the X-Men and NOT have something in it for her (at least, not at the time the arc was published) was great to see too. Lady M and Karima were fun additions too, essentially making it one of the most varied squads we've seen in decades, if not ever. Rogue is shown as a strong leader who knows how to play to her team's strengths, and if anything, I felt she came across as the slighty rough hybrid of Scott, Logan and Storm in terms of leadership capabilities-- sound tactics, yet nothing fancy and complicated, with an absolute no-nonsense approach.
My only complaint is with the filler-artist's rendition of Serafina that kind of grated... Bachalo's version looked like one of the 'Living Dead Dolls' (google them if you don't know what I mean), whilst his looked like some Amazonian-statured caucasian girl cosplaying as a Harijuku girl.
Primary Infection -- After the initial arc, I felt that this was slightly weaker, although I think that it may have been due to Ramos' art, which I hate, and here it often felt like he was trying emulate Bachalo, but doing so poorly. Anyway. I enjoyed that the team pretty much instantly fractured, and again, Rogue playing to her team's strengths with Lady Mastermind being flirtatiously deviant in the opening scenes and then barely three pages later, delightfully sociopathic. Palance was an eerie villain, and I think some of his dialogue felt a little like it edged into the arena of 'monologuing', (It was his line about Husk that sticks out as being needlessly melodramatic, something about "such a sweet girl. Steel wrapped in velvet" or something...). This felt like the arc that was about showing what the newer members of the team could do, as Lady Mastermind was fairly integral to the plot points of finding Pandemic's lair, disguising herself, Mystique, Karima and Iceman to get inside, and the eventual 'punishment' of Pandemic. After the Annual featuring Mystique saving Rogue's ass from Frenzy and Tempo, again, we see Raven (albeit begrudgingly; "As grotesque as it sounds, the X-Men need us!") coming to the rescue... and once again, we have absolutely no reason NOT to believe her at this juncture, even though Cable JUST told us a few issues ago that her name is synonomous with Judas in his timeline. Great pay off with Rogue now totally unable to touch anyone without fear of killing them, after havign her used her own powers (rather than those she'd currently inherited from Sunfire) in this and the past arc... more often than perhaps I'd seen her use them in the past ten years or so previous!
Red Data -- Picking up the pace and raising the stakes a little, revealing the mystery of Regan's 'tail-gunner' from the previous arc, the 'zombie' from the first arc and a totally pointless tie in to Cable and Deadpool. The Mummudrai, even though the only experience we, the readers, have ever had of one is the evil Cassandra Nova, comes across as actually quite a sympathetic character, and again, Carey does a great job of creating a random villain (in this case, Hecatomb) and managing to make it totally terrifying in terms of scope-- something that literally absorbs every single thing about anyone it touches? That's kind of scary... Nice to see Iceman and Cannonball getting a little more attention in this arc, certainly in terms of action, and Karima too, for that matter. Also, great pay off at the end too, with Rogue absorbing the Hecatomb, and that one line to Mystique (Pretend it's mother's day, give me a kiss), really summed up how much Rogue disliked Mystique, and I feel was probably the most honest that Rogue had been about her feelings, far less business-like than their previous interactions.
Blinded by the Light-- Brilliant watching the team implode, as well as realising how aptly named Mr Sinister is, that he had the foresight and ability to plan far enough ahead to place TWO traitors in the X-Men exactly where they would do the most damage at the right point in time. I really enjoyed the reintroduction of Malice as a digital entity, and with Mystique shooting Rogue, it really felt like their relationship came full circle. It's a bold move because as far as I can see, there's just NO WAY that this relationship could EVER be healed now. Cannonball and Sam paired up as a duo was really nice to see, and they were both written really well. Mystique's seemingly residual feelings for Iceman were interesting to see, as it shows that Bobby may even be slightly wrong about her in terms of him thinking she's 'rabid'-- she's one of the most calculating villains that the X-Men have, and her entire personality is tempered by how much she's been hurt in the past. Gambit's inclusion was interesting, and it certainly felt like he wasn't in it for the mission, like most of the others, but that he and Mystique were both on the side of the Marauders to make sure that nothing untoward happened to Rogue. Both of them have their hearts in the right place when it comes to her, it's just how they act on those feelings that makes them deranged. It's the ultimate expression of 'how far do you go to protect someone that you love?' ideal, and with two complex characters like Remy and Raven (OOOOH! SPIN-OFF SITCOM!), the way they ACT upon those feelings was never going to be straight forward, and was always going to be something of a moral grey area.
Messiah Complex-- Nice pay-off to the end of the Hecatomb threat, and great to see the different teams moving into position for the grand finale (which is the bit I'll be concentrating on mostly, since it was a collaborative effort and it's only really the Rogue/Xavier centric parts that are totally relevant to this thread). Xavier arguing with Scott on how to handle the different situations that arise, and seeing Xavier going after Cable alone was really nice to see, and an obvious precursor to the eventual changes that occurred in Legacy. The resolution to Hecatomb was good to see, and I have to admit, it was a little chilling to see Rogue grab Mystique and absorb her powers... without knowing that the Virus had been purged from her body. This is Rogue reacting to seeing Mystique and her initial reaction is to attempt to kill her... it's proving that Rogue really needs some distance from the X-Men and needs to sort her head out. Remy's reaction to Rogue being exposed to the baby was well-handled, and Mystique using Rogue as the instrument of Sinister's murder was also really interesting-- again, despite Mystique claiming time and again to have Rogue's best interests at heart, she's not above using her as a murder weapon. Obviously the very end of the story, with Xavier being shot in the head had massive emotional pay-off-- to secure the future of mutantkind, the X-Men have lost their founder-- does the past have to be killed off for the future to survive? (Obviously the ultimate answer is 'no', but initially, that was a really stark way to end the story).
The Xavier arcs --
Okay, so from the top. The first arc, with Xavier basically reliving the trauma of being the leader of the X-Men, his healing at the hands of Exodus, Karima and Magneto, and him essentially being a blank slate-- Really well executed. Here are several factors that all interlink and represent the history of the dialogue between Magneto and Xavier-- Xavier, the blank slate; Magneto, the fallen king; Exodus, the Magneto-Purist; Frenzy, the woman who has spent most of her career as a villain hero-worshipping Magneto's beliefs; and Karima, the horrifying example of how hated mutants are, that some factions will twist a human body to such extremes just to use them as a weapon. Strip away everything about Xavier, his years as a teacher, his time spent trying to temper his immense power with a measure of restraint and morality... and we see that he's powerful enough not only to beat down Exodus (Someone who has previously been shown to be able to engage multiple teams of Avengers and X-Men without breaking a sweat). From here, his entire mission statement is blindingly obvious-- in order to find out what makes him a galvanising force, for BOTH mutant factions, he needs to recover his past, and he needs to find out exactly who he is-- good and bad. This sets the tone and also I feel, goes a LONG way to repair the damage done to the character during 'Deadly Genesis'-- as a leader of a team like the X-Men, responsible for the lives of young people, he MUST have had to do some questionable things, but the point is, how does he make up for that now?
Onto the Sinister arc, which was a clean way to tidy up a number of plot holes-- we knew Xavier, Carter and Cain had been experimented on by Sinister in their youth, but we didn't know to what purpose. Adding Shaw to the mix was interesting, and of course, the inclusion of Gambit as someone who's shady connections plausibly lend him to discovering that Xavier was alive before the rest of the X-Men was a very odd team-up. Throwing in Amanda Mueller was a nice touch too, and Sinister's subconscious influence on Xavier all these years could explain away some of his more douche-bag moves-- after all, Xavier, Shaw and Marko have ALL shown examples of his 'at any cost' mentality at times. Again, while I enjoyed the main plot points, the fact that Xavier was able to expell Sinister from his mind felt a little like re-treading old ground after the previous arc with Exodus, but was still a good read.
I don't have the issues to hand, so I may be a bit jumbled, continuity wise here, but after this, I believe it was the crossover with Wolverine. Not going to lie, this felt a little lackluster, and possibly the weakest section of the Xavier arcs, but still a decent enough read. Tying in with the fact that at this point in time, following Deadly Genesis, we know that Xavier had few compunctions with messing with people's memories, we find that he did so with Wolverine to keep him on side following his 'recruitment' to the X-Men. What DID interest me about this were the parallels that were drawn between Xavier and Wolverine-- both absentee fathers, both having made dubious decisions in their past... both willing, when the chips are down, to do almost anything to get the job done. Daken didn't particularly interest me, although I enjoyed the new Miss Sinister, although, again, another psychic battle between Xavier and a more ruthless telepath. The 'psychic booby trap' in Daken's mind felt a little clunky and odd (I mean, surely it would have made more sense for Romulus to do the same to Logan, Sabretooth... and every other feral mutant he came across?)... but then in the end, it was all to lead up to the Scott/Xavier/Emma issues, which I think were VERY well handled.
While no one could ever accuse Emma or Scott of making the best decisions, they were bang on the money with their assessment of Xavier, and some of the scenes shown, especially Rogue's, were just powerful examples of how ruthless Xavier could be, even if it did turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to the individual in question. I liked that it started to repair the damaged relationship between Scott and Xavier, (clumsily handled in the first place, IMHO, but WE) but it was just how well Carey managed to build the discussion and whilst it wasn't a 'yes, let's be best friends again', it was most definitely a step in the right direction.
The Juggernaut issue was good. I liked that it was very much a 'yes, you can kill me with your bare hands and very little effort. But look at what I can do from very far away with very little effort' moment. It was good to see someone write the Juggernaut as someone who had lapsed back into his villainous ways, and to do a realistic portrayal of Cain and Xavier's relationship.
I have a horrible feeling I've missed a story line somewhere, but Salvage was very well written and managed to end several dangling plot lines-- Rogue's powers, Danger and Xavier's relationship... all well written and served as a really good jump-on point for the start of the end of the Xavier-era and the start of the new Rogue era. It showed just how capable Rogue is with or without her powers, and for the first time in what feels like years, the Rogue/Remy relationship was interesting again. They're not together, they're two people who obviously care about each other very much but the timing just isn't right. Rogue's resolution in terms of her powers was a VERY bold move, and one that I don't think many other writers would have handled especially well. This didn't feel trite, it didn't feel cliched, and it was precisely because Rogue didn't just jump right back into a relationship with Remy that made me feel like it was a lot more organic than a lot of other writers would have done things. Rogue is essentially still 'damaged goods' and she's realised that she needs time alone to properly sort through all of her issues. I liked it. Also, the Shi'ar in this arc almost felt like the cast of Firefly to me, which is always a bonus.
Then we have Xavier's showdown with the Acolytes, and it was such a strong way to end Xavier's journey. He's come full-circle and in a way, I felt it was a very good show of power. It's almost as if he's saying "You wanted someone to follow. You brought me here because you thought I could be the new way for you all. Well, maybe I'm not, but there's still a place for you, if you want to follow me there...". It just felt like a really strong, if a little low-key, way to end the Xavier-centric era.
Suppressing Fire -- Okay, so we jump back into the story with Rogue, Remy and Danger. Firstly, Cyclops' reaction to Rogue's return felt a little like an over-reaction considering his almost complacent acceptance of the return of Gambit, someone who had joined an enemy team and been AWOL for longer than Rogue had been, and oh, yeah, BEEN A FREAKING HORSEMAN OF APOCALYPSE. I also feel his judgement of Rogue having gone AWOL was a little harsh-- the woman had been shot, possessed by billions of minds, used as the method of execution for one of the most powerful villains in the X-Verse, and randomly healed by some baby who is going to grow up to be either a messiah or the destruction of mutant kind. I think some time off wouldn't be an unreasonable thing to have accepted from her, but I think that's my only gripe. Ariel's appearances were fun, and I especially liked the interactions with Rogue and Ms Marvel/Moonstone. Her battle with Ares was a nice touch, and I liked Danger and Gambit's power combos. What I especially liked about this storyline was the way in which Rogue switched so quickly from a brawler, to a guidance counsellor with Trance. Most of the other X-Men would have lost their patience with Hope, or not been able to focus on helping her, choosing Moonstone as the priority at that point, but Carey's characterisation was spot on. This isn't just an X-Man who blindly follows orders, but someone who has actively led a team, and is able to keep her head in a crisis. Having Trance able to take on Moonstone felt a little 'after school special', but it was still a nice touch.
Devil at the Crossroads The Emplate arc... After last arc's outburst, Scott's job offer seems a little out of the blue, but he has a point. Rogue knows it too, she just doesn't want to feel side-lined, and this arc really starts to show exactly what she's capable of with her new found control over her powers. Emplate, as always, is creepy, not as creepy as Sinister, but not too far off. The art really helped with this, as I honestly think that only Acuna or Bachalo could have done this story justice.
Anyway. Not only does it highlight that Rogue has a lot to learn about how her powers work, but again, it showcases that she's more of a dirty fighter than previous writers would have given her credit for. Her showdown with Emplate was well written (although I did feel slightly confused as to how her power, based on skin contact, would work in astral form, but again, new limits etc, so I'll just go with it, I guess), but I think my favourite part of this arc was at the very end, with Rogue telling the other X-Men that it was something Bling! needed to finish for herself-- I'm not entirely sure how many other X-Men could have had that reaction out of her team mates-- I think it would be a small number of them, probably only people like Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma and Storm-- but the point is, and it reinforces Scott's initial point about Rogue's proposed new role, is that people listen to her. Even a throwaway scene like that shows that she commands the respect of the X-Men, no matter how long she's been out of the loop. Her interaction with Indra was a nice touch too, and a lot less heavy-handed than that which I can imagine other writers would have used.
I liked her ending with Cyclops where she accepted the job, mainly because it just felt organic for the characters-- Cyclops has got what he wants from one of his team, and Rogue has a role in which it's just been proven that she's not going to be side-lined or benched-- just because she's working more closely with the kids, doesn't mean that she's not going to be in a whole mess of trouble every other week.
The appearance of Death in Gambit was also a nice touch, and it was good to see that it wasn't something that was going to be forgotten about or explained away.I believe it was also in this arc that there was the short back-up story about Gambit going to destroy the Omega Machine, and again, it was nice to see that through the thoughtless assault of a random telepath, his death persona is easily brought back again. Truly, this is one of the plot lines that I'm most frustrated that Carey won't be able to finish up.
Also, I can't remember where it fits, but I liked the issue with Rogue having the Cuckoos' telepathy, purely because of it showing the growing love triangle between herself, Gambit and Magneto. For those who think it's all out of the blue... well, I'm not getting into that debate here, but I think it feels pretty organic. Indra's new use of his powers was a nice touch, and I liked that Carey showed Rogue sticking up for Surge against Magneto with regards to him 'pushing' her powers.
Earth Give Up Your Dead -- Not going to lie-- this felt slightly anti-climactic after the rest of Necrosha, and I think there could have been a lot more character beats between Psylocke and Husk, or at the very least, some kind of acknowledgement that (however awful a concept it was) that Husk and Angel's relationship had happened. Blindfold was used really well, and I think that the use of Destiny as a 'maybe' relative of hers was a nice touch. Even little touches like "This is how you see your room because you only knew it by touch" was a really insightful thing to include, because I honestly don't know how many other writers would have necessarily used that narrative device. Liked Proteus as a villain, and really enjoyed the fact that Magneto took him on alone and was the one to ultimately defeat him. Again, Carey portrays Rogue as someone who is capable of taking the lead in a crisis situation, and whilst her power uses might not have been the most creative, the 'en guarde, sugah', moment was pretty cool. More than that, though, I liked that this was a really diverse team. I mean, outside of Psylocke, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Rogue, I don't think any of these characters have
really worked together for a prolonged period, so that leaves Magneto, Trance, Blindfold and Husk as relative outsiders on the team... but it worked. Each character felt unique and distinctive, and whilst the emotional beats felt a little more rushed than I would have liked, Carey handled the Rogue/Destiny and Blindfold/Destiny scenes really well. Although again, another plot left dangling in terms of Blindfold's family.
Again, a bit tough as it was a collaborative effort, but seeing that Ariel had been given a little panel time here and there in Legacy only to be killed off made her death more meaningful than it probably would have been otherwise. Again, Cyclops' dig at Rogue seemed a little out of the blue, but as he was grieving for his son, I'll give him a pass... but still. Hard to tell exactly how much of this was Carey's planning and conception over him simply writing the plots that were concocted by the group, so it's hard to make comment on his input on it, other than to say it was probably one of the strongest X-Overs in decades... so props.
Collision -- Okay, so at this point, the device of "I'm going to talk to you this arc, and next arc you get to do something" starts to become a little apparent, with her discussion with Hellion, but it works. The interactions between the students are great, and I like that Rogue won't just take everything that Magneto says at face value. Carey's interactions between the two are really strong, especially the one leading to Rogue punching him in the face. Luz was an interesting character, and the sub-plot with Indra's wedding was nice too, and getting a greater insight into the society spawned by CotV was really intriguing to me. Again, each character was given time to shine, without feeling like others were over-looked (well, maybe Anole a little, but considering this was mostly going to be about Indra, and we still got some nice Loa moments makes me forgive him for that. Anyway, Victor's had a fair bit of spotlight in the past whilst those two are pretty much blank slates still). Again, another plot dangler though, because I'd have loved to see what else Carey would do with the CotV.
Fables of the Reconstruction -- Okay, not ENTIRELY sure where all of Hellion's anger towards Hope came from (well, I do, because I hate her too, but thats not the point, I'd imagine), but I liked his use here. Carey really made it feel like the natural evolution of his character from NXM, and it was well done. My favourite part of this was his conversation with Rogue after his discussion with Cyclops, hands down. I think Carey did a great job of making it feel like Rogue wasn't just angry at him, but massively disappointed too. It kind of felt like an homage to her earlier discussions with Wolverine, when she initially joined the X-Men, or in fact, simply any discussion that Wolverine has with anyone who might need 'putting down' one day, only the implications are far more damaging to someone like Hellion-- without his powers, he would really be screwed with his lack of arms... seeing her as a disciplanarian, which would assumedly go hand in hand with her role anyway... it was a good scene, I felt.
The Rogue/Magneto bits were nicely handled too. They're both characters who've known pain and loss, and I think that it was especially good to see that Magneto was willing to open up to someone about the forces that drove him to become the man he is/was. Carey didn't write Rogue as a sympathetic ear, but as someone who was more empathetic, and I think that's what made these issues work. Magneto would never tolerate an "oh, that's so sad, do you want a hug and a cake" approach, but Rogue's "I can see why this shaped you, but I don't necessarily condone your response" attitude was what he was looking for. In many ways, this was Magneto's idea of a date, and something Rogue needed to see and understand in order to even accept that she has feelings for him.
The pre-AOX issue featuring Blindfold was nicely done too (although I wasn't overly keen on the art). It was interesting to see things from her perspective a little, and felt really foreboding... where does the girl who sees the future think that the potential threats are going to be? Again, nice to see some more exposure of the Gambit/Death thing.
Age of X-- Possible the most devisive plots he's done, but I really liked it. I liked that it was essentially a mini version of his run on Legacy anyway, switching from Reaper/Rogue, to Magneto, to Xavier and Legion over the course of the story, and whilst it DID feel a little cliched in places, it was still probably one of the better alternate dimension storylines that have been published featuring the X-Men. The changes in each character didn't feel like a hammer-blow of obviousness, but more like a 'they're different, here's how, but it's not going to impede the over-all story'. Not only that, but it was a MYSTERY! I loves me a good mystery. It was good to see someone do something with Legion that might actually shake up the character too, rather than "He's back and in lieu of Jean returning, we need a power-house. Oh, we'll give Legion a doohickey and he can be it, then".
The post AOX issue was good too, nice to see how different people reacted, and most interesting for me was Frenzy. She's not the kind of person who would EVER have dreamed of becoming an X-Man, but having a life-time's worth of memories where she wasn't just an angry woman with no real purpose in life, and seeing that SHOCKHORROR, she could be WORTHY of someone caring about her... it was really well handled, I thought, and led very nicely into...
Lost Legions-- Okay, so I just loved this. I loved the backwards story with Revenant, and I loved the different aspects of Legion's personality. I'm not crazy on him being 'Ben 10', but I think that as long as his powers are going to be clearly limited, then I say more power to Carey for trying to make him a viable character. His mind is largely his own, and it seems that most of the traits of his mental illnesses, including his autism, have largely vanished. Again, this is someone who, like Frenzy, have a LOT to live up to if they want to become like their AOX counter-parts (but someone PLEASE give him a hair cut?!). I think it's got to be very difficult to write Legion well, because he's essentially a deus ex machina, and would be a wet dream for a lazy writer.
One line I hated was Xavier's "Rogue and Gambit are incredibly powerful!"... well, Rogue's only as powerful as someone who's powers she can steal and use without being overwhelmed (so, essentially, Legion would kind of be out of the question for her to absorb fully, as we saw in the finale of this story), and Gambit's a good fighter and can blow stuff up, but 'incredibly powerful'? Compared to a woman who can stop a tank with her bare hands and someone who controls the entire magnetic spectrum? While I can see his rationale for not wanting the two of them there, his logic is kind of flawed.
There are a couple of bits that made me feel like raising my hand and asking teacher a question that would get me detention because he didn't know the answer;
1) All those powers, and Legion doesn't have a healer to fix Rogue? Compared to some oddly obscure powers like 'teleporting to a person' or 'being a human voodoo doll'?
2) If Styx had access to Xavier's telepathy, he should have surely known that Legion was Rogue/Chain... after all, Xavier was able to track down Chain 1(a) in an entire city of Chains, so it would have been relatively easy for Styx to do the same? Especially after being able to second guess Legion et al all the way through the arc?
Also, I didn't like how easily it was resolved in the end... "Oh, I have a power that will do exactly what we need it to do..." it felt like SUCH a let down after what was (arguably) one of his strongest arcs.
Five Miles South of the Universe-- I haven't read this yet so I can't really comment. Also I can't turn this bold off for some reason. Oh well.