New Comics on Pause: X-Men Week Edition – SCHISM Review
X-Men: Schism (2011)
Writer: Jason Aaron
Pencilers (in collected order): Carlos Pacino, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuña, Alan Davis, Adam Kubert
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Various Colorists and Inkers
Also includes the X-Men: Regenesis one-shot written by Kieron Gillen with art by Billy Tan.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Read Schism on comiXology
It’s X-Men week here at Outright Geekery. We’re teaming up with our friends at CBI to celebrate Marvel Comic’s famous team of Mutants. Outside of the names of the characters and a few minor details about those characters, I don’t know much about X-Men comics. There are two things I do know for sure though. First, because of the decades of history and multitude of interconnected titles, it’s intimidating trying to find a single title to review, especially during a worldwide pandemic. Second, although they face off against villains, most of the drama in X-series comes from conflict between the team members and/or the other Marvel heroes. So with these things in mind, I took to Hoopla in search of an X-Men mini-series I could review. When I stumbled upon this X-Men: Schism, it seemed a perfect fit. I mean, it started a new era in the X-Men’s history and Schism is right in the title!
Even though this is a jumping on point, there’s still a lot mentioned in the first issue that isn’t fully explained. According to Wikipedia, before the events of this mini-series, all but about 200 Mutants have been stripped of their powers. The remaining Mutants live on an island called Utopia. New people who possess the X-Gene are being born, and even though their numbers are limited, the Mutants are still feared and mistrusted by the rest of humanity. By the end of the issues collected in this trade paperback, the Mutants will find themselves split between two ideologies. Those who want to to militarize their society in order to ensure the survival of their species; and those who want to continue Professor Xavier’s goal of teaching Mutants the skills they’ll need to lead normal lives.
This comic has a very serious tone. Early on, it’s mostly talking, and a lot the action sequences are kept short. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in general, but as an X-Men newbie, I don’t really have an existing emotional connection to most of the characters. Writer Jason Aaron focuses on exposition in order to move the story from the previous events toward the new story lines, so there isn’t much character development. What little character development exists, is rather touching but feels rushed. There are also insertions of what is meant to be humorous dialogue. Unfortunately most of it failed to resonate as funny to me. Instead of breaking up the tension, it distracted me from the wordy narrative.
Halfway through the book I was ready to make the theme of this review “No wonder I don’t read a lot of Marvel’s comics.” Then I got to issue four, which is a total departure from the tone of the first half of the book. Two of the main characters get into a heated argument as the real threat literally looms over them. The argument quickly escalates into an all out brawl between Wolverine and Cyclops as a new breed of giant Sentinel looks on. Eventually, not only are the two X-Men fighting each other, but they’re also dodging the Sentinel’s attacks. Aaron does a great job of building up both tension and suspense, making the climax of the fight incredibly thrilling. I was figuratively on the edge of my seat as I turned the pages, racing to see which character would come out on top.
Even though I have some complaints about the writing, there were a few design and plot details I really enjoyed. I smirked at the nods to Stan Lee’s classic alliteration when I came upon characters named Quentin Quire and Kade Kilgore. I also love that the mini-series’ “Big Bad” is a kid, and so are his main cohorts. It was amazing to see a group of children brokering a billion dollar deal with a group of aliens. Though I have to say, the aliens’ design looked like a rip off of the Mangalores from The Fifth Element. Maybe these similar details were unintentional, but it made the aliens come off as unoriginal. I thought to myself, “surely these professional comic book artists can do better?” By the end of the book, I’d have the answer to that query.
My question would be answered by the character designs of the X-Men. Wolverine is drawn like a walking refrigerator. He reminded me of Frank Miller’s Batman in the Dark Knight series. Just a walking brick wall of anger and punching. Meanwhile, this body exaggeration extends to the busts of the female characters, and their costumes are drawn to show as much cleavage as possible. Now I’m no comic book noob, I know this happens all the time in comics. But this mini series came out in 2011 not the 80s or 90s. Considering the seriousness of the plot and the tense nature of the story, the designs of the female characters just look ridiculous. The women of the X-Men almost always have cooler powers and more depth than the men, it wasn’t necessary to also make them sex objects.
I do have to pay one compliment to the various art teams who worked on this series though. Considering each issue is drawn by a different artist, there is a surprising amount of visual cohesion from one chapter to the next. Though the close ups are a give away that the issue is being drawn by a different artist, it’s not distracting and the reader’s eye quickly adjusts. Use of the same color palette by all the colorists helped bring unity to the visuals as well. I also like that the letterer color-coded the captions. This allowed me to instantly recognize which of the main characters was providing narration in any given scene.
If you want to join in our week long celebration of Homo Superior, or even just catch up on modern X-Men comics, X-Men: Schism is a good jumping on point. I would recommend Googling the “House of M” and “Messiah Complex” story lines, though this isn’t strictly necessary. Despite its flaws, this mini-series really does set up an exciting new era for the X-Men. The story might not be the highest caliber, nor the art of the most tasteful quality, but both of these aspects have their high points throughout the book. Even with my complaints, by the time I finished X-Men: Schism, I found myself interested in continuing on to the next chapter of the ongoing story.