Comic Book Review: X-Factor #26: Messiah Complex

Messiah Complex continues to impress me with each and every issue. Marvel has really hit a home run with this monster story arc. X-Factor is normally an excellent read and given that this is a Messiah Complex issue, I’m positive that we are in store for an entertaining read. Let’s not waste any more time and go on and hit this review for X-Factor #26.

Creative Team
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Scott Eaton

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We begin with Professor X confronting Scott over his decision to unleash X-Force on Cable. Charles thinks it is a stupid idea and that Scott is panicking by sending killers after his own son. Scott tells Charles that he needs to let Scott do what he was trained to do. Xavier responds that in a time of crisis like this two heads are better than one. Scott replies that two heads go in two directions and that they can’t afford that right now.

Xavier says he understands and promises to back off. Scott replies that Xavier knows that won’t happen. That they will continue to have confrontations like this and that Scott can’t have any distractions. Xavier is stunned and can’t believe what Scott is hinting at. Scott says that Xavier trained him. That he has to let Scott do his job.

We cut to somewhere in Canada where Lady Deathstrike and her Reavers appear in front of Cable and the baby. Lady Deathstrike says that Cable is going to die.

We then shift to a mutant named Peepers frantically driving his car on a wooded road. Peepers calls X-Factor for help. Siryn answers the phone and says that she will help him. Peepers says he is being followed and gives Siryn his location. Suddenly, Predator X busts into Peepers’ car and kills him.

We zip forward to 80 years into the future. Two soldiers come across Layla lying on the ground unconscious. Their scanner show that she is not a mutant. Suddenly, her readings spike and it reads that she is a mutant. Jamie then springs out of hiding and takes out the two soldiers.

We shift back to the present where X-Force is back in Cooperstown, Alaska. Warpath punches out a cop and takes his walkie-talkie. Wolverine is pissed that he took out a cop when Wolverine told them to be sneaky and not draw any attention. Warpath gives Wolverine the radio and says that he thought the police radio would help them listen in on the cops and lessen the chance of having to fight their way out of the town.

Wolverine splits the team up. Wolvie with his copycat character, X-23, Caliban with Hepzibah and Rahne with Warpath. Warpath mentions that he would rather be with Hepzibah. Wolverine snaps that Warpath will do what he orders. Wolverine then tells Rahne to keep an eye on Warpath. That they can’t have Warpath hesitating when the comment comes. That Logan has to know if Warpath is going to falter at the finish line.

Rahne and Warpath walk off together. Warpath says that he knows Logan doesn’t trust him. That Warpath has a history with Cable. That Cable is his mentor and his friend. But, the baby is the hope of their species. That the mission always comes first. Warpath just wishes that there was a way to save the baby and save Cable.

We cut back to Cable brawling with Lady Deathstrike and her Reavers. We then zip to the future where Jamie is questioning one of the captured soldiers. Jamie wants to know who was responsible for the mutant camps. The soldier comments that the government monitors all communications written and spoken. If anyone mentions mutants that the government shuts them down and deleted the references. The soldier says that a mutant is to blame for the camps. That mutants brought it on themselves.

We hop to the present where Siryn arrives at Peepers car and finds his bloody remains. We then cut to Rahne and Warpath hearing gunshots. They run to the source of the gunshots and see Hepzibah and Caliban standing over a bunch of unconscious police officers. Wolverine and Wolverine-ette appear on the scene. Caliban says that the good news is whatever was preventing him from sensing the baby and Cable is gone, bad news is that it made Caliban scream and now the police know they are here. X-Force decide to get out of town immediately. On their way out, Rahne tells Wolverine that he doesn’t need to worry about Warpath.

We shift to Xavier walking away from Scott. He walks past a broken picture of the members of the first X-Force. We then cut to Cable losing his fight against Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers.

We then zip to the future where Jamie is stunned that a mutant is responsible for the camps. Suddenly, the military appears on the scene. The solider reminds Jamie that even mentioning the word “mutant” will alert the government. The military then arrests Jamie. Layla then tells them to arrest her to. That she is Jamie’s accomplice. Jamie tells Layla that it was dumb for her to ask to be arrested too. Layla responds that it seemed like a good idea at the time. End of issue.

The Good: X-Factor #26 was another excellent read. David delivers a well plotted and paced issue. David employs some of the best scene transitions in the business. The reader gets treated to a nice balance of action and drama in this issue. It is impressive how tightly plotted Messiah Complex has been. The writers had a clear vision for what they wanted to accomplish and have taken the time and effort to make sure this story arc is finely constructed.

David doles out his usual strong dialogue. X-Factor’s greatest strength is the dialogue and this issue is no exception. David’s dialogue has a nice natural flow to it. David is also able to generate plenty of quality chemistry between the various characters that gives the story an enjoyably realistic feel to it.

Of course, David shows off his range by also giving the reader plenty of quality action with the big brawl between Lady Deathstrike and Cable as well as the scene with Mutant X eating Peepers. David is never going to deliver a huge mindless smashfest, but he gives us just enough action in X-Factor #26 to keep the pacing lively and to create some excitement in the reader.

David wisely nurtures the Jamie/Layla plotline. This is the only plotline in Messiah Complex that has been somewhat neglected so far. Well, David certainly remedies that as our heroes make a startling discovery and land themselves in custody. We learn that it is a mutant who is responsible for all the mutant camps that exist in the future.

This revelation leaves the reader to wonder if a mutant turned traitor and purposely sold out his own people, of if a mutant did something so terrible that the rest of society felt that there was no other alternative but to place mutants into internment camps. Either way, my curiosity in this plotline has been piqued.

However, the best part about the Jamie/Layla plotline is the stunning revelation that Layla has the ability to become either a human or a mutant. That this is her mutant ability. What a shocker. Layla is an incredibly mysterious character. We don’t know much about her or her powers. This little discovery in this issue only makes me hungry for more answers about Layla and her strange powers.

It was cool to see X-Force in action. I dig the distrust that Wolverine has with regard to Warpath and his ability to finish the mission. Messiah Complex has done a great job making the reader unsure of what is about to happen next. The writers have done a good job planting the seeds of mistrust between the various X-Men. We have Cable turning traitor. We have Warpath’s loyalties in question. We have the drastically differing opinions between Scott and Xavier. All of this tension and betrayal is part of what makes Messiah Complex such an intense read.

David does a fine job handling Warpath’s character in this issue. Warpath is easily one of my favorite characters. But, his character is often badly mishandled. Warpath is either a one dimensional Native America stereotype or he comes off as a simple and dumb brawler. David manages to show the depth to Warpath’s character and give him some complexity to his personality.

Warpath is placed in an extremely uncomfortable position in Messiah Complex. On one hand he has a duty to his species to gain possession of the baby by any means necessary. Yet, on the other hand, Warpath has his sense of loyalty and love for Cable that compels him to want to save Cable. This is a great source of tension and it should be interesting to see how this plays out.

David almost always has a running theme to his issues. The reoccurring theme for X-Factor #26 is the one of father/son relationships and their complexities. You have the father/son relationships between Xavier and Scott, Scott and Cable, and Cable and Warpath. And all of these relationship involve the son attacking the father in some form or fashion. The final scene with Scott and Xavier with the broken picture of X-Force with Cable and Warpath in it was a perfect touch to tie all these men together.

Messiah Complex has done an incredible job further evolving the complex and delicate relationship between Scott and Xavier. I loved the scenes between Scott and Xavier. This was a pivotal moment in their relationship as Scott lays it out bluntly with Xavier and pulls no punches. The harsh reality is that Xavier doesn’t need to just keep his mouth shut, that he needs to go away and completely cede his control of the X-Men over to Scott and let Scott do his job that he was trained for all these years.

And with this issue, the King is dead, long live the King. Scott plays the role as the young prince and Xavier is the aged king. Scott is finally coming into his own and he forces his “father” off the throne and takes Xavier’s crown. It is a harsh reality when an old patriarch has to come to grips with the fact that the day has finally come where the boy he has trained to rule has to take over. It is one thing to understand the concept and another to actually have to step aside and let it occur.

This is a fascinating stage in the relationship between Xavier and Scott. And I love watching Scott’s character blossom into such an intriguing personality. I’m impressed how the writers have taken one of the blandest X-Men and evolved him into such a complex and intriguing character. Scott is certainly no longer a vanilla character. Scott has a strong, tough and confident aura that all excellent leaders should possess.

David ends X-Factor #26 with a nice hook ending. We have Jamie and Layla both getting arrested and carted off to one of the mutant camps. And we have Cable facing defeat at the hands of Lady Deathstrike and her Reavers. I’m certainly looking forward to the next installment of Messiah Complex.

Scott Eaton supplies X-Factor #26 with plenty of solid artwork. Eaton’s muted, earth toned and dark style of art is an excellent match for the mood on X-Factor.

The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.

Overall: X-Factor #26 was another excellent chapter of the Messiah Complex story arc. If you haven’t given this story a try then you really should. This is the best X-Men story that I have read in a very long time. If nothing else, you should certainly pick up this story arc when it is released as a trade paperback.

2 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: X-Factor #26: Messiah Complex

  1. Cable seems never to have heard of “shaken baby syndrome”, given that he’s toting the day-or-two-old tot around in a snugli on his chest.

    I’m still not sure exactly what to make of the writers’ intent with the Xavier/Cyclops dynamic here, apart from that Cyclops is calling the shots. I mean, Xavier’s central point, that it’s an overreaction to send X-Force to kill Cable, is probably correct, and Cyclops’ conception that no one must question his orders likewise seems a bit problematic to me.

    It’s fun to see Wolverine, the prototypical “loose cannon on a team”, trying to manage a team with composed of other loose cannons.

  2. “Cable seems never to have heard of “shaken baby syndrome”, given that he’s toting the day-or-two-old tot around in a snugli on his chest.”

    “Heck, my parents shook me all the time and I never got drain bamage…”

    “Layla has the ability to become either a human or a mutant. That this is her mutant ability.”

    I’m not sure if this is her ability per say. I’m not sure what to make of it, especially sense David mentioned in another issue that before M day, Layla was a red skinned horned mutant or something.

    I like the whole Soctt/Xaiver dynamic too, the probelm is that the whole scene already got played out almost exactly the same way back in Deadly Gensis. Scott calls out the Professor and basically kicks him out.

    I think though, that overall the Messiah Complex arc shows what a big comic event should be. It’s compelling to ready on it’s own, and not just because some C lister is going to get killed off on every page for shock value. (ok Peepers died, but really he was like in two issues ever) Also, it seems like the goal is to tell a good story, not to have an event to milk money from readers ala World War Hulk, or as an excuse to change everything around, ala one more day, House of M and Civil War.

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