The Revolution still hasn’t warmed up to Mike Carey’s X-Men. This title isn’t bad. Its problem is that it is decidedly average. Carey is doing a journeyman’s job on this title, but that isn’t enough for one of Marvel’s flagship titles. This is one of Marvel’s titles that has to be a better than average read. Can Carey finally get me interested on this title with X-Men #197? Maybe. Let’s do this review.
Writer: Mike Carey
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inker: Tim Townsend
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with The X-Men arriving at Cable’s Island Haven of Providence in the Pacific Ocean. Cable instructs a medical team waiting for their arrival and that Rogue has been infected with a virus called Strain 88. Cable tells the rest of the X-Men to be as non-threatening as they can while here in Providence or else they will run into trouble. Lady Mastermind retorts if Cable is the Chief of Police. Cable tough guy talks her by saying he is also the judge, the jury and executioner.
Evidently, Providence is Cable’s model for a perfect democracy. Lady Mastermind decides to go find a shrink to help her with a problem she is having. Mystique and Iceman go to stay by Rogue’s bedside.
We cut to The Conquistador stationed above Providence where Sentinel and Cannonball are dealing with Sabertooth. Sabertooth is in a special containment unit. Sabertooth swears that when his healing factor deals with the little robots she shot him full of that he is going to gut the X-Men. Sentinel tells Cannonball that they need a way of dealing with Sabertooth permanently. Sentinel says that since Cable is the ultimate authority on Providence that Cable could make an executive decision and nobody else’s laws would apply.
We cut to Iceman and Mystique at Rogue’s bedside. Iceman tells Mystique that he doesn’t trust her. That Mystique is one of the most ruthless people he has ever met. That Mystique has tried to kill Rogue herself.
Mystique tells Iceman that he is right. That she is a dangerous person. Mystique then gets up close to Iceman and places her hand on him while explaining that her love for Rogue does make Mystique a paradox. Just like how Iceman is so cold to the touch, but houses such a fire inside of him.
We shift to Lady Mastermind enlisting the services of a hypnotherapist. The hypnotherapist hooks Lady Mastermind up to a machine to help place her in hypnosis. Lady Mastermind tells the therapist that she will project what she sees. So once she is in a trance, the therapist will se what she sees.
The therapist puts Lady Mastermind under hypnosis. Suddenly, both of them are in a land full of purple and pink crystals. There is a giant brick wall in front of them. This is where the parasite is hiding. Lady Mastermind blasts down the wall. Lady Mastermind is then attacked by the parasite. The parasite takes over Lady Mastermind’s body. We then get a one page shot of crackling energy around the Earth.
We cut to Cable in a giant meeting room in his office. Cable tells his assistant that he has been enjoying fighting powerful enemies once again. But, it could potentially be distracting from his longer-term goals. Suddenly, the alarm goes off in his office. Lady Mastermind is on a rampage.
We shift to Lady Mastermind controlled by the parasite demolishing everything in her path. Iceman and Mystique try and stop her. The parasite then decides that Mystique’s body is better to control and hops from Lady Mastermind and into Mystique’s body.
Cable shows up and asks for the parasite’s name. The parasite says that it is Ev Teel Urizen. That it is the proscribed, the anathema, the womb-weld. That the parasite is Mummudrai. Cable then blasts the parasite controlled Mystique. The parasite controlled Mystique then dismantles Cable’s gun. The parasite says that it did not come to fight. The parasite then says “Show, watch, listen.” We then get a one page splash shot of a bunch of random stuff that I’m not going to bother to describe just look at the pic.
The parasite then says the X-Men must know the pain, the journey, the seeking. That the parasite is looking for the Nest. That it smelled strong thoughts from strong thinkers from across the dark. That it smelled like the parasite. Cable asks why the parasite followed a psychic trail from the X-Men‘s telepaths all the way to the X-Mansion. The parasite responds that the strong thinkers must help it. Must keep it safe. Because the Hecatomb is coming to eat the world. We see the massive lightning storm crashing around Providence. End of issue.
The Good: X-Men #197 was a boring read. However, The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity must be followed. So, what did I enjoy about this issue? Hmm, good question. Well, we got some action and that always livens up even the most generic of reads.
I have to say that I’m starting to dig how Carey is handling Mystique’s characters. As a matter of fact, Mystique is the only character on this title that Carey has succeeding in creating anything that would be confused with an interesting and unique personality. Mystique keeps getting more and more intriguing with each issue.
And what is the deal with Mystique getting all close and personal with Iceman? Does Mystique have her eyes set on our resident snow man? This is actually pretty juicy. I think a little affair between Iceman and Mystique would prove to be rather wild. You would never imagine these two characters getting it on, but you never know. Sometimes total opposites attract.
The Bad: X-Men #197 was simply a dull read. Carey has failed to do much of anything on this title to get me excited about his run on X-Men. Once again, Carey shows his limitations. Carey is a journeyman writer who can put together a dependable read and do all the basics that are necessary to create a professional comic book. And if this wasn’t a big name title like X-Men then I probably wouldn’t complain so much.
Carey’s Ultimate Fantastic Four isn’t anything special to read, but it is serviceable. And Ultimate Fantastic Four isn’t one of Marvel’s flagship titles, so serviceable on a lower tier comic book like Ultimate Fantastic Four isn’t such a big deal.
I mean, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to run out and purchase Carey’s Ultimate Fantastic Four, but it isn’t’ so below average that I would stop collecting it myself. It is popcorn for the brain. Well, that doesn’t cut it on a big name title like X-Men. And that additional fact is that Carey has done a better job with Ultimate Fantastic Four than he has done on X-Men.
Carey continues to crank out rather ordinary reads each and every month. I don’t find anything at all to get excited about on X-Men. I could care less about the Sabertooth plotline. It bores me to tears. First, I’m just not a huge Sabertooth fan. I feel that he has been overused and I’m a bit sick of seeing him. Second, if I have to read about Sabertooth then I much prefer a villainous Sabertooth fighting the X-Men. Having Sabertooth a part of the X-Men no matter how unwilling or tenuous just doesn’t appeal to me on any level.
If anything it is just annoying me in the fact that if Sabertooth is such a massive threat to life and property then they should just lobotomize him, jail him or kill him. Take your pick of any of the three. But, carrying him around like a portable weapon of mass destruction to be used when the need arises is uninteresting.
We have already seen the villains used as a weapon for good theme already in Suicide Squad and Thunderbolts. And quite frankly, not only has it been done before, but done much better than what we are getting on this title with the Sabertooth plotline.
I have absolutely zero interest at all in this parasite from space plotline. In fact, it bored me to tears in this issue. Carey presents a poorly structured and plotted plotline. I found the parasite plotline not only uninteresting, but also unnecessarily confusing.
Now, there is good confusing and bad confusing. Good confusing is when you clearly understand what is going on but you just can’t figure out what it all means. Bad confusing is when you can’t figure what is ever going on let alone what it is supposed to mean.
For example, I love David Lynch. David Lynch movies are terribly confusing, but you always know what is happening. You just don’t know what it all means or stands for. But, David Lynch is talented and can properly deliver a cryptic and confusing story. Carey doesn’t properly deliver a cryptic story. This parasite plotline is poorly constructed and poorly delivered. It comes across disjointed and un-artfully presented.
Plus, this parasite plotline had some wretchedly boring dialogue. I think all of the parasite’s dialogue could have easily been replaced by “Blah, blah, blah” and it actually might have been more interesting. I felt like one of the kids on Charlie Brown where the adults always talk with that horn sounding “Mmwaah, mmwahh, mmwaaah” sound instead of actual words. That is what Carey was doing to me every time the parasite started talking.
Part of that is because I hate that generic random jibber jabber that writers use when constructing some mystical and deep space entity. All the fifty different names and descriptions that the parasite gave itself were just way too much. It doesn’t sound detailed or developed. It doesn’t make me think Carey possesses a vision for a detailed and unique imaginary world like J.R.R. Tolkein had. It just makes me think that Carey was taking huge bong hits while writing this dialogue. Seriously, the parasite talked like some of my fraternity brothers after about twenty bong hits.
Now, loyal Revolutionary Ilan has informed me that the parasite saying that it is a Mummudrai ties into the entire Cassandra Nova storyline from a while back. I confess total ignorance to this storyline since I took a break from reading Uncanny X-Men and X-Men from 1998-2005. I just couldn’t stomach the lack of quality reads. I still bought the issues, I just bypassed reading them and filed them in a long box.
Having said that, any plotline that deals with Cassandra Nova and the Shi’ar most definately isn’t going to get my interest in any shape or form.
All in all, Carey continues to make me believe that he has the perfect writing talents for one of those cheesy Sci Fi Channel original shows. That is exactly what I am reminded of each time I read the latest issue of X-Men.
Carey has also failed to perform any character development aside from the little bit that we have gotten on Mystique. Carey’s X-Men is the antithesis of David’s X-Factor in this respect. The characters are all as one-dimensional as possible. Everyone is a tough guy and engages in plenty of tough guy talk. Nobody has their own unique external voice. Everyone reads the same. The generic sounding dialogue doesn’t help matters any either.
Chris Bachalo’s art is just a hot mess. I know many people love Bachalo’s style of art. I am most certainly not one of those people. Bachalo appears to have gone to the Rob Liefeld school of art since it appears Bachalo is completely incapable of drawing hands or feet. And everyone has the same facial features.
And I’m not too sure that the reason that this issue is a confusing and disjointed read is all Carey’s fault. It could be that Bachalo’s art is what makes this story such a pain to try and follow. Sometimes, I can barely decipher what the hell is going on in some of Bachalo’s panels.
Also, I know that Bachalo was trying to be artsy and innovative with how he drew the parasite when it possessed people. But, it didn’t work for me. It looked a first grader with crayons attacked my comic book before I purchased it. Plus, it made the fight scene that much more of a chaotic mess.
Bachalo’s art is like Humberto Ramos’ art in that I just don’t think it is best suited for a title like the X-Men. Like Ramos, I think Bachalo would do better drawing art for a fantasy themed comic book or an American manga-styled comic book. Actually, the more I think about it the more I’m convinced that Bachalo’s art is much more suited for fantasy based themes than super hero based themes. After all, Bachalo already draws Sabertooth like some ogre and Iceman like an elf.
Overall: X-Men #197 was a below average read. I found this story to be dull and disjointed. Carey continues to fail to pull off any character development or well crafted dialogue. Bachalo’s artwork is a complete miss with me. Together that doesn’t add up to a comic book that I find particularly impressive. I’d recommend X-Men only if you are a huge X-Men junkie or if you are particularly fond of Carey or Bachalo.