X-Men #204 Review

Carey’s X-Men continues to be a total and complete miss with The Revolution. The writing seems more suited for a crappy Image comic book from the 1990’s. This title is great if you love mindless action. Other than that, X-Men is all flash and no substance. Maybe Carey can get me engaged with what he is trying to do on this title with X-Men #204. Of course, The Revolution is excited to see that Michael Choi is handling the art duties for X-Men #204 rather than either Bachalo or Ramos. That alone gives me hope for this issue. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Michael Choi

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

Synopsis: We begin with Beast running brain scans on Cannonball to see if there is any permanent damage. Cannonball is still unconscious and Beast may not know what course of treatment is best until Cannonball wakes up. Iceman beats himself up for Cannonball getting hurt on the mission.

Beast then checks in on Blindfold. Blindfold tells Beast that she is feeling better, but that more people are going to get hurt. That Megan, Julian, Nightcrawler and someone else that she can’t quite see are all going to get hurt.

We cut to Scott playing back a conversation between himself, Jean and Cable where Cable thanks them for going into the future and changing his life and giving him a family. That he doesn’t regret for a single moment being their son.

Emma interrupts the moment and tells Scott that he is being beyond obsessive. Scott tells Emma to stay out of his mind if she doesn’t like what he is thinking about. Emma responds that she is too closely attuned to Scott and that his feelings shout too loudly for her to keep him out of her mind.

Scott replies that his son is dead. That he can’t help how he feels, but that Emma should know that no one is better at suffering in silence than Scott. Emma asks Scott why he keeps going over this one scene so much. Scott replies that Cable mentioned how Scott and Jean gave Cable a family. Scott says that the X-Men have always done that for friends and family alike. That is the one thing that defined them. That they always left the door wide open. And that is why Cable died. That they gave too many people too many second chances.

We slide over to Sinister, Mystique and the rest of the Marauders. Mystique comments that Emma couldn’t find Rogue’s consciousness so she brought Rogue to Sinister believing that his resources were greater. Sinister replies that Mystique may have wasted her time saving Rogue. That Rogue’s consciousness is broken into pieces. Mystique reminds Sinister that Rogue is alive because she has the full text of Destiny’s diaries in her mind. Sinister replies that Mystique has read the diaries and that he can scan her mind. Mystique snaps that she wears a psi-shield for a reason and that the two of them agreed to work together, not trust each other.

We cut back to the X-Mansion where Scott is devising the next course of action. Scott reviews that Sinister has been trying to remove anything and anyone who could give them access to knowledge about future timelines and event and alternate timelines. They have contact Bishop for his help and he is on his way. Scott says that he will be talking to everyone individually for a team that will lead a strike against Sinister.

Everyone leaves the room except for Bobby. Iceman confronts Scott that Scott is trying to disband Rogue’s team. Scott points out that Bobby is all that is left of the team. That Scott put Rogue in a role she couldn’t handle. Bobby retorts that Rogue did a good job and so did the team. Bobby says that Scott blames Rogue for what happened to Cable. Scott replies that nobody is being disbanded, sidelined or blamed. That right now the X-Men need every man they have. The only people Scott blames are Sinister and the Marauders. And that they will pay.

We skip over to Gambit sitting by Rogue’s bedside. Gambit talks lovingly to Rogue and mentions how he wants to apologize for leaving her and joining Apocalypse. That Rogue won’t die this way. We see inside of Rogue’s mind where the other eight million alien minds are surrounding Rogue’s memories of her and Gambit.

Suddenly, Rogue wakes up. She tells Gambit that she has this sick dream. Then, Rogue begins to speak some alien language and other gibberish. Rogue then passes out again.

Mystique enters the room. Gambit and Mystique trade insults as Gambit doesn’t trust Mystique since she has tried to kill Rogue. Mystique shoots back that at least she and Gambit now have something in common. Mystique tells Gambit that they have a long way to go and for him to keep an open mind and to pace himself while the pieces fall into place.

We cut to Exodus and Sinister talking. Exodus reminds Sinister that their alliance has limits. That Sinister promised the rebirth of the mutant race. That the future could be reclaimed for their kind. Sinister reminds Exodus that they are waiting for the moment predicted by Destiny’s diaries. They wait for the final moments of the Decimation to tick away and then they act.

We shift to Bobby by Cannonball’s bedside. Cannonball is conscious again and doing much better. Bobby is thrilled that Sam is all right. Bobby apologizes for letting his guard down. Bobby talks about how ashamed he is for letting Mystique use him. And the worst part is that he can’t bring himself to hate her for it.

Suddenly, there is a huge power surge and then all the lights go out. Bobby says that it is probably nothing. Blindfold stands up next to Bobby and Sam. Blood pours from her mouth. She tells them that it is not nothing. It’s everything. End of story.

We get the final installment of the painfully slow and boring Endangered Species story. Beast ends up travelling to Eastern Europe to meet with the Scarlet Witch. Wanda no longer has any memories at all of her previous life as the Scarlet Witch. Wanda and Hank have a rather uninteresting discussion. Wanda ends up leaving to take care of her Aunt.

Hank realizes that there is nothing he can do to undo what Scarlet Witch did. Hank goes back to Neverland and gives all the bodies in the mass graves a proper burial with their own tombstone. Hank buries the dead and gives the past its due. Then Hank leaves and does the only thing he can do which is to go on living. End of issue.

The Good: I’m stunned. For the first time in years, I actually enjoyed an issue of the X-Men. X-Men #204 was a solid read. Carey finally impressed me with a nicely paced and plotted issue. I have been extremely critical of Carey’s work on this title, so it is only fair that I properly praise Carey on an issue where it appears that he actually spent some time and effort constructing the dialogue and performing some character development.

For the first time in his run, Carey doesn’t rely on hyper action fight scenes to completely carry an issue. What a refreshing change of pace! I didn’t think that Carey had it in himself to serve up an issue that was completely carried by strong character work and solid dialogue.

X-Men #204 was obviously a filler issue. Carey had one issue to burn before the monstrous Messiah Complex storyline began. And to his credit, Carey used this one issue to crawl inside of the minds of the various X-Men and examine what is going on inside their souls. And that is what made X-Men #204 by far and away the best issue that Carey has turned in during his run on this title.

The scene between Scott and Emma was fantastic. Carey absolutely hits the nail on the head concerning what is the single theme that most defines the X-Men. That the X-Men have always been about giving characters a family. Whether it is a confused feral berserker plagued by amnesia or a lost young girl who was trying to leave behind a life of crime.

No matter what loser, reject or misfit showed up on the X-Mansion’s doorsteps alone and without any friends or family, the X-Men always gave them a second chance and a family to call their own. That is the magic of the X-Men. And Carey does a cool job flipping the main tenet of the X-Men on its head and showing that perhaps that greatest tenet is the X-Men’s fatal flaw.

Carey also delivered a nice scene between Sinister and Mystique. It is made patently clear to the reader that this is one uneasy alliance that is out of convenience rather than any deep kinship or common goal. Was Carey perhaps planting the seeds for Mystique at some point actually ending up helping the X-Men in this upcoming Messiah Complex story arc?

It is possible. Especially given the short scene between Mystique and Gambit. Carey has Mystique urging Gambit to pace himself and to keep an open mind. There is no doubt that Mystique follows no one other than her own desires. She is not a team player. But, maybe there is a chance that she ends up coming back around to the X-Men’s side during this upcoming conflict.

The scene between Rogue and Gambit was rather touching. Carey manages to tap into the tortured love that exists between these two characters. These star-crossed lovers have such a complex past and if Rogue can ever pull out of her current situation, then these two characters have a lot of issues to work through in order to rekindle their relationship.

My favorite scene was the one between Bobby and Scott. Cyclops comes across as the consummate leader and a total bad-ass. I find Cyclops to be a character that is largely mishandled by most writers. Scott usually comes across as either a nerdy dork with a stick up his ass or Wolverine’s bitch.

Personally, I have always viewed Cyclops as the X-Men’s version of Captain America. Scott has one of those strong unflappable personalities and a cool head that always prevails while under fire or in stressful situations. This is why Scott is the best leader the X-Men have ever had.

Carey actually gives us a great version of Scott. Cyclops comes across tough as nails with Bobby and doesn’t back down an inch. Scott listens to what Bobby has to say, but at the same time firmly lets Bobby know that Scott is in charge and now is not the time for in-fighting or pouting. And then Carey gives us a glimpse into the aggressive side of Scott that he usually keeps under tight wraps when Scott threatens to make the villains pay for what they have done.

The scene with Exodus and Sinister was interesting. Carey teases the reader with the fact that our conglomeration of villains are waiting for the final moments of Decimation to pass and then they will act. This little teaser scene gets me excited for the upcoming Messiah Complex story arc. I’m glad that Marvel is finally properly addressing the fall out of the House of M.

The ending of this issue was rather cryptic with Blindfold standing there with blood dripping from her mouth ominously saying that everything is going wrong. That is a creepy and foreboding beginning to the Messiah Complex.

The artwork in X-Men #204 was flat out gorgeous. Michael Choi’s artwork is just incredible. This was a beautiful looking issue. I stared at the panels just enjoying all the little details. Choi’s artwork is so textured and deep. He has an incredible attention to detail. The scene between Scott and Bobby is a great example of this. That is the best looking scene in the issue.

Man, I forgot what it was like to get quality artwork on the title. And it is amazing how much more the reader enjoys the issue when they can actually figure out what in the hell is going on. I wish Choi would become the permanent artist for X-Men.

The Bad: Carey still struggles a bit with cranking out quality dialogue from start to finish. There are a couple of times when the dialogue comes across a bit cheesy and stiff.

The back-up story was plodding, dull and boring. I would go more in depth, but I just don’t care enough about this back-up story to do so. I’m just glad that I will no longer have these page wasting Endangered Species back-sup stories eating up precious panel time from the regular stories in titles like Uncanny X-Men and X-Factor.

Overall: X-Men #204 was Carey’s best issue so far during his run on this title. Yeah, this issue was a time waster until the beginning of the Messiah Complex story. But, at least Carey took this extra time he had on his hands and pulled off some quality character work and his strongest dialogue I have read up to this point. It sure would be nice if Carey could turn out writing of this quality with a bit more regularity. And I definitely would love it if we never saw Bachalo or Ramos on X-Men ever again.

2 thoughts on “X-Men #204 Review

  1. I agree this was his best issue, although I never found the series as bad as you did; it’s basically been the Grant Morrison JLA: non-stop action with some clever dialogue/characterization hinted at around the edges. It’s sort of a coda to the whole history of Rogue’s team (which, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist anymore; the cast of Astonishing X-Men has basically marched in and taken over the title). The previous issues have all had moments where you could see Carey’s interest in the characters and their interaction, but it never slowed down long enough to amount to much.

    In terms of art, Ramos is drawing the three New X-Men issues of the crossover, and then leaves the X-titles to go draw Runaways in 2008; Bachalo is drawing the crossover issues of this title, and also has a three-issue arc on The Amazing Spider-Man, after which his future is unclear (but then, it’s almost a given now that the line reshuffle post-MC is going to claim this book, so it may not matter).

    Despite being recruited into the X-fandom by the 90s animated series (so, so awesome), where Gambit was a significant character, I must profess my undying hatred for him.

    As for “Endangered Species,” now finished (which didn’t actually take any page space from the issues it was in; they were added for free; it’s basically a really big house ad), the main point seems to have been the drum up interest in the Decimation itself, which the X-books largely ignored for the first two years (having no idea what to do with it), and make it seem like people actually care.

  2. Carey’s not as inventive as Morrison was, by a long shot, I just see a similarity in how they approach their stories (“Okay, we’ve defeated the villain…hey, look, there’s another villain.”).

    As for ES, it raised sales on X-Factor and New X-Men by about 15,000 readers each, probably giving both a decent assist on longevity, so I give it a pass.

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