A few years back, around the time “Messiah CompleX” was hitting its stride, my LCS owner, Robert, asked me why I thought X-Men crossovers sold so consistently. No other line of books could get the fans so excited over a crossover, but X-fans, even lapsed X-fans, showed up in droves if the books were tying together.
I’ve given it a lot of thought since then, and I still don’t have an answer that satisfies me. But I have spent a lot of time pondering what made past X-Men crossovers work or fall apart. And, of course, because ranking the things we love in the order we love them is imprinted in a geek’s DNA, I ended up making a list of the best. Today we’ll be looking at the crossover that inspired these rankings – and the best x-over produced this century.
Story crosses through: Uncanny, X-Men, X-Force, New X-Men
Synopsis: The first mutant birth in the wake of the Decimation story-arc causes the destruction of an Alaskan city and sparks a war between the X-Men, the Purifiers, and Sinister's Marauders.
The X-Men finally get proactive again. Ever since House of M, the mutant books moped along, whining about the mythical 198 and trying to stay out of everyone's way. Messiah CompleX changes that: Cyclops starts acting like a field leader again, breaking his team into separate units to deal with a multi-angled problem. We also get several opposing forces focused on the same goal (in this case, control of the baby), which means the inevitable x-over brawls have actual weight and consequence. It also leads to Cyclops making strategic and unorthodox decisions, and sanctioning what I would deem one of the coolest ideas to come from any of these events: The All-New, All-Different X-FORCE.
Do the X-Men need a clandestine wet-works team that operates outside their general areas and without their knowledge? Pretty clearly not, since that angle had pretty much been abandoned at this point, but it sure seems like a good idea. And I love that the whole conversation between Logan and Scott gives the impression that this plan has been in the works for a while; all it took was the right extreme event to occur for Scott to sign off on it. While I don't think the actual X-Force title lived up to the concept, I do think the concept is sound, and I approve of how it's introduced here.
And there’s some genuinely fantastic art to boot. After an energetic prologue by Marc Silvestri, we get both Humberto Ramos and Chris Bachalo, whose uniquely dynamic styles give the action scenes a tense fluidity. Add to that the strong, capable storytelling of Scott Eaton and, well, the incomprehensibly popular pencils of Billy Tan, and you get one of the most consistently good looking x-overs in recent memory.
Spoilers follow, again, for those who care, but… Bishop turning traitor is just a touch plot-hammery, am I right? That's the problem with writing time-travel characters - you'd think Bishop might have said something to the tune of, "Hey, come November most of the world's mutants will be de-powered. Thought ya'll might want to get a jump on that, 'cause it's gonna be a bitch to work out." But no - instead he turns into a homicidal maniac after one glance at the new kid because he knows that she's the cause of his dystopian future. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, and throws away literally years of character work in the process. But the book needed a heel turn, and from a standalone plot perspective, it works for the story.
Unfortunately, the ending is ambiguous as hell. I swear, Cyclops' final dialogue could just have easily read, "Huh. Professor Xavier, whom I earlier dressed down and have since disowned as a mentor, was shot in the face, then immediately disappeared. Let's disband." The final scene just lacks any kind of emotional resonance, not to mention common sense – it’s like the whole creative team was so anxious to head into Divided We Stand that they couldn’t be arsed for a real denouement. Thankfully, the after effects of this incident are dealt with pretty immediately in X-Men Legacy. But as it stands, the ending is startlingly abrupt.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Even with the concerns I mentioned, this one’s a great read. Minus a couple of bumps and bruises to the plot, it's a solid, dramatic story that’s definitely worth your time.