The first storyline on “X-Men,” was ultimately not bad, but not quite delivering enough bang for your buck over the course of six issues. With the new storyline, “To Serve and Protect,” I’d hoped that with just four issues we’d end up with a more concise and energetic storyline. But alas, once again, that’s not the case.
At its core, “X-Men” #10 isn’t a bad comic, but it doesn’t jump out and get you excited either. Its greatest strength is in Victor Gischler’s back-and-forth between Emma Frost and Spider-Man. It’s a little predictable in places (who didn’t see comments about Emma’s cleavage-baring outfits coming?) but it’s an entertaining distraction from the overall lack of plot. That one can best be described as escape, fight, return (so nice to go full circle), and then pulling Chekov’s proverbial gun off of the wall. After all, when the comic stops the main action to have a page devoted to the Dark Beast telling the Lizard, “No, I won’t release you because gosh, you’d probably attack me” it’s easy to figure out exactly how this comic will end.
But even without that blatant signpost, it’s just hard to feel like there’s much story here. It’s a large run-around, and the ending was ultimately unsatisfying. The X-Men are suddenly heroes again because they saved some children in New York? Never mind that every time they stop villains in San Francisco, people are being saved, this is suddenly supposed to be some great tipping point. It feels like a half-formed idea that needed another draft to cut out some of the padding, and use that extra space to build up its points a little stronger.
Chris Bachalo pencils one final issue, or at least most of it. Regular artist Paco Medina steps in for a few pages, and while one of the members of the inking army (all five of them) tries to make Medina’s pencils look a little more like Bachalo’s, it’s hard to ignore that this is a comic that suddenly jumps styles at its conclusion. Bachalo’s art is as funky and crazy as ever, though. I love his exaggerated expressions coupled with heavily detailed backgrounds, or scale patterns, or bizarre machinery. The comic may lack a certain sense of zip, but it sure looks impressive. And ultimately, there’s something immensely creepy about Bachalo’s rendition of the Lizard, a character who normally looks ludicrous, so for that alone it’s a victory.
“X-Men” is a title that I want to like, but at a dollar more per issue, plus sluggish plots, it’s burning off a lot of good will rather quickly. I think there’s still a place for this comic, but it needs a little more fine tuning to hit the spot.