When reading the first six-part story of this new “X-Men” title, I remember being worried around the two-thirds mark that it felt like a story that didn’t have six parts worth of material. And so, around that point, it began to drag.
Unfortunately, that moment of dragging has shown up in part 2 of the new “X-Men” storyline “To Serve and Protect,” and that’s worrisome.
Having placed some members of the X-Men back in their old stomping grounds of New York City, Victor Gischler doesn’t seem to have much for the characters to do. So we get some snappy lines from Wolverine and the White Queen, while Gambit and Storm are seemingly just tagging along for the heck of it. And meanwhile, teenagers play MMOs with one another, get disenfranchised, and attack their friends.
The problem is that this isn’t an issue’s worth of material, it’s maybe half of that. And so Gischler and penciler Chris Bachalo vamp for time. Spider-Man shows up to deliver exposition (and trade some of that previously mentioned snappy dialogue with Wolverine) about the Lizard, online fight scenes take up two pages instead of two panels, and not much else happens. If this is supposed to be an example of the X-Men being proactive and seeking out problems instead of waiting for it to come to them, well, who knew the latter would be the more exciting of the two options?
Bachalo’s pencils are the most interesting thing about the issue, a graffiti jumble of lines come to life. The scene where Wolverine is attacked in the sewers looks fantastic; there’s so much detail packed in that it could have easily been a mess, but Bachalo uses his coloring to carefully separate out all of the different figures, moving each group of characters to a different level of the foreground and background so that it ends up looking almost three-dimensional. Likewise, when Spider-Man delivers a page worth of exposition, his trick of using gray tones for the flashbacks works far better than it should, still having a great amount of depth and clarity even as Spider-Man’s head pokes in from three sides of the box, chattering away.
“X-Men” #8 is a great looking comic, but the fact that we’re on chapter two of “To Serve and Protect” and it’s already grinding to a halt is a bad sign. “X-Men” needs to pick up the pace, pronto.