“X-Men: Schism” is a funny sort of event where we already know how it ends. There will be two groups of X-Men, one led by Cyclops and the other by Wolverine. That’s practically the selling point of the event: see Cyclops and Wolverine finally go at it. The only questions are of how this will happen. “Prelude to Schism” hinted at a large threat, one bigger than anything the X-Men have faced, but that threat isn’t revealed in this first issue (or, if it is, we don’t know it). What the first issue does, though, is put Cyclops and Wolverine front and center, while creating a mood of impending doom and tension as mutants, once again, become global public enemy number one.
At an International Arms Conference where Cyclops speaks on disarming Sentinel technology, all hell breaks loose when Quentin Quire arrives and begins anew his mutant revolution. The way he strikes his first blow is entertaining and smart, and provides a good excuse for a return of the ‘bad old days’ where mutants were feared and hated by the entire world. The response of nations to actively work against Cyclops’ request and increase their anti-mutant defenses and weaponry helps lay down a mood that things have gotten worse.
Jason Aaron has most of the issue revolve around Cyclops and Wolverine, treating them as two men who have grown to admire and respect one another even if they don’t particularly like each other. Wolverine is Cyclops’ one-man security detail at the conference and they have no problem working together to take down some Sentinels. They’re never shown to be on the exact same page, but there also isn’t any strong indication of the ‘schism’ that’s coming. If anything, Aaron makes a good argument for how, despite their differences, these two have found a way to work together and back each other up. Of course, that makes the question of ‘how’ even more tantalizing.
Each issue of “Schism” will feature a different artist, and kicking things off here is Carlos Pacheco, making a stronger showing than his lackluster work on the “Uncanny X-Men” ‘point one’ issue. His art is crisp and dramatic, full of space. Frank D’Armata’s coloring is in tune with the line art. The modern sheen on the art seems fitting for the type of story Aaron is telling. The way Pacheco draws Wolverine is different than usual, delivering a more compact, thicker rendition of the character that recalls his roots a little more. In a flashback panel, you can see how much he’s influenced by the looks of both Cyclops and Wolverine when they first met and immediately hated each other. It’s not out of line with other contemporary interpretations, simply tweaked enough to have that visual resonance with that early hatred and rivalry the two characters shared adding a little extra dimension to the art.
Nothing shocking happens in “Schism” #1. Instead, Jason Aaron plants the seeds for a story that makes mutants once again hated like they once were, one that Cyclops and Wolverine are at the center of, and raises a lot of questions of what will happen next. Most of all, there’s an energy and excitement inherent in this comic that hasn’t been seen in the X-books in a while. This is how you kick off an event: by putting the story first and letting the spectacle follow naturally.