Just over a year ago, "Messiah Complex" brought a much-needed feeling of cohesion to the X-Men titles, with a line-spanning crossover that took the first step towards ending M-Day with the appearance of the 'Messiah Child,' a young mutant who readers would come to know as 'Hope'. This issue sets up a smaller crossover between titles "Cable" and "X-Force," two series that originally span out of "Messiah Complex" themselves.
As an opening issue, it's a little behind the action. Where the "Messiah Complex" one-shot started with a mutant birth and sent the X-Men out into action to follow it up, "Messiah War" sees us joining events already in progress, and instead tries to quickly bring new readers up to speed with both "Messiah Complex" and the developments that have occurred since -- and, of course, bring Stryfe back into play.
The decision to bring back a villain who wasn't even interesting the first time around is a strange one -- Stryfe's story was told, and the character was left for dead long ago. Reversing that decision requires a fairly solid idea, and it's not immediately clear -- bar some vague rumblings about Apocalypse -- how it'll tie into "Messiah War." The sole reason for bringing the character back now seems to be the logic that "Stryfe is Cable's nemesis," which hasn't been true for years anyway. It'd all be much easier to believe, however, if Stryfe's re-appearance didn't feel a little botched in itself.
After all, the reveal Kyle and Yost write the scenes as straight as possible, trying to hint at readers that the man Bishop is talking to is actually Cable even though they -- and we -- will be well aware from advance material that it isn't. There's an inherent danger in predicating your twist on such weak misdirection, and using the reveal as the issue's big cliffhanger -- misspelling the character's name in the process -- only compounds the sense of disappointment.
Choi and Oback's artwork is a merciful respite from the mediocrity of the plotting, though it's not the only good thing about the issue. Yost and Kyle's dialogue is often very good, especially when Deadpool arrives in an even more insane than usual. "Messiah War" doesn't have quite the same strong opening as its predecessor,