Having settled into its niche as a kind of “X-Men team-up” book, the first post-Regenesis arc of Gischler’s X-Men title involves the newly-minted security team crossing paths with War Machine. The reason? They’re attempting to infiltrate a secret Sentinel staging facility in one of Marvel’s increasingly vague Eastern European stand-in states, and War Machine just happens to be guarding the border.
It’s a shame the cast of “X-Men” — Storm, Colossus, Psylocke, Jubilee, Warpath, and Domino — isn’t very inspiring, and I say that as someone who counts Psylocke and Jubilee as two of his favorite characters (that’s right, spot the 90s X-Men fan!). The members lack any common thread to tie them together, and that ultimately hurts the central conceit. An espionage team makes sense — particularly since Cyclops arguably needs his own X-Force to rival Wolverine’s — but if that’s the case, what are Storm and Colossus doing in the book? Neither is what you’d call stealthy.
Similarly, the use of War Machine feels completely tacked on to fulfil the book’s (possibly outdated) remit as a team-up series. At least so far, nothing we’ve seen suggests that there’s a War Machine story occurring, and it’s telling that the plot has to contrive some way to make the Sentinels a threat to him. Without that turn, he hasn’t got anything to do except get in the way.
Also disheartening is the way the book undermines its own dramatic tension with such ease. Events come across as artificial and perfunctory. Domino isn’t dead because… she isn’t. Colossus and War Machine stop fighting essentially because they get distracted. It’s not at all a convincing way to operate, and if nothing else, the hero vs. hero battle, leading into a team-up schtick was played out decades ago. If he really had to appear in this book, surely something better could have been done with War Machine?
There’s also a lack of urgency about the threat the Sentinels actually pose. We literally just saw the X-Men take out a bunch of Sentinels in “Schism,” so why are they a threat here? A Juggernaut-powered Colossus could take one down alone, as could Storm and presumably War Machine. If we’re going to believe them as a threat, we need something more convincing than mere Sentinels.
Conrad’s art, at least, is of a generally high quality, echoing the photorealistic appeal of Greg Land without being as overwhelmingly blatant about cut-and-paste or tracing. There’s a stiffness to some of the poses, and perhaps an overuse of dramatically flat mid-angle viewpoints (though that may be writer-mandated), but on the whole it does the job.
Despite “Regenesis” offering “X-Men” a new lease on life, there’s little here to suggest that the book is going to improve with its reboot. It’s not awful by any stretch, but it’s impossible to get invested in a story so half-hearted about its own plot and characters. Gischler has been on the X-Men for a while now — surely he’s got more to say about them than this?