X-Men: Manifest Destiny #1

Unless you've been paying close attention to the solicitations, you might be surprised to discover that this limited series — largely pushed as being about Iceman's journey towards San Francisco — is actually an anthology in the same vein as the recent "Divided We Stand" 2-issue miniseries. The hook is that there's a lead serial running throughout all four issues starring Bobby Drake, as written by Mike Carey.

Carey clearly has a plan in mind for Bobby, seemingly hooking him up with former girlfriend Opal, before turning the situation on its head. It's unfortunate that in doing so, Carey reverses the ending of a still-fresh Wolverine arc, but on the other hand, there was no chance that particular "death" would stick, so it's easy to forgive for the twist. Iceman's developing powers — and the lack of understanding he has of the full range of his abilities — have long been a subject of stop-start exploration ever since the days of Scott Lobdell, so it's good to see Carey picking up the baton in a definitive way. The story itself isn't yet very gripping, but the prospect of seeing this side of the character explored definitely is.

The second story in the anthology is a single-parter about Boomer, or Boom Boom, or whatever her current codename is. She's in full-on Nextwave mode, and sets about fighting a villain with considerable support from Beast. It's an entertaining fluff piece, befitting the current interpretation of the character, with a couple of good jokes and some decent art, though it's hardly essential reading on the scale of the Iceman piece.

Even less so is the third story in the title, which re-introduces Karma to a modern audience. I've been reading X-Men for almost 15 years and she's even before my time, truth be told, so it's an uphill struggle to bring her back. It's hard to see who the short is aimed at. Karma's background isn't referenced too loosely to inform. I already knew there was a period where she was made massively obese, but I still don't know how, from the 2-panel depiction of it. While the story itself appears to introduce a plot arc that might spring back up somewhere over in "Uncanny X-Men." While Iceman's story is enhanced by the continuity elements it recalls, Karma's is simply obscured by it.

I'm not certain why, but these anthologies seem to work reasonably well for the X-Men when the similarly-formatted "Marvel Comics Presents" languishes in sales hell. Perhaps it's because the property has a wide and diverse array of characters with a tight unifying metaphor in their mutantcy that writers can pick at. Or, perhaps, it's simply that the number of characters in the franchise means that even the obscure picks feel important enough to warrant their own time in the spotlight. That said, the lack of emphasis on the book's format during promotion certainly has the potential to irritate those looking for a complete story rather than a collection of vignettes that tie (often quite loosely) into the current status quo.

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