Lead-in mini-series to events are always dicey, especially when they’re not done by the creative team handling the event book. There’s no telling how much the prologue book actually relates to the main book, how many details will actually connect, and if there’s really any point in picking it up until the event begins. It was with that mindset that I approached the first issue of “X-Men: Prelude to Schism,” where Paul Jenkins begins a four-issue mini that will, presumably, set-up the Jason Aaron-written X-Men event. And Jenkins has a good approach in this first issue, focusing on the emotional impact of what’s coming and the connections between characters instead of the plot itself.
In the opening pages, we’re told something is coming. It’s something that can’t be stopped and something so large/dangerous that there’s a debate over what to do: stand and fight? or evacuate Utopia and run? Jenkins never reveals what the threat is, instead building up the emotional impact of that threat by focusing on Scott Summers deciding what he should do, shown through the eyes of Professor X. It’s an approach not dissimilar to the ‘crossover’ one-shots Jenkins penned as part of “The Sentry” with a giant threat causing reflection, doubts, and characters looking to one another for reassurance.
Here, we’re given a glimpse into Cyclops’s history from Xavier’s perspective, showing how much he’s grown since he was a skinny kid at the school to now, where he’s the leader of a united mutant community. With a lot of talk about “Schism” placing Cyclops in a Magneto role to Wolverine’s Xavier, this issue subverts the idea and shows how, despite their disagreements, there’s a strong father/son relationship between Cyclops and Xavier, and that Xavier is proud of what his ‘son’ has accomplished.
Roberto De La Torre’s use of inky blacks adds to the mood that Jenkins seeks to establish. The darker art communicates tone well, especially with Lee Loughridge using muted colors that most certainly are not the standard bright and shiny colors of superhero comics. De La Torre carries a lot of the issue through his ability to depict the emotional beats of the writing and the conversations between Cyclops and Xavier at different points in time. Xavier finds a young Scott lying in a field, his glasses off simply because he wants to pretend he’s normal and De La Torre captures that awkward longing. His best work is in his short one or two panels where he gets to show off some of the highlights of Cyclops’s life.
The biggest flaw in “X-Men: Prelude to Schism” #1 is that nothing really happens. A threat is heading straight towards Utopia, but we don’t know what it is and Cyclops doesn’t make a decision about it in this comic. Still, that adds to the anticipation and the depressed, hopeless mood. By heightening the emotional context, Jenkins could be providing a stronger lead-in to “Schism” than by simply setting up the plot in ways that may or may not line up with what Jason Aaron has planned.