Tuesday, January 27, 2009

X-Men: Manifest Destiny #5

"Kill or Cure"
Writer: Mike Carey
Penciller: Michael Ryan
Inker: Victor Olazaba
Colourist: Chris Sotomayor
Editor: Nick Lowe

Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Ben Oliver
Colourist: Frank d'Armata
Editor: Nick Lowe

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colourist: Christina Strain
Editor: Nick Lowe

X-Men: Manifest Destiny was a five-issue anthology of short stories based loosely - sometimes very, very loosely - around the theme of characters moving to San Francisco. Normally I'd review the whole miniseries in one of these posts, but in this case it'd mean wading through a load of eight-page shorts. So let's compromise by calling this a review of issue #5, but also looking at the whole of Mike Carey and Michael Ryan's Iceman serial, which ran as the lead strip.

I'm intrigued by the fact that Marvel keep putting out books like this. The anthology titles have never sold particularly well, and you suspect that with more creators to marshal, they probably involve a disproportionate amount of effort for the X-office. Usually, the end results are rather forgettable - though the limitations of telling eight-page stories that can't change anything are pretty severe, so it's hardly surprising. But they do provide a way for indie creators to get a foot in the door, and perhaps that goes some way to justify their existence.

Still... from the reader's point of view, these books tend to be fodder for completists. At best, some stories can be divertingly quirky, but that's about the most you can hope for. And Manifest Destiny was more of the same, really.

The lead Iceman story is based on the simple premise of Mystique chasing him around trying to kill him in a possibly half-hearted way, the pay-off being that she's been shaken by her recent encounter with Wolverine, and is trying to recapture the sense of certainty that came with being a villain. It takes an awfully long time to make this point, and doesn't exactly benefit from being serialised in short chunks over five months. And when you do get to the point, it just doesn't ring true at all.

Carey is usually a reliable writer, and Ryan is solid as ever, but this is really quite disappointing. It doesn't even have much internal logic. The climax sees Iceman freeze Mystique's hand in a block of ice to stop her operating a dead man's switch. Um... why doesn't she just use her shape-shifting powers to slip out? It'd be a good question at any time, but considering she did exactly that in the previous issue...

The back-ups are better. "Nick" is an Avalanche story, with the X-Men showing up to put the frighteners on a bad guy who's already living in San Francisco. The idea is that with so few mutants around, they can't really afford to haul these guys off the streets unless it's really necessary. It's a bit of a fudge, but the story gets away with it.

And Kieron Gillen of Phonogram fame gets to do a Dazzler story, appropriately enough. That's her on the cover. Yes, I know. Doesn't look anything like her, does it? I thought it was Lady Mastermind at first. Anyway, it's a power-of-song story - seriously, what else were you expecting? - with the odd but endearing idea that obscure seventies villain Man-Mountain Marko has also gone into the music business as a talentless thug trading on his overhyped reputation. There's something to it, but Dazzler's a character in need of more rehab than an eight-page short can provide.

The lead strip is frankly disappointing, the back-ups not bad - but it's still an anthology book for the completists.

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