X-Men: Regenesis, part two

So, time to catch up with Regenesis, which by now has had plenty enough time to make its mark. It’s fair to say the relaunch has offered its share of both good news and bad news. First, the bad news: Marvel still insists on publishing superfluous titles that have no compelling reason to exist, and in fact serve to dilute the entire line. New Mutants and Generation Hope are not bad comicbooks, but their existence seems predicated on the knowledge that completists will likely pick them up, rather than any pressing creative or artistic need to tell a story. Ultimately, it’s serviceable genre fare that I’ve already stopped purchasing.

X-Men doesn’t deserve to get off so lightly.  Victor Gischler – who has proven elsewhere that he is a perfectly talented writer – has been dragging out a story for four issues that could’ve been wrapped up in two. It got off to a bad start by utilising the ‘superheroes fight following a misunderstanding, then team up to take on the bad guys’ template that is as old as the genre, and thus overused to such an extent that the only suitable reaction is a cataclysmic yawn. Meanwhile, the plot is all-too-familiar: an upstart nation gets its hands on advanced technology (in this case, Sentinels), ostensibly in order to better protect its borders from international threats, but in reality to go on the offensive. What would be fine as a b-plot (or even c-plot) seems interminable at this length, and I won’t be sticking round for future issues.

Fortunately, the good news is that the two flagship titles have been excellent. Wolverine and the X-Men has given the line a shot in the arm, with Jason Aaron seemingly having no interest in the “grim and gritty” storylines that have come to define the franchise (all death and dystopian futures). Instead, he’s penning a silly little action book of the best kind, one that embraces the more ridiculous and outre genre conventions and ramps them up to 11. To this end, the villains of the first arc were the latest version of the Hellfire Club, a collection of prepubescent sociopaths with too much time and money on their hands and an intense hatred of mutantkind. Moving at a brisk pace, the hero of the piece turns out to be teen anarchistic and reluctant member of Wolverine’s Jean Grey School for Higher Learning Quentin Quire, a Grant Morrison creation whose sensibilities mesh perfectly with Aaron’s. Fantastic stuff.

The first Uncanny X-Men story arc was no less impressive. Kieron Gillen – who cut his teeth writing the Britpop-inspired Phonogram – writes an excellent Cyclops, and it should be interesting to see how his X-Men team (which comprises several individuals of morally dubious character, including Magneto) manage to co-exist. Their role is twofold: to help humanity, but also to show them how powerful mutants really are, and what a bad idea it is to mess with the species. It’s an interesting setup, helped by the fact that they were pitted against Mister Sinister, with Gillen successfully redefining the role and purpose of a villain who has for too long been shrouded in pointless mystery and ambiguity. On art, Carlos Pacheco is on top form, turning in his most impressive work in recent memory. The two should be commended for embracing the superhero team book template and making it seem vital again.

So in summary: seek out the first three issues of both Wolverine and the X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, and skip the other three titles I’ve discussed. Next time out, we’ll look at whether X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Force, and X-Factor are worth a read.

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