Graphic Novel Review: X-Men: Schism
11:55 19 January 2012
THE story which changes everything for Marvel’s misunderstood mutants as the teams are split into diametrically opposed alliances behind Cyclops (Scott Summers) and Wolverine (James “Logan” Howlett).
The origins of this ideological division can be traced back to M-Day, when rogue superheroine the Scarlet Witch warped reality to reduce the world’s mutant population to around 200, draining the powers of everyone else and as a consequence bringing Homo Superior to the point of extinction.
The majority of the planet’s surviving mutants established a nation state on the island of Utopia, off the American West Coast, but have frequently found themselves targeted by forces which would like nothing more than wipe out mutantkind forever.
But whereas Cyclops believes every citizen of Utopia is a soldier in the fight to secure a future for their race, Wolverine is growing increasingly uncomfortable with the island’s younger residents becoming involved in combat against foes who aren’t taking any prisoners.
When Summers addresses an assembly of United Nations representatives as part of his campaign to bring about the decommissioning of the world’s mutant-hunting Sentinel robots, the UN building is attacked, leading to many countries mobilising their relatively obsolete Sentinels in response.
When these giant robots suddenly lose control and begin attacking random civilians, the X-Men are sent to hot spots across the globe to deal with the troubles.
The situation reaches crisis point during an attack on a new San Franciscan mutant museum by the forces of a revitalised Hellfire Club, once led by a cadre of superpowered criminals, but now under the control of a gang of remarkably gifted children, who believe eliminating anyone with an X-gene is necessary to preserve the survival of humanity.
With the majority of the X-Men incapacitated or fighting Sentinel aggression worldwide, both Cyclops and Wolverine telepathically contact 14-year-old Oya, who is trapped inside the museum. Summers urges her to use her temperature-control powers to attack the Hellfire Club’s soldiers, but Logan wants her to get out instead. Eventually she sides with Scott, and kills dozens of soldiers, rescuing the injured X-Men and assorted civilians in the process.
It is an act which Wolverine cannot condone, but before he can tackle Cyclops about his actions, the Hellfire Club activates a new giant Sentinel and sends it on a collision course for Utopia. With just a handful of teenage mutants on the island, once again Summers and Logan are at odds over whether they should stand and fight or escape with their lives…
This milestone book promises to shake-up the X-Men universe forever, with the consequences of the split between those loyal to Cyclops and the supporters of Wolverine set to play out over years to come.
Jason Aaron’s script does a good job of selling the concept of the schism between the two long-term allies, but has little room to expand upon why assorted X-Men choose a specific side, something which will hopefully be touched upon in greater detail in future stories.
A strong array of artistic talent is on display here, but the lack of a single visual creator does create a certain inconsistency in the story-telling, although nothing which will cause the reader any real problems.
As a game-changer for Marvel’s mutants, Schism does exactly what it set out to achieve, and I for one will be eagerly looking forward to how things progress over the months to come.