One thing becomes clear after reading the first two issues of both this title and Wolverine and the X-Men: one book has a clear reason and purpose, and the other doesn’t. It’s strange to have an event happen, and when the dust settles, one team has a new raison d’etre, and the other just goes on the same as before, with the only difference being the new team line-ups within their particular sect of the Utopia mutant population. These are mostly cosmetic changes, because nothing about Cyclops has changed, including how he chooses to run his mutant militia on Utopia. He’s fundamentally unaltered by the entire Schism event, as opposed to Wolverine leading his followers back to the East Coast. This book doesn’t really feel like a new beginning, just a continuation of where the book was headed pre-Schism, as if it had never happened. If you can have a story occur that doesn’t even make use of the new status quo, nor feel like it needs it in order to exist, just what was the point of the supposedly status-quo altering event in the first place? Both the first arc and this issue in particular feel reactive insomuch as the team is merely reacting to incidents randomly, without the arc really focusing on what life is like on Utopia post-Schism. Wolverine and the X-Men focused on the first day of school before it was beset by threats, showing us the new status quo and how it was being set-up, whereas with this title it feels like just business as usual, with the story lacking an internal stability of purpose, of reason.
Both this series and the aforementioned Wolverine and the X-Men spend their second issues on extended fight sequences, but whereas the latter imbues the fight with strong characterization, this book lacks such gravitas. There’s no fist-pumping moment of triumph: it just feels very by the numbers, lacking a sense of drama. The X-Men walk into Sinister’s clutches, have a fight, think they have the upper hand, and realize they don’t, while he doles out a long soliloquy detailing his current motivations.
Mr. Sinister is most well-known as a nineties character, despite actually having debuted in the eighties, and his entire characterization often shifts from writer to writer to the point where he’s so far removed from where he was just a couple of issues ago. I appreciate that Gillen is trying to reignite the spark or what used to be his character, back when he was a mysterious-yet-interesting super-villain, skulking in the shadows with his secret genetic projects and his cryptic comments which could start fan discussions about what it could all mean. I understand wanting to reclaim that for the character, but despite his interesting and suitable Victorian make-over, this issue just feels unoriginal and ordinary, which is far less than what was needed to make this relaunch work and have it be exciting.
Complicating matters is the artwork, as there’s a veritable army tasked with putting it together, comprising three artists, four inkers and four colorists. The issue is understandably erratic at times with how the characters look, and it ruins some of the momentum that could have been gained if the artwork had been more consistent. The most jarring element is that there’s more than one colorist, because if only one had handled the book, at least it would have maintained a certain hue regardless of the pencils and inks.
For a book that’s part of a highly-touted relaunch, this series needs to be better than this, both in terms of the originality of the script and the consistency of the artwork.