Uncanny X-Men #544; Writer: Kieron Gillen; Pencils: Greg Land; Inks: Jay Leisten; Colors: Justin Ponsor; Published by, MARVEL; $3.99 in the US
The five-issue arc, “Schism,” left the X-men choosing sides as Wolverine and Cyclops finally decide to go separate ways. Resulting from all of this (and perhaps Marvel trying to compete with DC, hmm?) we’re getting the final issue of Marvel’s longest running title; all this being said, we should expect, at the very least, nostalgia from this final book, right? Not exactly.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about this particular issue is that it doesn’t really feel like the end. This is probably because it really isn’t. While the count for the title is ending at 544, it is actually restarting back at 1 in November; in addition, we are also getting a new # 1, Wolverine and the X-Men, tomorrow (maybe today by the time this post is up). So what we see in 544 is more of a transition to this new beginning, the brave new world of X-men. We get the conclusion to the X-men as they were and see a glimpse of what they could become–not to mention a little confusion as both Wolverine and Cyclops’ teams will be keeping the name X-men, but aren’t affiliating with each other.
As for the nostalgia, while not as omnipresent as I’d like, it is still there. We see an opening vignette to the book with Jack Kirby old-school artwork of the original X-men crew (Professor X, Cyclops, Hank “Beast,” Iceman, Angel, and Jean Grey); and while the artwork on this page is as it used to be, we see the edited speaking bubbles above the characters explain to Professor X a compressed synopsis of what’s happened to the X-men in the last 50 years–for me, sentimentality drove home the most here as we see how much the X-men have changed and the members we have lost. We also see Iceman staying behind to say his final goodbyes to Cyclops’ team before heading back to New York to join Wolverine (what’s up with Iceman’s boots not being frozen over like everything else?), and Beast coming back for a similar goodbye as he will also be joining Wolverine. In both of these goodbyes we can also see the nostalgia–Beast and Iceman, as original members, both have the longest history with Cyclops and seeing them pick Wolverine’s side says more about the “Schism” in the X-men than the story arc with the same title.
The rest of the book mainly shows Cyclops dealing with the current state of the team, brooding around, attempting to put all the past behind him despite the great artwork (and it truly is some of my favorite x-men artwork next to the work done in Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men and Kirby’s) showing in his posture he is not okay. All of this being said, I found it difficult to sympathize with Cyclops–he’s losing two of his closest friends and the best he can muster up is some cognitive dissonance to justify why his actions were the right ones. Cyclops even tells Beast the only reason why he’s alive to choose Wolverine’s side is because of Cyclops’ choices in the past. Maybe this is true (and it very well could be, I’ve been out of the X-men loop for quite a while), but for me, it would’ve been nice to see Cyclops’ charisma from the pre-90’s show through and be supportive of his friends. We don’t get that and I’m left growing more bitter about Cyclops than I was before the book started.
After finishing this issue, I can’t help but compare it to another final issue about a Superhero team in DC, the Teen Titans. While Teen Titans #100 was able to actually end as DC moved into their reboot, the nostalgia and camaraderie between all the characters was much more evident. In Uncanny X-Men #544 we see more drama being started–this could be a good thing as the X-men aren’t actually ending and we still need a plot to follow this but I am still left with mixed feelings after reading a title labeled “The Final Issue” and not really seeing the story end.
The Future of the X-Men:
As for what come next, we do see Mr. Sinister in this issue returning as a new villain for the X-men (at least Cyclops’ team). I don’t really have much to say here as I don’t know really know anything about him but he did mention the X-men’s “experience” being over and talks about how their end is near (in an ominous way, not a nostalgic one) and this could be interesting–I’m sure I’ll see next month.
As for the new #1’s or Wolverine and the X-Men and Uncanny X-men, I’ll be picking up both, but I’m more interested and enthusiastic about the Wolverine side of things–more characters I like (Beast, Wolverine, Iceman) will be featured in this series and I think I can sympathize and get on board with Wolverine’s philosophies better; however, I’ll still be picking up Cyclops’ issue Uncanny X-Men #1 and am always willing to be pleasantly surprised.
All in all, the artwork was great and the writing was pretty good. There was some nostalgia I was looking for, but I could’ve had a bit more and I’m still hooked on the next issues so Marvel must’ve done something right. Uncanny X-Men #544 gets:
3 out of 5 (stars? I haven’t decided what yet).