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I have read a lot of various X-Men comics and their offshoots, such as the Wolverine series, the films, etc, and throughout the years, the one thing that has remained the same is the constant artwork and the way the story is related through it.
However, Grant Morrison's scriptwriting is given a bit more of a raw and contoured touch here by the artwork of Frank Quitely. This particular strain of episodes sees a bit of a change in the evolution of the current X-Men, and I know that Grant Morrison was very keen to move them on.
We take up this story as the X-Men, mutants who are the staff at Professor Charles Xavier's school for the 'gifted', are severely depleted as we would know them. Those who we saw in the various films have a bit of a representation, with the hot and fiery rivalry between Wolverine and Cyclops somewhat cooled down over time, with Jean Grey's affections firmly towards her hubby Cyclops, although events have taken the collective relationships among the group to new levels.
It is perhaps the unfamiliar here that took me a while to get used to. The plot is quite a good one, that sees familiar territory with a couple of X-Men out on a mission (Wolverine and Cyclops) to rescue a mutant, who come across a force almost too powerful to contain. The Sentinels (machines created to destroy mutants) rear their heads, but it is the control of Xavier lookalike Cassandra Nova who poses the real threat. With a sharp mind and a determination to destroy the current species of mutants to replace them with a further and better model, leaving the mutant world in no doubt that this is the biggest danger they have experienced yet.
We have had a few changes with the demise of faves such as Colossus, and I know that the writers found themselves wanting to make sure the story is continued. We had a period of extreme favourability in the 80s and 90s when the X-men took control of the Marvel universe when it came to popularity, rivaled most closely by Spider-Man. Much like the freindly neighbourhood webslinger, the new millenium saw a bit of a drop in quality, until someone (Morrison) decided to grab the mutants by the balls (pardon my French) and give them a bit of an uplift. The line 'The X-Men, like us, know loss' written in the margin of Morrison's notes at the end of the issue, say it all. We must take whatever has happened in previous issues and go with it. Evolve, and that is what this isue is all about.
The artwork, though, is a bit of a shock. Not in anecessarily a bad way, but it does take a bit of gettign used to, as I said before. The brutal differences in what we are used to such as elongated faces as more bestial looks, such as Beast's transformation to a more feline look, involves mature artwork, and it took merely a few pages for me to get into the feel of the art. The frames are well constructed, and I got used to them. I do still prefer, however, the glossier nature of the comics I am more used to.
Overall, a very good X-Men issue, and one that I actually am glad to have read. The end of the issue features a few pages of notes on how to present it, with comments and then a note on the artwork, something that makes you think a bit more after reading the whole thing. It's a laudable issue, and while you won't find it so similar to previous X-Men styles, it is one that is well worth experiencing. Recommended.