Aside from the main X-Men title, the X-Men line didn’t really even get a whiff of the big Empyre event this summer. But that’s okay, because instead of the event obnoxiously butting into the stories we’re reading monthly, the X-Office decided to give us a single miniseries with every X-Creator writing a bit of what the X-Men were doing to fend off the plant people who invaded the Earth. But this wasn’t an anthology book or anything like that, it was a far more interesting experiment.
The structure of the miniseries is that for the first three issues, every writer on the X-line took a turn writing part of the story, handing it off to the next writer on a last-page cliffhanger. The first issue was Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard, the second was Benjamin Percy, Gerry Duggan, and Leah Williams, the third was Ed Brisson, Vita Ayala, and Zeb Wells, and the final issue was all written by Hickman. The artists on the series were Matteo Buffagni, Lucas Werneck, Andrea Broccardo, Jorge Molina, Nolan Woodard, and Rachelle Rosenberg.
The actual overall story of the arc is really enjoyable — the Hickman stuff is kind of disconnected from the rest of it, though. Specifically, Hickman’s portion is what causes the rest of the story to happen, but is a much more character-focused story in a way that was honestly surprising to see, considering Hickman’s reputation as a more plot-focused writer. His portion focuses on Scarlet Witch, the guilt she felt after her somewhat accidental genocide of the mutant race, and her incredibly misguided and ultimately doomed-to-fail attempt to atone for her actions. This ends up leading to a really gruesome situation where the entirety of Genosha, a mutant nation whose population numbered in the millions but wiped out by Sentinels, was resurrected as mutant zombies. And if that wasn’t enough, the alien plants that began the conflict of Empyre come to invade. And making things even messier, geriatric botanists get involved. So of course, this is the perfect setup to pass between every writer in the offices to see what they can do with it.
The conflict between all the various sides is really enjoyable, and is helped by the fact that most of the writers aren’t doing more than eight pages of story. This also is a bit of a hindrance, because there isn’t much room for the story to really pick up momentum or a sense of style. Each writer brings something unique to the table, and they all try to fit with what came prior, but unfortunately there are some hiccups along the way. Ben Percy being in the same issue as Gerry Duggan and Leah Williams was especially jarring, as the latter two lean far more comedic than Percy does. These uncomfortable tonal shifts are the weakest part of the book, and otherwise the story is really compelling.
The art is great throughout, as well. Each artist maintains the style of the previous but also has their own flourishes — Lucas Werneck is especially a standout, but everyone truly shines here. Rosenberg’s coloring does a great job maintaining a sense of cohesion between the various artists, and all of them felt like great fits for the book.
Overall, this miniseries is a fun time. It’s definitely skippable, but it has some really compelling Scarlet Witch development and is otherwise a delightful romp through the writers on the X-Men line. If you’re enjoying the X-books right now, this is definitely a good time, and if you’re looking into Empyre tie-ins, this is certainly a good one.
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