Monday, August 20, 2007

X-Men #202

The ongoing X-Men team of Mike Carey and Humberto Ramos continues its work this month with issue 202, the third chapter of “Blinded by the Light.” Last issue, Mystique and the Marauders destroyed Rogue’s team in battle, while Exodus and the Acolytes assaulted the mansion. Only Cannonball and Iceman managed to escape unscathed, and their flight provides much of the focus of this issue.

Mike Carey is great at fleshing out a world where mutant powers are a reality. When a member of the Acolytes uses his ability to freeze time, a teammate complains that slowed time “makes the air feel all thick and slimy.” That’s a little touch that’s an afterthought to the characters themselves, but serves to bring the reader just a little bit further into a fictional reality.

His abilities aren’t just limited to the ambient, either. His pairing of Iceman and Cannonball is interesting, and gives the characters a nice opportunity to prove their growth and changes in personality. Sam plays the hot-headed, impulsive youth while Bobby does his best to maintain a level head and weigh their options. Not that long ago, Iceman would be the one in a rush to action without considering the ramifications. His restraint shows that the character has matured over the years, and the comparison to Cannonball makes a nice contrast. Past and present, so to speak.

Carey does great work at shrinking an unmanageably large population of mutants. He gives every character a purpose, whether they get ten pages’ worth of attention or half a panel. Even Sinister, a character I always used to despise for his shortcomings in this area, is given a definitive direction and personality in this story.

The ongoing narrative is still occupying itself with foreshadowing and vague insinuations, broken up by a few short battles, but if you’ve been reading X-Men for long, that shouldn’t be anything new. These books were basically founded on the idea of a slow crescendo, almost to the point that you begin to wonder if there will ever be a climax. This issue holds a steady course in that regard. There’s a lot going on, but by the final panel we’re still only an inch closer to the big, momentous occasion that’s being hinted at.

The normally solid Humberto Ramos misses a few occasions for some monstrously cool pages here, specifically a faceoff between Iceman, Cannonball and Sunfire at high altitude that could’ve been blow-me-away cool. I’m not sure if that’s due to the tight deadlines required by an X-book, laziness or something in between. Too many times, a backdrop is relegated to flat air and simple gradations, and it gives the book a mildly vacant, less substantial vibe. When it’s time to really gear up and deliver with a huge, dozen-man brawl, though, Ramos still comes through. In particular, the two-page spread in the middle of the issue is a great example of this proficiency.

As is par for the course, you’re going to fall into one of three camps on this book: you’re either a die-hard (buying this issue regardless of what I say), a hater (the precise opposite) or a tweener, who hasn’t been following the series but isn’t opposed to the concept. If you’re one of the first two, your mind’s already been made up. If you’re the latter, find a die-hard friend and borrow this. It’s slowly beginning to draw me in, and I imagine it’ll do the same for you.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8

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