X-Men: Schism #5 Readies the X-Men for Their Relaunches [Review]
This week Marvel Comics released X-Men: Schism #5 by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert, the last issue of the five-issue miniseries slated to split up the X-Men and reorganize the entire line with the upcoming Regenesis tag, headlined by the Wolverine-as-headmaster book Wolverine & The X-Men by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo and a new Uncanny X-Men by Kieron Gillen and Carlos Pacheco. And that's really all the issue is: a prelude rather than a story in and of itself.Schism has been an odd duck for an X-event, especially considering the classical crossover structures of Messiah CompleX and Second Coming. Written completely by Jason Aaron in its own series, with two tie-ins in Kieron Gillen's Generation Hope, Schism has been a seismic change to the X-Men status quo as Wolverine and a segment of the population of Utopia get the hell out of Dodge because they're tired of Cyclops acting like a military leader.
The problem is, we knew all of this going into the series, especially once they announced that the series would lead to separate Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine & The X-Men series. And to be completely honest, not much else happens in Schism #5 other than the titular event. It sets up a number of conflicts, but doesn't come close to resolving any of them. If you've been reading the series so far and know even a little bit of what's coming up, the events of this issue seem almost inevitable, with no real twists or shocks. As a matter of fact, I'd say Schism #5 is the most anticlimactic event book finale in recent memory, with little climax and a great deal of denouement.
This isn't because the climax is moved earlier, it's because it's deferred; as it turns out, the vast majority of the external conflict (as in X-Men vs. other groups, not Cyclops vs. Wolverine) in the series was simply prelude to Aaron's Wolverine & The X-Men book. Which is fine -- part of the function of an event is to drive sales of follow-up material, but with books like Civil War, Secret Invasion and Blackest Night, as much as they set up new status quos, the central conflict was still resolved. Here, Cyclops and Wolverine just agree to disagree and put some distance between each other, while the new Hellfire Club escapes scot-free. Even the book itself doesn't pretend to have a conclusion; it ends on "Not The End," for God's sake.
So, as a big X-Men event, this doesn't quite succeed. But as a prelude to the new status quo, it's quite successful. Aaron has an exceptional grasp on the characters, and while I worry the immaturity of the new, juvenile Hellfire Club will grow old, all of his scenes with the actual X-Men are very effective. The sense of nostalgia for better days is especially well-conveyed by Wolverine; he's used to taking the sins and the dirty work of the X-Men onto himself, and now that not only his fellow teammates but also the children they're training are starting to have to help carry that burden, he can't abide by it anymore. It's to Aaron's credit that a story where Cyclops is fighting for survival and Wolverine is fighting to maintain the moral high ground comes off as a natural progression, especially considering recent events in Aaron's own Wolverine series.
As for the final issue itself, it's certainly exceptionally well-drawn, although it looks somewhat more rushed than Kubert and Roslan's work with Aaron on Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine. Roslan's digital inking was an excellent complement to Kubert's pencils in that miniseries, and it still works well here, although I don't think colorist Jason Keith suits as well as that miniseries' Justin Ponsor. Much of the issue is silent and calls for Kubert to convey the meaning with character acting, likely a result of the creative synergy Aaron and Kubert formed on the aforementioned ASM&W mini. In short, like every other issue of this miniseries so far; it looks great.
So while it might not have succeeded as a standalone story, it's an excellent entry point for new and old readers alike, and will make for a good trade paperback to lead people into the upcoming Regenesis titles. The entire series was made available day-and-date on ComiXology, and my understanding is that upcoming Regenesis books -- including the new main titles, the Aaron/Bachalo Wolverine & The X-Men and the Gillen/Pacheco Uncanny X-Men -- will feature the same treatment. For old readers, it's the logical culmination of the past few years of stories. For new readers, it's a great jumping-on point to two books with high-pedigree creative teams. As long as Aaron doesn't overdo the poop jokes with the pint-sized Hellfire Club too much, I'm really excited to see how this changes the line, especially with some of the excellent peripheral titles like Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force and Jason Aaron's own Wolverine.