Largely due to the fact that I started reading comics in the 90s, one of my favourite X-Men comics is “Uncanny X-Men” #297, an epilogue to the “X-Cutioner’s Song” crossover in which Professor X and Jubilee bond over their position at opposite ends of the mutant generational spectrum. Then Jubilee makes Professor X rollerblade a bit. The relationship between the two characters hasn’t been explored in years, (largely because they’ve rarely been in the same place together since) but for that reason I was excited to see that this issue was going to take stock of the pair, who have come so far since their last on-page chat.
Maybe that’s the reason I was disappointed. Or maybe it’s the fact that we’re getting a “Curse of the Mutants” epilogue seven months after the story finished. And, indeed, after the “Wolverine & Jubilee” series has just finished fulfilling precisely that role. Whatever the reason, I can say with absolute certainty that this comic was, ultimately, disappointing.
As it turns out, the story doesn’t really center on Jubilee, despite the issue’s arc being notionally about her. Instead, it’s an excuse for Gischler to relate an extended tale from Xavier’s past, in which he encounters a vampire, Koda, who has control of his powers. Because of the era the story is set in, Gischler revives the 60s portrayal of Xavier as someone who uses his power somewhat indiscriminately. Rather than inviting us to draw parallels between how a vampire and a mutant might consider the use of such power to be their birthright (and thus relate it to the message of self-control) it is instead used purely to pastiche the era, the way might cigarettes appear in films set in the 40s. A missed opportunity.
Furthermore, there’s something rather simplistic about the character study of Xavier that this issue presents. Where Mike Carey has taken pains to present a flawed, unintentionally arrogant (but well-meaning) man in “X-Men Legacy,” Gischler presents him as a one-dimensional and uninteresting figure. His advice to Jubilee is unconvincing and facile, and the story’s ending verges on hackneyed. Unless this story is a deliberate seed being planted so that Gischler can bring back Koda and make use of his history with Xavier, there seems to be nothing to it. Certainly, it’s not really about Jubilee, and Xavier has no arc to speak of
The artwork by Al Barrionuevo is reasonably good. The layouts are in the cinematic vein of Bryan Hitch and John Cassaday – what I’d describe as Marvel’s current house style – but there’s an awkwardness to some of the poses and facial expressions. Like many aspiring artists, Barrionuevo is good with action and storytelling basics, but weak when expressing emotion and designing backgrounds. His Jubilee, however, is particularly good, if only for being recognizably Chinese.
When we consider that the story of Jubilee accepting her vampirism has already been done better elsewhere, and the crossover which leads into it has been over for months, it’s hard to see what made Gischler think this story was one which needed to be told. Perhaps we’ll find out in future months. Unfortunately, when the best reason to read a story is so that you can understand the next one, you know it’s on shaky ground. This issue does nothing to break that trend.