As a reviewer, I try to give creators the benefit of the doubt. If their name is on a bad comic, I try to ask what they were trying to do and why it failed, rather than simply taking the easy option of pointing and laughing. The phrase “waste of paper” is not one I deploy lightly.
Still, if I were ever going to use it...
“Prelude to Schism” has been an odd beast. It’s not really a prelude to anything. At the end of the series, it seems as though the intention was to recap the histories and philosophies of mutantkind’s once and future leaders. We’ve looked at what shaped Professor X, Magneto, Cyclops, and now Wolverine. And we've seen a little of how they relate to Cyclops, the man currently running the species.
This, as you probably can guess, is material any X-Men fan already knows backwards. For that reason, were I to guess (and I’m about to) I’d suggest that this series was commissioned so that it can sit on bookstore shelves alongside “Schism” as a way of telling casual readers who these characters are and why it matters that they fall out in “Schism.” Admittedly, a handbook entry, recap one-pager or (heaven forfend) “Schism” itself could have contained such material, but if that’s why it exists, at least it explains the shape of the series.
Unfortunately, even with that mandate, there’s complete lack of discernable plot, theme, or any remotely effective foreshadowing. In terms of being a ‘prelude’ to “Schism,” we know almost as little now as we did when the series began. Something bad is approaching Utopia. Will the X-Men stay and fight, or scatter in the face of potential extinction? In this issue, Cyclops chooses to stay and fight. I wish I hadn’t just spoiled four issue’s worth of story for you with that reveal, but regrettably, I have.
Buying four comics’ worth of recap material might be forgivable if the issues themselves were enjoyable to read, but they’re not. On a technical level, Jenkins is operating well below his best. The dialogue is stilted, unnatural, and boring. At times it veers towards incomprehensibility. When I reviewed issue #2, I found it far too desperate to appear earnest, and that’s still a problem here.
At least the art, which in this issue is provided by Clay Mann, is up to scratch. Mann’s version of Wolverine is stocky and scrappy (and noticeably shorter than his peers, a fact which is too often forgotten) and Mann’s style is adaptable enough to render scenes from “Origin” and Barry Windsor-Smith’s “Weapon X” alongside modern material and make it all work together. It’s good stuff, perhaps even better than his recent “X-Men Legacy” appearances, but it’s not enough to save this issue.
As I said at the start of the review, the phrase “waste of paper” is one I don’t deploy lightly, and I’m not sure it really applies here. Certainly, there’s some merit to be found, if only in the art. I have absolutely no trouble, however, describing this series as a waste of readers’ time and money. It takes four issues to do nothing interesting, say nothing interesting, and – I suspect – will ultimately fail to have any impact on “Schism” (or any other X-Men comic, for that matter). Trust me when I say you can give this one a wide berth and miss absolutely nothing worth seeing.