G. Willow Wilson continues to deliver some excellent character work, even if the central plotting is a little lacklustre, as this four-part adventure draws to a close. At times the division in this book between those great character moments and the slightly ropy story beats is a little too great, but ultimately this is a perfectly sound mini-adventure for the X-Men. And the dénouement is a killer.
There are plenty of things to like in this book. It is at times funny, and sweet, and full of characterisation. And yet I don’t love it. I didn’t get much out of the story, and the two middle issues are mostly redundant from a story telling perspective. Not much really happens, and what does has little consequence. And yet, and yet, there are plenty of things to like in this book.
The central narrative here touches very lightly, and with very little nuance, on the development of massively destructive weapons, the dangers of scientific hubris, humanity’s disregard for nature, and the darker impulses of mankind. Unfortunately, these huge and worthy topics are swept through with very little sophistication – evil science types wanted to make a ‘bigger’ bomb using Kree debris and were rightly punished by a monster of their own making. Dark Krakoa has no agency and is simply an unknowing monster who killed its creators by reflex not by choice. Those science types; who are they and what did they want the bomb for? The Kree crash and subsequent rescue mission is just a macguffin/red-herring combo. And what of spending the better part of three issues with the team underground and separated from Storm? Well everyone just spontaneously jumped out of the hole and teamed up again when it became necessary. This environmentalist plot hasn’t been particularly strong from the outset and it’s resolution here is very much by the numbers (‘maybe I can reason with it!’). Fortunately Wilson’s story has never really been about its story, it’s been about the characters at its heart.
For me this book didn’t really come to life until the final few pages; seeing the team working together is always worthwhile and even if taking care of Dark Krakoa was a relatively perfunctory affair it did yield a few nice moments (“Gah! Hey!”). However, it is the quieter scenes afterward that are the greatness of this book. I am a sucker for any time with Dr. the Beast and pretty much any science-y scene as well so a little geology debrief is always welcome, but the particular stand out scene was Storm and Jubilee taking a moment to remember their lost friend Wolverine. Jubilee says she feels like she’s “not supposed to say anything“; this is a common problem for shared universes like this – huge status quo changes in one book go un-remarked upon in another for all kinds of mundane reasons (like publishing schedules and conflicts) and that can make the whole thing a little less real. The death of an important figure like Wolverine would leave an indelible mark on his friends, so sharing their grief and supporting one another through communication and friendship is incredibly humanising and realistic – these characters feel more like real people (and stronger ones at that) as a result.
This is really a book of two halves; if you come seeking a rewarding high concept narrative you’ll likely be a shade disappointed, but if you want some strong moments of personal reflection and characterisation you’ll definitely get something out of this story. In some ways this is a shame as the more intimate moments are very well done, and are worthy of a much grander story-arc. Then again it is always a pleasure to see great characters like Storm and Jubilee brought to life with believable and meaningful dialogue and interactions. After all they are too often written as cardboard action heroes who feel and think nothing at all. And even if I wasn’t sold on the overall story I have to admit to being incredibly touched by that final page – it may have been a little bit cheesy but it captured the spirit and optimism of the X-Men in general, and Jubilee in particular, in a very sweet way.
Notes and Observations:
- Honestly, if your heart didn’t melt reading that wonderful last page then it is made of stronger stone than Krakoa’s!
- Wilson’s writing for Jubilee has been pretty strong though out this run – I’d love to see a solo Jubilee book from Wilson at some point in the future.
- The rotation of the narrative viewpoint between Storm, Psylocke, Monet, and now Rachel, is a great device that Wilson has mostly capitalised on well. As per my above point though I would have loved to have seen a Jubilee led issue (especially since she was mostly a spectator in this story).
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