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New X-Men #156
Writer: Chuck Austen
Artist: Salvador Lorocca

There comes a time in every fanboy's life when he becomes thoroughly convinced practitioners of the dark arts are conspiring against him, laying waste to all he holds dear and gleefully jumping up and down on the comics he knows and loves.

I speak, of course, of the continuing storm of human suffering that is Chuck Austen.

In his second month as Grand Inquisitor-- er, writer of New X-Men, Chuckles continues the events of the last issue, where Beast and Cyclops were fighting a Danger Room robot gone mustang while Emma Frost, the remaining Stepford Cuckoos and some other mutants are holed up in a building under siege by anti-mutant rioters.

And that's about all that happens this time. No, seriously. Without giving away the "revelations" in the ending, this issue just continues Beast's crabbing about Cyclops getting together with Emma, Emma's babbling on about how they need to "save the children," and ol' Cyke's being distant and aloof (so no change there, really).

But Grant Morrison left the title in great shape (when you consider that he all but completely destroyed it) and what does Austen do? He just retreads the graveyard scene from the last arc, undoing what Morrison established at the end, and then proceeds to take us down the same boring "rioters attack mutants, mutants did nothing wrong, hate is bad" setup that hasn't been innovative since Claremont did it. Well, when he did it in the eighties. Okay, maybe more like the early eighties- the point is, it sucks.

However, this stale storyline doesn't slow down the patented Austen slash and burn method of character continuity one bit. Emma's British dialect has already been tossed out the window along with her wry wit. Then there's the little matter of her mental powers drying up when a rioter tosses a rock at her head. What the hell!? I don't know about what's going on in her own series, but New X-Men's Emma has taken far worse hits than that and still managed to get up and fry every opposing neuron she didn't like the look of.

Beast's newfound dislike of Cyclops is also twitch-worthy. Scott's going to start a relationship with Emma now that Jean's dead… and Beast is mad because they were kissing in the cemetery where Jean's buried? Was Beast just completely oblivious to the way Scott and Jean's relationship has gone for the past four years or so? Does he think Cyke should just pout and wallow in self pity until Jean rises from the dead again? Has Big Blue simply forgotten all the crap Scott's been through, or does he really want him to spend the rest of his life mourning Jean? Again?

There are a few possible excuses that can help out Austen's take on these three characters, though: next month is the beginning of "X-Men Reload" and, from what Marvel's been previewing, it looks like the big guns from New X-Men will be moving on to Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men (thank you, Jesus!). Add to this the fact that he only had two issues to work with before the big "restart," and you can understand how an average writer might give us a confusing, mediocre arc or how a hack like Austen might give us something not fit to line bird cages with.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's easy to pick on Austen. Every fanboy hates Chuckles, now, and there's probably no faster way to earn brownie points in an online forum than smacking him around like the red-headed stepchild of the comic industry that he is. But, from what he's done in this first story, it looks like New X-Men is heading down the same abyss he dropped Uncanny X-Men into.

Ah, but don't forget that the series name is switching from being called New X-Men back to X-Men next month.

Makes sense. I mean, what's "new" about this crap?


Jason Schachat

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