“The Stars, Our Destination?”
Written by Chris Claremont
Pencils by Dalibor Talajic
Inks by Roberto Poggi and Belardino Brabo
“Apocalypse: Degeneration part one”
Written by Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler
Art by Geraldo Borges
The Story So Far:
This is the story so far. X-Men Black is the five issue lead in to the relaunch of Uncanny X-Men in November, each focusing on a separate X-Men adversary, with a backup story featuring Apocalypse.
This one’s going to piss people off. Maybe not in the whole “Cap was a Hydra agent” way, but I think that conservatives might have a problem with this ripped-from-the-headlines story that longtime X-Men scribe (and living LEGEND) Chris Claremont has spun here in the main story.
Magneto, fresh from a spell in his Danger Room-esque training facility on Asteroid M, is told be one of his followers (and Nanny, who makes a reappearance!) that the US Government is rounding up mutant kids and putting them into detention facilities in Texas. He decides to intervene.
On his way, he stops at The Gold Star café, where he meets Kate, the daughter of an American soldier who died while deployed. They share a meaningful conversation about the mutant detention facility, but are interrupted by a group of people who support the government’s move. Kate tells them that Magneto–whom she only knows as Erik—is a Holocaust survivor, and the aggressors back down. Magneto tells Kate that with more people with her ideals, humans can reach the stars, as he leaves to confront the guards at the detention facility and free the mutant children there.
A battle ensues, and Magneto defeats the guards, who wear powered, Sentinel-like armor. He goes to the children, announcing that he is freeing them, rescuing them, and wants to take them to Asteroid M. One of the kids gives Magneto pause when he mentions that the US ideals are worth fighting for, rather than running from.
Magneto takes the whole facility with him as he leaves, lecturing the guards that they have betrayed the ideals of the United States, and telling them to treat everyone with respect or face the consequences.
Back at the Gold Star café, Kate receives a piece of artwork from Erick, depicting the two of them floating among the stars. The inscription thanks Kate for helping to restore Magneto’s hope as the lead guard from the detention facility voices over their intent to strike back, but only when the mutants are not expecting it, as the issue ends.
The backup tale is the beginning of a five part story about Apocalypse and his quest to obtain a body that can hold his consciousness while not deteriorating. He has created a device he dubs the Finch, which he uses to try to make the cells in his body regenerate by creating copies of themselves constantly.
He is testing the Finch on one of his human lab rats when something goes wrong. He feels his mind traveling through time, and he witnesses his own birth. There is a power flash and his test subject whispers that he saw his own death. When the surge subsides, Apocalypse finds himself on what he believes to be another planet.
He notices that he is bleeding, which he should not do, given his regenerative abilities, and discovers that, wherever he is, the Finch has come along for the ride. It is inoperable, however, and he muses that he doesn’t know how he will fix it. While he ponders this dilemma, he is attacked by a strange creature. He subdues it, noting that his body is refusing to mutate. As this chapter ends, Apocalypse discovers that he is degenerating into a human being.
In the main story, the part that really sells it is the ripped from the headlines plot. It’s what the X-Men have been missing for literally years. For decades, first under Stan Lee and then under Claremont’s direction, the Uncanny X-Men were allegory for minority rights, be it African Americans, gays, Jews, or anyone else who was marginalized. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about Claremont writing X-Men again. Sometimes, you can’t go back. But Chris can. He has, in one issue, taken hold of the X-Men franchise and shaken it awake.
Magneto and Kate’s relationship is a touchstone of this tale, and exemplary of the allegorical nature of the X-Men universe as a whole. I liked how Claremont made Kate’s family a “Gold Star” family, while to Erik, a gold star means something entirely different. Their understanding is, indeed, hope for us all, as they prove that even though we have differences, even differences in genetic makeup, we can in fact get along.
As for the backup story, it’s hard to judge what will be, when all told, a total of one issue. This gives you just enough of a tease to make you want to come back. As someone who dislikes Apocalypse as a character, that’s saying quite a bit, really. I do want to know how this will lead in to the new Uncanny X-Men series premiering next month. However, I will save whatever praise I have for when the full story is out.
What Doesn’t Work:
In the lead story, I’d have to say that the use of a random guard at a detention center kind of deadens the impact a little bit. If it had been a major player (and maybe she will be, time will, of course, tell), I feel like it would have felt a little more meaningful to have her voiceover at the end of Claremont’s tale. Though, perhaps that’s meant to make it more chilling, the fact that it wasn’t some high level government official making these hateful statements. It’s an ordinary person. An Average Jo, if you will. I think I would have liked it to be a more prominent figure.
For the backup, again, hard to see where things go right or wrong, so I will save my criticisms until the final part of this story. Suffice to say, I think that what backup stories have against them is that five page increments is an excruciating way to tell a story.
Rating: (main story only, for now) 4.5/5