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Genesis and Revelations

 

X-Men: Deadly Genesis

Ed Brubaker, Trevor Hairsine, Scott Hanna

Marvel, 2006

Rating: 3.5

 

Posted: October 7, 2006

By The Gentleman (exclusive to Shaking Through)

Before he leapt head-first into the colorful, melodramatic and widescreen world of Marvel superheroes, Ed Brubaker was primarily known for a decidedly more street-level milieu. He first made his bones with the autobiographical Lowlife, and even in mainstream DC Comics titles like Batman and Gotham Central, he tended to map out a different section of the block than those inhabited by garish supervillains and megalomaniacal world-beaters. And so his full-scale transition into Marvel's dense universe of capes, spandex and ridiculously proportioned bodies has been interesting to witness.

So far (we'll reserve judgment of his current run on Daredevil for a later date), Brubaker has displayed a flair for that most postmodern of approaches: mining new stories from in-between the panels of long-established continuity: His controversial decision to cast Captain America's long-thought-dead young WWII partner Bucky as a killer named the Winter Soldier was one of those polarizing love-it-or-hate-it scenarios so beloved by the Brian Michael Bendises of the world. Deadly Genesis attempts a similar feat, creating a powerful new foe for the X-Men by filling in the previously unseen blank spaces between the events of Giant-Size X-Men No. 1, the landmark comic that ushered the X-Men franchise into the modern age -- and into immortality.

You either buy into such things or you don't, and to be sure, the tale Brubaker weaves into the fabric of that earlier comic is far easier to digest than Bucky's career path. To wit: Two X-Men -- Cyclops (Scott Summers) and Marvel Girl, aka Rachel Summers, his alternate-universe descendent (no one ever said the X-Men's past wasn't convoluted) -- are overpowered and imprisoned by Vulcan, a mysterious new foe with Summers family ties of his own. Vulcan is nursing the mother of all grudges against the X-Men's founder and mentor, Professor Charles Xavier, and begins tormenting the team in an effort to draw the missing professor out into the open, so that he can force Xavier to reveal a horrible secret.

That secret bears some similarities to the "mind-wipes" central to DC's Identity Crisis; we won't reveal it here, except to say that it involves the death of a heretofore unknown team of X-Men. It's all believable enough, as far as it goes, although, as with Captain America and Bucky, an extra helping of suspension of disbelief is required -- it's one thing to believe that men can fly and shoot beams out of their eyes, but even in a world where such things are considered normal, contrivance and coincidence can still be deal-breakers. Deadly Genesis avoids feeling quite that forced, but it doesn't help that we never get a handle into Vulcan's obsession -- especially when we know he's got good reason to be pissed.

Brubaker establishes a nice sense of confusion, dread and menace (particularly in regards to a tragic massacre involving a longtime X-Men ally) over the first half of the story, and each chapter of this collected six-issue series ends with an appropriately suspenseful cliffhanger or shocking surprise. But the story's forward momentum falters in spots, and the reader is often distracted scenes that nod to current Marvel continuity, like the X-Mansion surrounded by watchful government Sentinels in the aftermath of House of M; these are never explained for the benefit of newcomers, and as a result readers are wrenched right out of the story.

None of which might matter quite so much if Trevor Hairsine's artwork were allowed to breathe, to achieve its full grit: Whether it's a question of Brubaker's scripting or Hairsine's layouts, there aren't as many gut-wrenching visuals as the story itself would seem to provide, although the dark tone is suitable given the momentous revelations at its heart. (Ace inker Scott Hanna might not be the best match for Hairsine, either, given the sketchy sterility of the final pages.) A series of backups introducing us to those "lost" X-Men, illustrated by Pete Woods, provide a nice visual contrast.

Deadly Genesis never quite soars, and its ending (which sets up Brubaker's current run on the ongoing Uncanny X-Men title, feels a little like a copout. Nonetheless, it's a solid read: a must-read for diehard X-Men fans, if only diverting piece of superhero escapism for everyone else.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: Breaks new ground
 4.0-4.9: First-rate
 3.0-3.9: Solid
 2.0-2.9: Mediocre
 1.1-1.9: Bad
 0.0-1.0: The worst

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