Comics, Reviews

Review: X-Men: No More Humans

X-Men: No More Humansno_more_humans_cover_a_p
Mike Carey
Salvador Larroca
Marvel Comics

“No more mutants” was the cry heard ‘round the Marvel Universe, when the conclusion to the “House of M” event in 2005 decimated the mutant population and made the X-Men bigger outcasts than they had ever been before. X-Men: No More Humans obviously wants to remind us of that game-changing event, but takes its title very literally: one morning the X-Men wake up and all the human beings on Earth have disappeared. No Avengers, no Spider-Man. Times Square is deserted, and planes fall from the sky—but this isn’t Left Behind: The Mutation, there’s a super-villain behind it.

That villain is Raze, the time-traveling lovechild of Wolverine and Mystique (seriously) last seen in the “Battle of the Atom” event. Raze steals an experimental technology with the power to open portals to other realities. Not only does Raze empty the world of homo sapiens, but he plans to repopulate the planet with mutant refugees from alternate worlds and timelines where the war between humans and mutants has gone very, very badly. The X-Men face a moral quandary; they can try to restore their world as it was, but saving humanity may mean condemning countless mutants—and not all of the X-Men even want to save humanity.

X-Men: No More Humans is the first in-continuity X-Men graphic novel since the classic God Loves, Man Kills, though it’s a bit hard to place it among the current X-Books. Nightcrawler is alive, but so are Rogue and Scarlet Witch. The space-time continuum is even wonkier than usual in this book, so we can put our X-Men pedant hats away and let it slide. As a fan of Mike Carey’s run on X-Men: Legacy, it’s nice to see him return to the X-Books and write fan-favorite characters (particularly the young Jean Grey, who proves invaluable to the plot). This done-in-one graphic novel isn’t his greatest work, but it’s a brisk, entertaining read.

Salvador Larroca’s art is strong and cinematic (the book even has a trailer), and he’s well-suited to action sequences like Storm and Iceman landing an empty 747 that threatens to crash land on the Jean Grey School. Occasionally facial expressions take a turn for the wonky but overall the art is dramatic and successful.

xmennomoreThe book juggles an enormous cast, including both Wolverine and Cyclops’s fractured X-Men teams as well as the reality-hopping Brotherhood of Mutants. Mike Carey gives many characters stand-out moments, like Nightcrawler’s first meeting with his half-brother Raze (“mother likes me best”) and Triage pushing his healing powers to a frightening new level. There are humorous interludes that reminded me of simpler times for the X-Men, like the students of the Jean Grey and New Xavier Schools planning a baseball game (talk about team rivalries!).

But, in a graphic novel this crowded, other heroes like Kitty Pryde and X-23 have dramatic, badass introductions only to be immediately reduced to wallpaper. The story also portrays the disappearance of humanity merely as a problem to be solved, with no direct connection to the X-Men. Many of them have human relatives and loved ones–for example, Northstar’s husband Kyle and Jubilee’s adopted son Shogo–but the plot rushes by without acknowledging who the X-Men have lost. By ignoring these personal relationships, the stakes feel considerably lower. No More Humans is a lean, fast-moving book, and it’s a relief that Marvel didn’t stretch this storyline into a bloated crossover. That said, it ultimately suffers for its lack of focus on any particular protagonist.

Perhaps its biggest hero is Jean Grey—a good red-headed time-traveler; she’s the antithesis to Raze, and goes through a literal trial-by-fire to restore the earth’s population. The ending relies on a familiar deus ex machina (if using “Jean Grey” and “trial-by-fire” together in the previous sentence isn’t enough of a clue) for a pat, tidy conclusion. There are no earth shattering or schism-healing revelations, but Carey and Larroca’s X-Men: No More Humans is still a worthwhile adventure.