“Messiah War”: The Storyline Where Nothing Happens

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 X-Force/Cable: Messiah War #1, X-Force (Vol. 3) #14-16, Cable (Vol. 2) #13-  15 (2009)                                                                                                                              Written by Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, and Duane Swierczynski                                              Art by Michale Choi, Clayton Crain, Ariel Olivetti, and Sonia Oback                        Colored by Sonia Oback                                                                                                  Published by Marvel Comics

 

There’s a certain trend in most stories where the characters go through some sort of change or growth by the end of the story; they’re no longer the same or in the same position as they were in the beginning.  After all, this is the point of a story.  “Messiah War”, the Cable/X-Force crossover, completely ignores this crucial aspect of storytelling and winds up being the crossover where nothing happens.  “Messiah War” is a seven part crossover that never needed to happen, starring Cable the babysitter and the worst X-Force roster ever assembled.[1]  Although it’s not the worst X-Over of all time, “Messiah War” has very little working in its favor.  The characters are generically bland, the plot is way too simple to justify a seven issue crossover, and there’s no real resolution because as previously stated, this is a crossover where NOTHING HAPPENS!!!!

“Messiah War” is the second part of a trilogy of crossovers, beginning with 2007’s “Messiah Complex”, which deals with the ramifications of Hope Summers, the eponymous mutant messiah.  Whereas “Messiah Complex” is the perfect example of how to manage and navigate an X-Over, “Messiah War” misses the mark by a wide margin.[2]  The entire storyline is constructed entirely of endless waves of cannon fodder, vague plot points, non-essential motives, and frivolous cameos.

The plot of this ill-begotten X-Over is that after reneging on his initial promise to let Cable raise the messiah child away from the X-Men, Cyclops has finally located the time displaced duo and decides to send his (marginally) covert team of (insanely ineffective) assassins to retrieve his son and the child.  Everything else that happens in the story, from the unnecessary and puzzling appearance of Apocalypse, to Deadpool’s two issue long exposition about the future, seems like utter flotsam.  “Messiah War” combines the worst elements of these two sub-standard mutant titles, as it gets its tortoise like pacing from X-Force and its distinct boredom and lack of any real plot from Cable.

The post-“Messiah Complex” Cable series was a 25 issue mutant version of Tom & Jerry where Bishop would hunt down the messiah child, corner her, and then wait 25 minutes before trying to execute her…just long enough for Cable or a well-placed bear to intercede on the child’s behalf.  X-Force (Vol. 3), with all of its gratuitous violence and one-dimensional villains, prided itself on being a homage to 90s comics, and like the worst comics from the 90s, it was a book that had absolutely no substance or reason to exist.  Combining these two stories wasn’t really the best of ideas as “Messiah War” stretches out an incredibly thin plot across seven issues of the characters treading water waiting for someone else to come save the day.

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What the fuck is Apocalypse doing here?!?

 

In order to give “Messiah War” the illusion of conflict, writers Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, and Duane Swierczynski phone in some kind of clichéd team-up between Bishop and some version of Stryfe, which leaves readers wondering how he get to this timeline, or if he’s even Earth-616 Stryfe.  And then somehow Apocalypse gets pulled into the plot because he reaches out to Archangel after Stryfe and Bishop usurp Apocalypse’s kingdom and kill him.  Now, you’d think that someone with as much hatred for Apocalypse as Stryfe has would make sure than an enemy as powerful and as hated as Apocalypse was really dead.  But no.  Stryfe’s oversight is a cheap way of bringing in another character with no real purpose to the overall course of the story just to give the impression that the stakes are higher than ever.

Bishop’s goal for trying to hinder Cable and X-Force is the exact same as it has been for the previous 12 issues of Cable: To kill Hope Summers.  There is such a thing as reader fatigue, and forging a half-assed X-Over about a cat-and-mouse game that readers have been tiredly putting up with only undermines the purpose of this crossover.  Readers know that Hope will emerge unscathed, because if she didn’t, then there would be no story or direction for the franchise to follow.  Stryfe’s inclusion as an antagonist is as useless as the story, do to the fact that his motives and characterization only extend to “Well that’s what Stryfe does”.  Stryfe has no purpose to the story beyond simply being Stryfe.  Likewise, Apocalypse too is watered down, neutered, and shoe-horned into a story that he has no place in, besides beating up Stryfe.  Readers are never fully sure if this is our Apocalypse, or simply an Apocalypse that they won’t ever read or care about once the crossover ends.  By rendering characters like Stryfe, Apocalypse, and even Cable himself, as one-dimensional and oversimplified versions of themselves, the writers continue the trend of making these once interesting characters nothing more than walking clichés indicative of everything wrong with the X-Men franchise.

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Messiah War will leave readers wondering what just happened, and why it just happened.

Because this is a crossover where nothing happens, “Messiah War” offers no resolution or revelations to the ongoing mystery of the messiah child, Hope Summers.  Readers never learn how she is destined to save the mutant race, why exactly Bishop wants to kill her, or even what her powers are.  Readers are repeatedly told that she’s special, but no one ever shows what makes her special.  Characters like Stryfe and Apocalypse sense her power, but never divulge this information.  Ultimately, what contributes most to the terrible pacing and unnecessary plot plaguing “Messiah War” is that readers are told in gratuitous and boring detail things that don’t really matter (like Deadpool’s time-consuming exposition about the future), instead of being show the important details.

 

With no semblance of a purpose, there’s no need for a resolution…another crucial aspect of most good stories.  Cable, Hope, Bishop, and X-Force are absolutely no worse for wear after the story than they were before it.  Cable and Hope go back to treating the space/time continuum like a jump-rope, Bishop gets drunk at a bar and decides to continue in his quest to commit infanticide, and X-Force gets sent back to their proper time to continue operating as the most inept group of clandestine assassins ever assembled.  The only character whose fate is any different is Stryfe, someone who readers never cared about in the first place.[3]  If the characters are in (literally) the exact same situation after the story, as they were prior to the story, then what the hell was the point of the story in the first place?  This is a question that anyone who reads “Messiah War” will wrestle with as they try and labor through this superfluous crossover.  The truth though, is that there was no purpose to “Messiah War”, and the worst part about it, is that it shows.


[1] Seriously, this X-Force team is like the worst and least effective group of assassins ever assembled.  They let Bastion be reactivated, Wolfsbane became a drugged pawn of the Purifiers and maimed Angel, they originally let the Leper Queen use mutants as WMDs, and they didn’t actually destroy all the samples of the Legacy Virus.  The team’s biggest accomplishment was giving the Vanisher a brain tumor.

[2] After all, the storyline was relegated to two lesser mutant titles instead of being a full-fledged crossover with the more important titles like Uncanny X-Men or ­X-Men Legacy.

[3] After being defeated by Apocalypse, Stryfe is taken by him with the expressed purpose of becoming Apocalypse’s new vessel.  This incongruence should piss of any X-Fan since Apocalypse has stated (multiple times) that Stryfe is an unfit and unworthy host for his essence since Stryfe is a clone.  Either this version of Apocalypse is senile, or he just completely forgot.  Either way, this is one shitty Apocalypse this future has.

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