Hands up if you didn't see that one coming. No one? Still, they say it's the journey that matters, not the destination. But this one is bumpier than it should be, as the penultimate issue of Marvel's latest crossover event.
The opening page is pleasingly teasing, as Captain America spends five wordy panels addressing someone so fearsome, so intimidating, he barely dares plead for their help. Who will stand before us as we turn the page? The Watcher? Galactus? The Celestials?
The Hulk. Snooze. Sure, the Hulk proves useful in bashing Emma Frost over the head, taking her out of the game for, ooh, seconds, but he's just a strongman. The strongest one there is, certainly, but Cyclops or Emma could kill him with a thought. He's no game changer.
Apparently, the entire battle occurs in Cyclops' mind, Professor X having transferred dozens of Avengers and X-Men there with him. Maybe it's a mindscape shared with Emma, as she's there too, but we're not given specifics. Given that Emma is one of the world's most-powerful telepaths even without the Phoenix Force, it makes little sense that she doesn't fight back against Xavier. OK, she's being assaulted by Avengers, sidelined because Cyclops is considered the man in charge, but still, she's sorely mistreated by writer Brian Michael Bendis here. And then she falls before Cyclops' assault like an injured kitten.
Anyway, we're in Cyclops' mind, the Avengers and X-Men are there, and I have no idea why. Why not divide his attention, attack him on the physical plane while Professor X alone enters his headspace? I can think of no answer other than that a mindscape allows for extra-cool visuals.
Artist Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales certainly give us some striking images, powerfully coloured by Laura Martin, but the storytelling isn't brilliant, with confusing page layouts and panel after panel of non-specific energy blasts. It's pretty clear, though, that one of them kills Professor X, which is no big deal - he's been dead three or four times previously. This week's demise will inspire someone to fight especially well, or take up his dream of humans and mutants living peacefully, or something. Then he'll come back to life.
It's not all bad. There's a terrific moment which sees Professor X and Cyclops' relationship snap back to that of teacher and pupil.
But otherwise, this is a pretty poor comic book, all flash and little sense. There's one more issue, so one last chance for Marvel's 'architects', the five writers taking turns at the scripting bat, to impress us. But unless it's a heck of a lot better than this issue, it won't.