Cast: Ororo ‘Storm ‘ Monroe, Robert ‘Iceman’ Drake, Sean ‘Banshee’ Cassidy, Alison ‘Dazzler’ Blaire, Paris ‘Exodus’ Bennett, Pietro ‘Quicksilver’ Maximoff, Erik ‘Magneto’ Lensherr, ‘Nanny’ (All Earth 295 versions) Lucas Bishop (Earth 616)
Credits: Written by Fabian Nicieza, pencils by Andy Kubert, inks by Matt Ryan and edited by Bob Harras.
Plot: Crossing Guards opens with a prologue set in Maine USA (United States of Apocalypse) where there are human beings desperate to escape the madness that has claimed America. There is hope with these humans, freedom is so close that they can taste it, a belief fuelled in part by the mutant Vanessa ‘Copycat’ Carlisle, who reports to the cardinals that the humans intend to escape, but Cardinal Madri is convinced that there is no escape and as such, no real hope.
In Westchester County in New York, the time lost mutant Bishop watches the remaining X-Men not currently battling the massacres training against a Sentinel. This squad, Dazzler, Exodus, Quicksilver, Storm, Banshee, and Iceman are trying to reprogram the robot not to kill them, when they try to aid in the upcoming evacuation. The training exercise ends in failure, only ending in a non-tragic fashion with the timely arrival of Magneto. The team bicker over the mission and how Bishop’s arrival has caused so much disruption.
Magneto convinces Exodus to teleport the others to Maine, a power that Exodus does not think he possesses, but it is a success and the team arrives in Maine ready to help. Storm creates a dense weather pattern to shield the Sentinels from detection by Apocalypse’s early warning system and when the Sentinels arrive, the team is able to insert a disk in the robots to alter their targeting systems. But this changes little as the mutant-killing robots do what they were meant to do and vapourise Iceman. Within the crowd of awaiting human refugees, a small boy is pulled by black tendrils into the woods. Back with the action and the reason the disk didn’t protect the X-Men is that it instead protected different mutants, the Brotherhood of Chaos, the Sentinels won’t target them, but they will target the X-Men, as will the Brotherhood.
Notes: This mini-series replace vol 2 of X-Men and retained much of the creative team. I was a big fan of this volume of the comic, indeed it is the comic that got me properly into collecting comics, but with the era-defining artist Jim Lee having jumped ship, it had become something of the under-achieving little sister title in terms of the art and Amazing X-Men suffers along the same lines. Andy Kubert’s pencils suffer under the heavier inks of Matt Ryan and the over-saturating colour palette, putting a lot of pressure on Fabian Nicieza’s writing. Fabian does his best, but with a bit of a lackluster team on one side and a bunch of unidentified and uninteresting looking villains on the other, there’s not really much that can be done to salvage this comic. The dialogue is nice and snappy in a 90’s sort of way, but honestly, it’s the weaker of the pair of X-Men comics in the Age of Apocalypse and I found reading it a bit of a chore.
Art: 2 out of 5, underwhelming pencils overwhelmed by heavy inks and thick colour makes this a bit of a mess.
Writing: 3 out of 5, doing it’s best, but no writing can save this comic.
Overall: 5 out of 10, the first dud of the event, I’ve got a sinking feeling, not the last.
Next Time: A new costume, a new name and the Clone Saga looks at the clone.