X-Calibre 2: Doing Zoom meetings, before it was cool.

Credits: Written by Warren Ellis, pencils by Roger Cruz and Renata Arlem, inks by Phil May, Charles Mota, Eddie Wagner, Tom Wegrzyn and Harry Candelario and all edited by Suzanne Gaffney.

 Cast: Kurt ‘Nightcrawler’ Darmholme, Stichback, Cain ‘Juggernaut’ Marko, Irene ‘Destiny’ Adler, John Proudstar, Callisto, Damask, Danielle Monster, ‘Dead Man Wade’ Wilson, Apocalypse and Raven ‘Mystique’ Darkholme.

Plot: In the Savage Land , Destiny foretells Avalon’s destruction by fire. In Manhattan the Ghost Dance is attacked by the Madri, priests of Apocalypse. They kill everyone, the last to fall being John Proudstar.

On the submarine that Proudstar filled with refugees from Apocalypse’s America, Nightcrawler is trapped with the others as an electrical fault has locked the doors and cut off the air circulation system. They call for help as they realise that the air in the room they are in will very soon run out. The sub’s captain (who seems to change appearance from page to page) doesn’t know what he can do, but the sub comes across the cargo ship X’d from Society who are offering assistance. The sub surfaces and the cargo ship’s crew then help cut the doors open to get the refugees to safety. The ship’s captain Callisto offers to take the refugees on her ship, which is at least safe for them to be on. As they are discussing this, Nightcrawler has teleported to the top of the sub, since he now knows where open air is. Since he wasn’t trapped in the hold, Callisto’s crew never see him. 

Above the two ships, Damask and her dark riders, Dead-Man Wade and Dani are following from a distance. Dani is carving up Wade to watch the scars heal as Damask reports to Apocalypse by I suppose a Zoom meeting. Apocalypse changes his orders, Damask is no longer to find Avalon, but to kill everyone there, destroy it utterly. Another team will join them there to assist. Out of annoyance more than anything else, Damask murders Dani when Apocalypse has signed off.

The refugees are placed in ‘unused’ ballast tanks for safe-keeping. They are told that this is for reasons of security. Patrols could scan them elsewhere on the ship. That’s why they also have to hand over any valuables to reinforce Callisto’s cover as captain of a salvage and reclamation ship. But I think we all know where this is going and when far enough out into open water, Callisto opens the ballast tanks and dumps the 100 subs into freezing Antarctic waters. Nightcrawler is at that point on top of the X’d from Society and can only watch as all of the refugees die, before anything can be done to help even one of them.

Callisto and her crew relax, this isn’t the first of this job they have done. Because they were relaxing, they miss heading into the Atrocity Zone. See, Apocalypse has through his cullings created lots of corpses and struggles to find places for them, so has been shipping them to islands along the Atlantic coast. These islands of corpses are a hazard to navigation and can cause damage to ships passing through by getting caught in propellers and the like. Callisto is frustrated by being there as until the tides turn, they are stuck and by the time they realise this, Nightcrawler is armed. One by one he takes out the crew until only Callisto remains. It is a tense stand-off ended one by the arrival of Nightcrawler’s mother, Mystique.

Notes: With the exception of editorial staff, on average the credits on a comic are usually 5 people, writer, penciller, inker, colourist and letterer. This comic has twice that many people working on it. This issue’s art has that many hands feel to it. It’s very rare that with a comic with 2 pencillers and 5 inkers were going to get consistency or quality. Sadly, that is true of this comic too. The story, such as it is, suffers from the ‘it has to be 4 issues’ rule that blighted the Age of Apocalypse. Since the other series are 4 issues, then so is this. Added to Ellis’ spotty pacing this was a weird issue to read. Now it is full of good ideas and concepts. X’d from Society robbing and ditching refugees is heartless, but in a world of mutants, alternate timelines and dinosaurs in Antartica, it is by far the most realistic. The Atrocity Zones are equally horrifying and kind of expected at the same time. If paced better, the Kurt vs the crew scenes would have been brilliant, but with pacing and the shoe-horned Damask Zoom meeting scene, it all sort of falls apart at the end. This series feels like an after-thought rather than a vital part of the Age of Apocalypse event.

Verdict:

Writing: 2 out of 5 – Despite  how problematic a figure Warren Ellis has been proven to be, the more oblivious me of the time did enjoy this era of his comics. Now I don’t know his writing process of the time, did he have 4 issues plotted out before the start? Or is it being made up on the fly? I do not know. But whatever his process is, this time it didn’t work. Scenes move from one to the other in such a manner that I was going back to make sure that I hadn’t missed a page. There’s potential here, but I honestly done see any of it being realised.

Art: 1 out of 5 – Two pencillers and 5 inkers doesn’t fill you with confidence, nor should it.

It all feels rushed and last minute deadlined, the characters look different page to page or there seems little difference between different characters later on. As half assed as some of the event’s concepts are, it does like the teams are doing their best from day one, but this is nowhere near that. The time it took from starting reading this issue to these notes was 3 days, now I can procrastinate like a boss, but once started I get the job done but feeling like the comic changes so much between pages left me feeling cold about the whole project.

Overall: 3 out of 10 – This isn’t good enough, its a less than quality writing job rushed into production by a cobbled together art team and it shows.

Next time: I am going to read something better.

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