Top critical review
It's fine; as with all these mega-crossovers, highly varied art and writing styles
Reviewed in the United States on December 15, 2019
Kindle Edition. In a nutshell: unless you are catching up on a compendium run of a specific title that is missing issues because they are contained in this crossover (for me that was X-Factor Investigations #25-#27 and the fate of Layla Miller), I'd probably give this one a miss. At first blush, the plot reads well ("The first mutant since House of M has arrived, but will she bring salvation or destruction to all mutant-kind?"), but in essence, it really involves the various hero and villain teams playing hot potato with a newborn. There's one of those famous "unresolutions" the X-titles so often saddle us with at the end. The main plot question posed is in no way resolved; not even a little bit. This is all tease and to say I was disappointed in that would be an understatement.
In detail: These mega-title crossovers are always a bit of a mixed bag. We have here volumes from Uncanny X-Men, New X-Men, X-Men, X-Factor and the X-Men Messiah Complex On-Shot; at least three disparate illustrative styles are at work and I wouldn't even try to count up the number of individual writers/inkers/illustrators. With the main cast of heroes easily in the dozens, lots lots lots of character-specific plot points are referenced. This can be maddening when you only follow a couple of titles closely; I had no idea who a quarter of the characters were, and no clue what a third of them were talking about as they voiced various vendettas or angsts that seemed mission-critical to how they were behaving.
The art, as you can imagine, varies greatly. Some of it I loved, some of it was very manga-pop (not my personal favorite) and the way certain characters were drawn between titles was so different that if it wasn't for their costumes, you wouldn't even recognize them. Emma Frost goes from being an arctic beauty temptress, all alluring razor angles carved of ice you'd happily cut yourself on anyway, to a ridiculous voluptuously proportioned round-faced Barbie impersonator in the span of a few pages; Scott Summers sometimes looks like a fresh-faced twenty-something about to organize a variety show in the barn to save the local orphanage and sometimes a mid-forties grizzled scarred veteran of the cosmic wars and heroin addiction.
Some of the main X titles favor gorgeous, multi-page panel spreads. While these were translated as well as could be expected into Kindle format, and zooms were sequenced as well as could be done, it was sometimes maddening to read on my Fire device. I was flipping the device vertical versus horizontal like a fool. The Kindle version features high-quality art transfers (the file was huge and took forever to download) and some very gorgeous two page spreads begged to be zoomed in on and perused in detail. Though this was an a-effort to bring into digital format, ultimately, I came away with the sense that this series was meant to be read in oversized hard cover to appreciate its true glory.
The fight sequences, many of which were quite gripping I admit, were gritty in some of the titles; including several deaths, one shown in gory detail (my god... one of the character's corpses is almost lovingly displayed in its own frame post-battle, including severed limbs and disembowelment). This juxtaposed really weirdly with other titles, whose fisticuffs were highly sanitized affairs (with everyone walking away with bruises leaving enemies unconscious, verbally noted everyone will recover in time; not unlike the comics of my youth).
For some of these must-read cross-overs (House of M, the Mutant Massacre) this is all worth the price of admission - title spanning impacts, self-contained and explained character arcs during the series, and Marvel universe-wide implications! Messiah Complex ain't one of them. Honestly, I'd give it a pass; with the exception of Layla Miller, what you need to know going forward can be summarized in a couple of bullet points at best.