Chris Claremont & Juan Santacruz
I should know by now, but like a masochist, I keep coming back...to works by Chris Claremont. He hasn't written anything good for over a decade, but when he was on, he was on, and I just keep giving in to faith that he will produce something wonderful again one day...only to be disappointed over and over again. X-Men: Die By the Sword was no exception.
There was a time when Excalibur was my favorite comic book. It was even being written by Chris Claremont, with art by the unconquerable Alan Davis. I was quite upset when the series was canceled long after the original creators had fled the book for other endeavors. When news of a relaunch had surfaced, I checked out New Excalibur, with Chris Claremont at the helm, despite the fact that I'd tried out other Claremont works since that could pretty much be classified as atrocious. And after one issue of the relaunch of a title that I grew up on, I threw it aside in disgust and vowed never to read another Claremont book again. But of course I did, despite my better judgment.
X-Men: Die By the Sword is a mini-series that tells the story of a pairing between New Excalibur and Exiles, by the current writer of both series, that will relaunch Exiles as New Exiles in the coming months, once again, by Claremont, boasting a new direction for the team (and one that I believe involves current New Excalibur member Sage). The teams really do have a lot of crossover, as New Excalibur has (among others) Captain Britain, Nocturne and Dazzler, while Exiles contains Psylocke (Captain Britain's sister) and Longshot (Dazzler's former lover), and Nocturne was actually introduced as a galaxy-hopping Exile initially. And despite not reading either New Excalibur or Exiles for a long time through a somewhat complicated plot, I understood what was going on and each character's relationships to one another thanks to the dialogue and recap page at the beginning that were all I needed to follow along (that DC's recent Green Arrow and Black Canary was missing). Despite understanding what was going on, it was not very good. There were hurried reunions that felt awkwardly scribed, emotional moments that didn't connect, a huge respite from the teams that set up an extremely uninteresting and lame, and way too complicated, group of antagonists, and then there's the final page with the Raggedy-Ann-meets-Iron-Man villain (Rouge-mort? Really?) threatening to tear apart the teams.
As usual, Claremont writes an extremely complicated plot with uninteresting events, lame villains, and even lamer character moments that will probably end in someone's death since Claremont seems good at those empty deaths before reviving the character years later (Remember Psylocke? Oh yeah - she's in this comic. Longshot? Um...yeah. I'm just waiting for Meggan to crawl out of her grave any day now). Not only does Claremont seem to love using those easy plot devices, but he keeps going back to the same characters that he used back when he wrote well (Captain Britain, Psylocke, Roma, Saturnyne, The Fury, Merlin, etc.), like a crutch. Claremont needs a good firm editor to cut away the unhealthy fat of his scripts. It's sad to see a writer that I admired so much at his peak at this point in his career, where I have to psyche myself up to read another disappointing effort. Maybe I just need to resign myself to the fact that this is as good as he can do now. And it's no longer anything that I'm interested in reading. D