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The Book of Hope

The Book of Hope, Chapter Nine: X-Force #27

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Actually posted before the next issue comes out for a change, Chapter Nine of our look at the current X-Men crossover, Second Coming. Click behind the cut to read more!

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The Book of Hope, Chapter Eight: X-Men Legacy #236

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This week! Because no-one else will talk about X-Men with me: Chapter Eight of our look at the current X-Men crossover, Second Coming. Click behind the cut to read more!

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The Book of Hope, Chapter Seven: New Mutants #13

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The slightly late, never lamented Chapter Seven of the Book of Hope, our weekly look at the current X-Men crossover, Second Coming. These posts have been making our webhost weep every time they look at the traffic, so from now on the posts are going behind a cut. Click through to read more!

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The Book of Hope, Chapter Six: Uncanny X-Men #524

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We’re up to Part Six of Second Coming, and that means the seventh instalment of our weekly, increasingly nerdy look at the crossover! So nerdy, in fact, that I began the numbering from zero. That’s just a little programming joke, there.

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The Book of Hope, Chapter Five: X-Force #26

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Act One of Second Coming concludes as the X-Men finally get Hope and Cable back to Utopia – and naturally I’m here to waffle incoherently about it.

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The Book of Hope, Chapter Four: X-Men Legacy #235

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Slightly delayed due to the ash-cloud, but here’s the next instalment of our series of Second Coming features – Chapter Four of the Book of Hope, which covers X-Men Legacy #235, as well as “Second Coming Revelations”-branded spin-off, X-Factor #207. Meanwhile, the X-Force #26 instalment (featuring a SURPRISE death, Honest.) will be rushed through this weekend.

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The Book of Hope, Chapter Three: New Mutants #12

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Just in time for Chapter 4 of second coming – my review of the events of Chapter 3, as seen in New Mutants #12.

New_Mutants_12_0Synopsis: The New Mutants pre-emptively attack Cameron Hodge and The Right in their own base to prevent them providing reinforcements to the Sapien League. Meanwhile, the Sapien League is doing reasonably well without backup, managing to take Magik off the board with a weaponised ritual that shunts her into Limbo. To turn the tide of battle, Angel switches into Archangel mode and slices Stryker in half, scattering the League’s forces – but Cable and Hope have already scarpered, unsure of the situation. In San Francisco, Rogue experiences something strange, while back at the Right’s facility, Hodge gets into his giant spider body and corners Karma.

Mini Review: The bulk of this issue is a largely off to the side, focusing on the New Mutants at the expense of Hope, Cable and the Alpha Team. While that’s good for New Mutants readers, I’m less sure it’s a story I want to read. Although I enjoy seeing Cameron Hodge in a nostalgic way, I’m not sure he’s contributing anything to the plot. Karma’s plight, in particular, feels a little bit too falsely engineered. Cable’s decision to flee the X-Men is close to baffling, and the scene itself continues poorly from the previous issue, which ended with a mexican stand-off and opens with the X-Men charging into battle and Cable & Hope pinned down behind a car. In fairness, there is a lot more momentum in this issue than Chapter Two – it just feels like the plot’s going sideways rather than forwards at present.

Commentary

It’s good that someone appears to have noticed that Cyclops has been acting like an insane person for months now. It’s just a shame that someone has to be Sunspot, not Cannonball.New_Mutants_12_1

As we saw early on, the pressure does appear to be getting to Cyclops, and scenes like this point to a schism in the X-Men coming sooner rather than later. Magneto would be the obvious choice to step in, having recently “proven” his loyalty by bringing back Kitty Pryde and allying himself with Namor, so look for that to be the events suggested by the “One Will Lead” promo.

New_Mutants_12_2And off Illyana goes, presumably into the Second Coming: Hellbound miniseries. This is the kind of thing I was talking about when I said the plot had sideways momentum.

New_Mutants_12_3I don’t think it was Wolverine’s intention, but Archangel takes this order literally.

New_Mutants_12_4More angst heaped on Nightcrawler = even more likelihood that he’ll die. As sometime Comics Daily contributer Julian recently remarked, you can tell they’ve got plans to kill off Nightcrawler because he’s actually had some lines. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

New_Mutants_12_5Ah, good. Ariel’s arrived. Wait, who?

Don’t feel bad for not knowing this one. We’re not quite on the level of “Which of these dead mutants is Meld?” hilarity, but Ariel’s pretty close to that. She’s an alien whose race has the ability to open teleportation portals, but only in existing doorways, if you can believe that limitation. And she was once on a team with Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy called the “Fallen Angels”. With the power of persuasion, she’s also the sole mutant member of her race (much like Warlock, and Longshot, and various other characters who appeared during the 80s and were tenuously defined as mutants so that they could join the X-Men without violating the core concept).

New_Mutants_12_6Although Cable’s actions are irritating in terms of the plot, they could be justified in part by the fact that last time Cable was in this time period, the X-Men was full of ex-marauders and villains, so he’s got good reason to be suspicious of the team. On the other hand, a quick conversation could have sorted this out.

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The X-Men’s prisoners here are Sebastian Shaw (The Black King), captured by Frost in a recent Uncanny annual, Donald Piece (The White King), who was captured in the short-lived Young X-Men series, and John Greycrow (Scalphunter) who was last seen being forced to fly a plane-load of Predator X’s to Utopia during the crossover of the same name. The pointed shot of Pierce suggests that he might somehow be Bastion’s “man on the inside” that Cable was speculating about, since he is, after all, a cyborg.

Rogue’s apparent connection to Hope, meanwhile, follows up on a dangling plot thread from Messiah Complex where the infact Hope, rather than being killed by Rogue’s “death touch”, cured her of it. The two seems to have a psychic link as a result, and though it isn’t yet clear what those events imply about Hope’s mutant powers, it seems we will get a proper follow up on it. And probably quite soon, given that the next chapter of the book is in X-Men Legacy #235.

Predictionwatch

In which I catch up with some of the predictions I made in Chapter Zero of this article series.

Nightcrawlerwatch: As noted, a little more time for Nightcrawler, building him up for the death that I’m massively convinced will happen. (Side note: mentioning to British comic creators who are privvy to Marvel’s plans that “It’s a shame about Nightcrawler, isn’t it?” will not trick them into giving confirmation. We tried it.)

Magnetowatch: There’s no sign of Magneto at all yet, but let’s face it, people are unhappy with Cyclops. That narrows down “One Will Lead” to either Frost or Magneto, and the former wouldn’t be much of a twist.

As you’re probably aware, the next instalment of these features might be a little disrupted due to the volcano (yes, that old chestnut) but, let’s face it, I might just find a way to get hold of the issues in time, if you know what I mean. Then again, there wasn’t any volcano eruption last Thursday and it still took me 6 days to write it. But I got there in the end. Back here next week (ish) for X-Men Legacy #235!

The Book of Hope, Chapter Two: Uncanny X-Men #523

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Welcome to this week’s instalment of our regular look at the current X-Men crossover, done for no better reason than the fact that I’m a bit of an X-Men nerd. This week: Uncanny X-Men #523. You can also go back an read last week’s deconstructions of X-Men: Second Coming #1 and Second Coming Prelude if you’re so inclined.

Uncanny_523_1Synopsis: While Cable and Hope hide out up in a motel, the Alpha Team complete their interrogation of the Sapien League, during which time Nightcrawler is shocked to learn of the existence – and methods – of X-Force. Meanwhile, Bastion – who is tracking Cable’s techno-organic virus – sends Stryker and his Purifiers to kill Hope. Cyclops sends the New Mutants to Cameron Hodge’s facility in St. Louis to destroy his cache of anti-mutant weaponry, but not before Cypher is able to point him in the direction of a disturbance near Westchester. The Purifiers attack Cable and Hope, pinning them down, but thanks to the intel provided by Cypher, the Alpha Team arrives, ready to free them.

Mini Review: The second chapter of Second Coming feels a little less urgent than the first, despite dealing with all the same plot threads. Although Dodson is generally one of the best artists on the X-Books, his style isn’t a natural fit for dramatic action scenes, especially in the wake of David Finch who – despite his weaknesses – can do that sort of material more justice. Elsewhere, Fraction’s versions of Cable and Hope are slightly one-note, which would be find except it’s not the same note we’ve seen in any of their previous appearances. In particular, the scene where Hope stares longingly at a pink hairbrush seems utterly bizarre, given her previous experiences of growing up in a post-apocalyptic future. It seems more likely that she’d be confused at what it was even for, rather than wish to own it. Although the tone of the issue didn’t quite work for me, I did, nonetheless, enjoy the plot developments, which were tightly considered. Not a huge amount happened, but for a story on a weekly pace, it kept enough ticking over that things shouldn’t get boring.

Commentary

Let’s start with Hairbrushgate:

Uncanny_523_2As you may have noted from the review above, I’m not a particularly big fan of this scene. Hope has been living exclusively in a post-apocalyptic world, so the idea that she would stare longingly at a pink hairbrush of all things seems a little unlikely, unless we’re supposed to believe there’s some innate gender attraction at work. And I hardly think Matt Fraction would go there.

Uncanny_523_3On the other hand, I really like this moment for Colossus. He’s probably as outraged and disappointed as Nightcrawler, but he takes a more pragmatic view of the situation in the short term. It wouldn’t surprise me if he later had his own angry chat with Wolverine and/or Cyclops, but for now, he’s focusing on the good he can do in the immediate future.

Uncanny_523_4For those wondering, Cyclops did raise Cable – although he was in a different body and several thousand years in the future at the time. Let’s try and be as concise as possible, shall we? Nathan Summers, son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, was taken into the future by the Clan Askani so that he could be cured of the techno-organic transmode virus that Apocalypse infected him with. As a safeguard, the Askani created a virus-free clone of Cable, who later grew up to become Apocalypse’s apprentice and intended vessel, Stryfe.

Meanwhile, in the past, Madelyne Pryor went insane and was revealed as a clone of Jean Grey (who had recently returned from the dead) then killed herself. Free from the shackles of his first marriage, Cyclops eventually wed Jean. On their honeymoon, however, their consciousnesses were pulled into the future by Mother Askani and implanted into imprecise reconstructions of their own bodies, assembled from the genetic material of their descendants. They lived for about 12 years as “Redd” and “Slym”, raising the young Nathan after the Askani were scattered by Apocalypses forces. Eventually, the three killed Apocalypse, at which point Scott and Jean’s minds were pulled back to the present. Leading the resistance against Apocalypses remaining forces, Nathan grew into the man called Cable, and eventually returned to our time where he unfortunately ended up drawn by Rob Liefeld.

Uncanny_523_5Yet more wrongness. Hope has always been shown with something of a defiant streak – but never before has she been this frivolous, especially when stuck in a hostile and unfamiliar environment. I can see that Fraction’s attempting to give Hope a sense of immature wonder at the opulence of modern living, but to me, it doesn’t ring true to her character at all. Immaturity is a character flaw that Hope has simply never had the luxury of.

Uncanny_523_6Update him indeed! I don’t know what these towers are, but it’s never good when villains start building towers, is it? Last time I remember robots building towers in the X-books, it was during the Phalanx Covenant storyline. Which, in a probably unrelated coincidence, was one of the last times Hodge and Lang showed up until they were revived by Bastion.

Uncanny_523_7OF COURSE the Internet is going to seem rudimentary if you insist on using a dial-up connection. I believe that’s a only a 1200 baud left arm he’s got plugged in there. Also, you missed out “sarcastic comics reviews” from the list of things the Internet is used for. Idiot.

Predictionwatch

In which I catch up with some of the predictions I made in Chapter Zero of this article series.

Nightcrawlerwatch: It has come to my attention over the last week that the recent X-Men Origins: Nightcrawler one-shot was billed as a “Second Coming Tie-In” for no obvious content reason. Assuming it wasn’t an error, the logical assumption can be made that this is because Nightcrawler dies in Second Coming, and Marvel think retailers might therefore want a few extra copies of the Nightcrawler comic kicking around for the brief period of time that people are talking about him.

Also, he’s in the new teaser image, released this week. One of these X-Men will die! they say, with a strange sense of bloodthirstiness. If we assume this death isn’t going to be a repeat performance, we can rule out Colossus and Magik, and Iceman was already alive in the scenes from “prelude”, which haven’t happened yet. This leaves us Cable, Nightcrawler, Frost and Angel. At this points, odds greatly favour the former two – but Wolverine’s reaction in the Prelude story suggests Nightcrawler or, at a push, Angel – a character he’s responsible for under X-Force. Personally, I think things don’t look good for everyone’s favourite German.

Aaaaand that’s it for this week. Back here in a week’s time (ish) for a look at the events of Chapter 3 of Second Coming as found in New Mutants #12.

The Book of Hope, Chapter One: X-Men – Second Coming #1

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So, Second Coming has officially started – and with that, so does our regular look at the latest chapter, starting with X-Men: Second Coming #1.

X_Men_Second_Coming_1Synopsis: Cable and Hope return to the present. Cyclops mobilises the X-Men to bring them into protection. Attacked by various groups of human zealots, Cable and Hope manage to stay ahead just long enough for the X-Men to arrive and take out their pursuers. In the final pages, it is revealed that the attackers are all members of the “Sapien League”, a group of the X-Men’s deadliest human foes which is being headed by… Bastion!

Mini Review: Not much new information about the story itself, but a lot of action and some surprisingly fantastic artwork from David Finch (even if Hope is drawn slightly too young compared to how she appeared over in Cable recently) add up to a decent beginning for the arc. Yost and Kyle’s grip on X-Men continuity serves this story well, and the setup for future chapters is well-disguised as Cyclops’ own contingency plans. If nothing else, it’s always fun to see the X-Men on top of a situation, doing what they do best, and yet still having time for some nice character moments too.

Commentary

Now, first big point – and call me a nerd if you like – but I really love the trade dress for Second Coming. Part of what I liked about Messiah Complex was the way that all of the issues looked like a continuous series, and that should be the case here, too. The X-Men logo with the extended strike is a nice take on a retro classic that visually references the original X-Factor logo – appropriately so, given the number of X-Factor references in this issue. I like the mix of modern and gothic fonts, and that the colours fit in nicely with Messiah Complex/War as well. Done properly, trade dress can make an event feel special, and that’s definitely the case here – the prominent chapter number indicates that this is going to be a story where every part counts.

In case you’re wondering, these weird grinning robots who show up are members of The Right, a group of mutant-hating X-Factor villains. Or, more accurately, they are members of the new Sapien League, wearing the armour of The Right, as discovered in a crate during the first year of X-Force v3.

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The armour is (crudely) designed to counteract mutant powers – specifically, the powers of X-Factor (back when it comprised of the original X-Men). I have no idea what the grinning face design is about, you just have to remember that they were created in the 80s when this sort of thing was considered normal.

On Utopia, Cyclops informs the team that 3 X-Men died as a result of the events of Necrosha. Including Meld, who just died of his injuries. Who is Meld, you might be asking?

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Who indeed. A shiny penny to anyone who can actually identify Meld from that line-up without checking first. Namor asks why the hell anyone cares about this Meld person anyway, echoing the voice of the readers, but Cyclops tells him to shut his face, then goes off and has an old-school sulk.

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Let’s hope that wasn’t a load-bearing wall. Although this tantrum will potentially harm the resale value of Utopia, it is actually significant that he goes this far, because it suggests that the precarious situation of leading all mutantkind – not entirely successfully – is actually starting to get to the normally stoic and repressed Cyclops.

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Now, here’s a mystery. Why isn’t Hope showing up on Cerebra? Can she somehow mask herself? Has Cable masked her already? Cerebra detected her mutant signature the moment Hope was born – so why not now? I’m pretty sure her powers have already manifested, after all, even if she isn’t well-practised in using them. And furthermore, how does Cyclops know that Hope is in the present too? Is it, perhaps, due to the psychic rapport he used to share with a certain redhead that Hope may or may not be the reincarnation of? Or is he just making a leap of faith?

Following this discovery, Cyclops breaks the team up into squads. It’s not clear why Domino and Vanisher have been sent to San Francisco. Rogue and Namor are left to protect Utopia – with Cyclops making an amusing appeal to Namor’s vanity – while the New Mutants are put in the sky, sans Magik, for similarly vague reasons. Cyclops himself takes his “Alpha Roster”, which is a frankly awesome team comprising Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Angel, Psylocke, X-23, Magik, Pixie and Cyclops himself. I love a good custom X-Men squad, and with three teleporters and lots of combat prowess, it seems well-suited for an extraction.

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Meanwhile, Cable and Hope are still fighting. Cable notices that The Right armour is “ahead of its time.” Solicitations suggest that there’s going to be a time-travel component to Second Coming, but it may also suggest that the new Sapien League has been harvesting technology from Bastion’s “Nimrod” components.

The guys in the weird face-masks are members of the Sapien League, who first appeared in 2004 and were recently led by the Leper Queen. Apparently, when you’re out of flying robot suits with buit-in guns and stuff, your next option is a van and hockey mask. But they do get sniper rifles too. While they attempt to chase down Hope and Cable, the X-Men teleport in and slice up the Sapien League good, much to Nightcrawler’s moral outrage. Cyclops and Wolverine also spend a lot of time trying to hush up the various members of X-Force from discussing their secret black-ops missions in front of people who aren’t supposed to know about it.

Wolverine tries to find out how they were tracking Cable and Hope, and the next scene apparently reveals the answer. The new Sapien League had a video camera pointed at the mansion ruins. Probably not such a bad idea, all things considered. It also reveals the villains for Second Coming - a bunch of Human X-Men villains who have finally pooled their resources. Makes sense, really, given that the “faceless anti-mutant zealots” has been the mandate for a fair proportion of “different” anti-mutant organisations over the years. For those who are interested, it’s Cameron Hodge (demonically-immortal leader of The Right), Steven Lang (ex-Phalanx), Bolivar Trask (Sentinel creator), William Stryker (Purifiers), Graydon Creed (Friends of Humanity) and Bastion (Past-Mastermold, Part-Nimrod, All-Operation: Zero Tolerance). It’s like a 80s/90s villain reunion, and a feast for continuity geeks. Though, in case you hadn’t noticed, a lot of the villains in this story have recently appeared in Kyle/Yost’s X-Force run.

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Oh, and just because they apparently haven’t used the word Messiah enough to justify the title of this crossover, Bastion appears here, crucified. Subtle.

Predictionwatch

In which I catch up with some of the predictions I made in Chapter Zero of this article series.

Phoenixwatch: Nothing about Phoenix so far. There’s the barest subtextual hint that Cyclops’ psychic link with Jean might be what makes him so sure that Hope is alive, but it could easily be nothing more than faith in his son.

Nightcrawlerwatch: Kurt seems oddly prominent in this issue, and gets to give the kind of speech that’s going to seem pretty ironic if he does die. His moral outrage at X-23′s murder of a Sapien League member is also a fairly major plot beat that suggests he may shortly develop some disillusionment with the Cyclops’ leadership skills. The fact that he has more lines than pretty much everyone except Cable, Hope and Cyclops suggests that he is going to be a major part of the next few issues – one way or the other.

So, Part One over. Everyone back here next week for a look at Uncanny X-Men #523!

The Book of Hope, Chapter Zero: X-Men – Second Coming Prelude

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secondcomingbannerAt the tail end of 2007, the Messiah Complex crossover told the story of the first mutant birth after M-Day. The child would eventually be named Hope, and after a fierce battle between the X-Men, Sinister’s Marauders and the mutant-hating Purifiers, she was rescued by Cable and sent into the future where she could grow up and fulfill her destiny of becoming mutantkind’s eventual saviour – or destroyer.

Pursued by the relentless Bishop, who comes from a future where mutantkind was massively damaged by Hope’s actions, Cable spirited Hope through time where the pair faced numerous battles and established only limited contact with the X-Men. It took 17 years for them to shake Bishop off, sending him into a distant, post-apocalyptic future with no time machine capable of returning. By the time their trip ends, Hope’s powers have manifested and she’s ready to take her place in the X-Men – but Cable, her “father” is old and injured, his body on the brink of destruction due to the physical stresses of a lifetime of temporal jumps. The last we saw of the pair, they had teleported back to the present.

X-Men: Second Coming #1 will show what happens next.

But not until tomorrow.

This article series, The Book of Hope, will cover the crossover each week, reviewing and deconstructing each instalment, offering commentary and speculation about the events within it. Warning – if you haven’t read the solicitations, there will be potential spoilers about which characters appear and/or survive – but otherwise, I’m speculating purely from material available to the public, not on rumours or leaks.

Right now, we only have a glimpse of the storyline, as offered by Mike Carey and Stewart Immonen in the giveaway comic X-Men: Second Coming Prelude.

X-Men_Second_Coming_PrepareThe story shows “Roxie” (presumably Bling) getting a video-record of events two days after Cable and Hope return from the future – which presumably places it during the events of the crossover. She asks various characters the question “Where were you?” as she anticipates an end to mutantkind.

The first interviewee is Iceman, who describes himself as being “Here” – meaning “On Utopia” – a place he describes as “Sort of like the Alamo with an ocean view.” Although the danger indicated is grave, there’s little new information in this scene.

The next interview subject is Magneto, who replies that he was “Where I said I’d be. With the X-Men.” He reaffirms his commitment to the team, to the death – and with that comment, the camera pans to show the sheet-covered body of one of the X-Men. Is Magneto’s presense at the side of the body significant? If so, it points to two obvious possibilities for the dead X-Man – his old friend, Professor Xavier – who we can largely rule out, since he already “died” at the end of Messiah Complex” – and his former lover, Rogue.

Rogue is currently the star of X-Men Legacy, but a few things point to her potentially being a major player in Second Coming – not least her strange connection to Hope, who “cured” her death touch and psychosis during the events of Messiah Complex. That, and the fact that she only just gained control of her powers, suggests that she won’t die any time soon.

Interview Three is with Cannonball, who is watching over an injured (and apparently caucasian) team-mate in an operating theatre, who appears to be a member of the New Mutants, since he blames himself for their situation. X-Men: Second Coming – Hellbound is a companion miniseries which sees a team of X-Men journeying into Limbo after Magik. That suggests she might be the one on the operating table on this page.

The fourth interview is with Cable, who – along with Hope – is picking out weapons from a cache of guns. No new information – though it does telegraph in advance that Hope and Cable will make it to Utopia alive.

X-Men_Second_Coming_Prepare_WolverineNext, Bling interviews Wolverine, who is initially mute, then angry about the death of his friend, which appears to be as a result of an X-Force mission gone awry. There are plenty of characters who haven’t appeared in the solicitations after the death – but Colossus does, and since he’s one of the few X-Men Wolverine might call “friend”, I’m going to say that it’s quite possibly Nightcrawler who dies.

Finally, an interview with a grave and reflective Cyclops, who reaffirms that he was “on the front line.” No new information.

And that, more or less, brings us up to date. But what would this article be without some wild speculation? Personally, I’m making the following predictions – but I’ll leave the explanation as to where  these guesses came until the story’s over!

1. Hope will not be Jean Grey.
2. Nightcrawler will die. (“One will Fall”)
2. Magneto will take control of the X-Men. (“One will Lead”)
3. Bishop will return from the future and end up causing the “massacre” he attributes to Hope.
4. Cable will die – or at least, get lost in time (“One will Sacrifice”).
5. Jean Grey will appear, but not return permanently. (“One will Rise”)

Right. That all seems suitably improbable, doesn’t it? Make sure you’re back here soon for, er, Chapter One of this series.

James Hunt | 30th March, 2010

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