Review: X-Men: Prelude to Schism #3

Heavy hangs the heart of the leaders of men, and the same goes for the leader of mutants, as Cyclops faces down a fateful decision to determine the future of his people.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

X-Men: Prelude to Schism #3

X-Men: Prelude To Schism #3 is both amazing and terrifying. It’s amazing simply for how well it’s written, how beautifully constructed the story is. These issues leading up to the next X-Men event have been amongst the most subtle and quiet in recent memory. The terrifying thing is how they build up to Schism itself. Whatever is coming for the X-Men is so terrifying that it’s making one of the most powerful and accomplished hero teams in history nervous.

So what if the payoff is lame? What if what’s coming for them never rises above standard comic book fare? Then there’s the writing. I realize that scribe extraordinaire Jason Aaron is penning Schism, but he has some massive shoes to follow after Paul Jenkins, who has shown just how good he is,.

Think of what a comic book really is, twenty-two pages and a few panels. Within those panels, the writer gets a couple of word balloons and thought boxes and that’s it. Jenkins' task is even more difficult as Prelude To Schism has zero action. This is the calm before the storm, when the leader of the X-Men makes a decision that will affect thousands of lives. In issue #3 we focus on Cyclops thinking of his dead mother as the other X-Men become restless and ill tempered waiting for whatever the big bad of Schism is. 

Jenkins manages to take these things and create real tension and fear. You feel for Cyclops, you sense the uneasy feeling from all of the characters. That’s not an easy feeling to communicate in a book with thousands of words, much less a comic with so few. Jenkins economical approach to dialog is the lynch pin of everything. Nobody says anything that doesn’t need to be said, not even within Scott’s inner dialog.

Will Conrad takes his art in the same direction that Jenkins does the writing. The pencils are lean and each panel features just what’s needed. The movement is kept to a minimum. Instead, Conrad focuses on facial expressions and body language. When the outburst comes between Wolverine and Namor, Conrad’s positioning of the heroes gives it real impact. You not only feel but also see these characters on edge. Conrad’s clean lines and basic structure help to keep Prelude To Schism on point. Your eye doesn’t waste time on superfluous details, you’re focused on the here and now.

Issue #4, the final issue of the series, looks to be the X-Men launching into action but nothing substantial in the event will probably go down until Schism #1. I welcome Jason Aaron’s story but I’ll miss Paul Jenkins’ approach to the X-Men. It’s hard to be both thoughtful and interesting in comics, especially superhero comics. Jenkins nails that and gives this intro to the event that will change the X-Men (and end Uncanny, I might add) a real emotional center. These aren’t just costume heroes going out to fight evil; these are people going out to face what could be their deaths. It’s this kind of writing and art that, just for a moment, displays comics as more than fantasy and something akin to great literature.