Herald Guided Tour: X-Men Messiah CompleX

Much like Robert Pollard’s catalogue of albums, or Kim Kardashian’s curves, the X-Men have what I’d call an “abundance-problem.” Because of the depth and volume of characters within their ranks, it is nearly impossible to know where to focus your time. Comic Book Herald’s reading order guide attempts to solve some of these issues, but it should not go unnoticed that with Messiah CompleX, Marvel’s major X-event in late 2007, Marvel comics attempted a similar bridging of the gap. As I’ll get into, the comic book run holds up – but does the whole “crossover event” shtick?

Comic Book Run: X-Men: Messiah Complex

Publication Dates: Oct 2007 – Jan 2008

Writer: Ed Brubaker, Peter David, Chris Yost (and co.)   Artist: Marc Silvestri, Billy Tan (and co.)

CBH Score: 8.6

Continuity Relevance?: Yes, major.

Suggested Listening: Bruce Springsteen – “Born to Run”

Who Needs It?: X-fans of any kind. This is one of, if not the, best X-events of the 2000’s. Marvel built up to this for 3-4 years.


The Birth of a Mutant Savior

It’s certainly in my best interest to say this, but if you haven’t been keeping up with the chronological reading order guide, Messiah CompleX is going to be more than a little confusing. Messiah CompleX is the direct conclusion of the events that began in House of M, continued on through Decimation, and branched off into runs like Deadly Genesis and The Rise and Fall of the Sh’iar Empire. 

If you see all those previous comic runs and you’re like “jigga what?” I’d recommend starting there.

Otherwise, the gist of Messiah CompleX is brilliantly simple: No new mutant life has originated since the Scarlet Witch gave them the ol’ “No more mutants!” An already persecuted race have found themselves near the brink of extinction. And now, to change all this, is the apparent birth of a new mutant so powerful she has every single imaginable mutant faction trying to get a hold of her.

Cable in X-Men Messiah CompleX - Proud Father, Big Guns
Fortunately, Cable is great with diapers

Hunt for the Mutant Messiah on Your Comic Book Shelves

The majority of Messiah CompleX involves the search for this potential savior of the mutant race. The factions hunting can get kind of confusing if you haven’t been following every X-line available. This is Marvel’s great gambit here – to combine all events of Messiah CompleX across all X-lines. The idea, I  imagine, is to get someone who has never bought X-Factor to start buying X-Factor. Before I get into the logic of this approach, here is the official individual comic order of Messiah CompleX.

  1. X-Men: Messiah Complex (one-shot)
  2. Uncanny X-Men #492
  3. X-Factor #25
  4. New X-Men #44
  5. X-Men #205
  6. Uncanny X-Men #493
  7. X-Factor #26
  8. New X-Men #45
  9. X-Men #206
  10. Uncanny #494
  11. X-Factor #27
  12. New X-men #46
  13. X-Men #207
As you can see, keeping up with Messiah Complex on a comic-by-comic basis would have been quite the Easter egg hunt. Fortunately for the rest of us, the graphic novel collection above just includes everything you’ll need in the proper order.
What I Like About This Approach:
  • Because Messiah CompleX is such a rich story, with such enormous stakes for the Marvel Universe, it really gives each faction of the X-Universe a chance to showcase what makes them special. Scenes with Madrox the Multiple-Man and Layla Miller remind me how great a job Peter David’s doing on X-Factor. Scenes with the New X-Men introduce me to what a great job Chris Yost’s doing with a cast of entirely new X-characters under the intimidating shadow of Grant Morrison’s work on this line. And scenes with Cyclops and Professor X showcase just how much Cyclops has really evolved into the true leader of the X-Men. He doesn’t need Professor X anymore and this kills Xavier.
Sad Professor X with Cerebro
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seeeeeeen…


  • The ambition of merging all X-lines into one major, cohesive story is admirable. And the coolest thing about Messiah CompleX is it actually works. There’s a danger in including an unfamiliar line like New X-Men, that when readers hit the parts of the story under that title, they’ll have no interest in reading. They’ll just want to wait it out for Uncanny X-Men, the line they know and trust. When you actually start reading each part, though, it becomes very apparent, very quickly, that the story evolves across each line without getting bogged down by a line-specific focus.
What Bothers Me About Marvel’s Approach Here
  • It’s wildly illogical. If the idea is to essentially coerce readers into buying X-Factor to keep up with Messiah CompleX, there is nothing indicating this pattern of purchase behavior will continue once the event reaches its conclusions. Now, if new readers start to realize how cool X-Factor is and fall head-0ver-heels for Jamie and Layla (it’s not hard to do – Peter David writes the pants off this relationship, which is really the best we can hope for with any relationship), then maybe X-Factor makes their pull list. But that could happen regardless of how this event is broken up across different comics. It’s purely based on character development that could happen under any title.
  • In dividing up each part across multiple X-lines, Marvel is almost just pointing out a fatal flaw – they have too much going on with the X-men! You know what made Morrison’s New X-Men and Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men so incredibly great? It wasn’t just the fantastic writing/art – it was the fact that we knew who the hell “the X-men” meant in each of those lines. This is a problem that will continue to vex the X-Men, probably for the remainder of time. But given how fantastic it worked when all X-factions came together across the story of Messiah CompleX… there has to be an answer here that doesn’t lead to one of those classic X-future wastelands because nobody could figure out how to read X-Men.
The Future of the X-Men


But, uh, What About This Trade Collection?

Right. End of the day, the approach for releasing X-Men Messiah CompleX is kind of besides the point. And what is the point?

This is a fantastic conclusion to everything the X-Men have been building towards since House of M.

For fans of the X-Men, it’s really amazing how many all-time favorites are worked into this collection. You have Mr. Sinister doing his creepy, Sinister-thing, Sentinels unleashing on the Xavier Institute, a dystopian “Days of Future Past” timeline, and Wolverine stabbing the hell out of everything.

Wolverine Never Stabs a Boob
Though he is oddly careful to avoid certain… goods


Messiah CompleX is a great end to the Decimation era and paves the road for some very interesting X-lines to come. Plus, it has substantially upped my interest in lines like X-Factor and New X-Men. So I really have no choice but to give it a “mission accomplished.”


4 Replies to “Herald Guided Tour: X-Men Messiah CompleX”

  1. Do you have a reading list for the post Messiah Complex Divided We Stand stories that spread across the X-universe? I keep finding them randomly and they seem to cover some new trades released/created from the aftermath of Messiah Complex.

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