X-Men Black #4
Juggernaut – Stoppable
Cain Marko, the unstoppable Juggernaut, finds himself standing outside Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, or as he used to know it as a child, home. After getting over a little bit of disorientation, he bursts into the house to face off against the original five X-Men – not the time-displaced versions. As he fights them, he starts to wonder how they’re all there – aren't some of them supposed to be dead already? He’s visited by his childhood self, then, and he thinks it’s an apparition caused by Charles Xavier – Juggernaut's half-brother – but as he tries to burst out of the mansion, which becomes increasingly maze-like, it becomes clear that there’s something else at play. It turns out that Cain Marko is in Thailand, at the Temple of Cyttorak, imprisoned as the monks look on. They feel that he has become weak, and that it may be time for a new champion.
Inside the mental landscape that Juggernaut is trapped in, he talks to the apparition of his childhood self, who tells him that the rage that they feel is what saved them both, because before that, they were alone, afraid, and unloved. Kid Cain then show Juggernaut a vision of the present, where he’s imprisoned. Lost in his mind, Juggernaut fights against the X-Men in their various forms, before coming to the conclusion that no one can stop him but himself. Armed with that knowledge, Juggernaut breaks free of the dreams he’s been trapped in, as well as breaking out of his imprisonment in the temple.
Cyttorak, the mystical deity that powers Juggernaut through the crimson gem he has – starts to think that Juggernaut may still be worthy of carrying the gem. He asks Cain to kneel before him, but Juggernaut is in a mood and fights the giant red demon god instead. Cyttorak, as expected, holds his own, but is impressed by the all the rage that Juggernaut has been holding back. Still, he doesn’t hesitate to put him down and tell him that he’s a weak, frightened child, but Juggernaut fights back saying that he’s been a lot of things in his life, but the most important thing has always been his rage. He beats Cyttorak down, but Cyttorak starts laughing because it turns out that this was all just another test by him, and Juggernaut has passed it. He names Juggernaut his champion again and lets him free. As Juggernaut leaves, he is accompanied by the apparition of his child self, who is free and hungry to spread fear and rage...and has the idea to find the seven other gems of Cyttorak so that they can one day make the demon god bend to their will.
Apocalypse – Degeneration Part 4
Apocalypse, who has degenerated even more from the last installment – is caged up, this time in the form of a primate. His test subjects – all more evolved than him, carrying futuristic weaponry – believe they’ve discovered a new species in him. Thirty-three days pass, thirty-three days in which Apocalypse continues to degenerate as his former lab rats build a new, advanced city, thirty-three days during which Apocalypse only has one thought on his mind – survive. He watches as they do experiments akin to the ones he used to do, and when one finally comes to feed him, Apocalypse grabs his arm and moves to bite him. The other former test subjects come to their colleague’s rescue and try to beat Apocalypse down, but one of them stops the other three, saying that he’s valuable and should be placed on the altar. They strap Apocalypse into the machine, but before they can use it for whatever intentions they may have, Apocalypse grabs onto the man with the D tattooed on his chest, and power surges between them both.
Apocalypse’s primate body is burned to a crisp, but it’s no matter because his consciousness has transferred into test subject D, as had been his original plan. He’s no longer degenerating, but he still has to get away from this alien land...but not before razing these abominations’ society.
Juggernaut – Stoppable
This story continues the trend of X-Men Black stories being character studies about the various X-Men villains. While this may not be the most vital of Juggernaut stories – we all know that his anger is what makes him the unstoppable Juggernaut – it’s still a fun, interesting one that contains seeds for something more. Robbie Thompson gets Juggernaut’s voice just right – a little gruff, a little tough, nowhere near as refined as his step-brother’s – and the newly added detail about how he’s kept some of that rage bottled up – and how it’s taken the shape of his childhood self – is a nice touch. The plot detail at the end about the seven other gems of Cyttorak is a great hook to end the story on, and honestly, this is something that Marvel could very easily allow Thompson to continue writing, as it’s a great concept for an ongoing Juggernaut series. Cyttorak is an interesting nemesis for Juggernaut because not only does he power Juggernaut, he’s literally someone who can stop the unstoppable – no matter how much Juggernaut might argue otherwise. It gives Cain some greater odds to fight against, and good things can definitely come from that. This is definitely an idea worth further exploration with Juggernaut.
Shawn Crystal’s artwork really shines in this story – his Juggernaut is big and imposing, almost larger than life, and he feels like a threat – until he’s standing in front of the far larger Cyttorak, anyway. Despite that, though, Crystal manages to imbue Juggernaut with a sense of power and strength – he truly does seem unstoppable. One of the most delightful touches that Crystal gives the artwork is the use of stone as a sound effect – smash, boom, kra-koom – it’s a great effect to have during the action scenes. Rico Renzi’s bold-but-not-bright color palette – filled with all manner of reds and violets of conveying rage – complements the story beautifully.
Apocalypse – Degeneration Part 4
This story gets over its middle installment slump from last week by moving the story forward. While much time isn’t spent on the former test subjects and what, exactly, brought them to exactly where Apocalypse is, it’s not necessary since they ultimately fulfill their purpose – to provide the mutant with a brand new body, which is a personal welcome change for him, given that he had degenerated into just an ape through the course of this installment. With the ending of the story coming up next week, one wonders how it’s all going to wrap up, and what Apocalypse is going to take with him from this alien landscape.
A fun issue with some interesting story seeds strewn about, it may not be the most important or biggest issue released this week, but it's definitely an enjoyable read.
X-Men Black #4: Survival Through Rage
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 7/107/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 6/106/10
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