Since it started, the XMF series has walked that fine line between convoluted yet compellingly entertaining storytelling and atrociously delusional baggage of bullshit storylines. For a time, it's always been an optimistic reading experience for yours truly but now I can honestly say that this volume is everything that's distasteful, bland and irreconcilably bad about this series as a whole. There's no way to sugarcoat it.
First of all, the story arcs that were present here only lasted for two issues each (Rogue and Nightcrawler's misadventure in Mississippi was in issues #16-17; Finding Fabian Cortez in the Consortium base lasted from issues #19-20) and there just wasn't enough content to go around with so everything feels stretched out and unsatisfying. Not failing to mention, of course, that perplexingly boring issue #18 that was Cyclops-centered but could have easily been written in less than five pages because the events that happened in that issue were so catastrophically uneventful that it hurts. I don't even have any other way to expound on this review so let me re-post my most important criticism and that's how Jean Grey's role in all of this debacle so far and the mutant burnout storyline are being executed:
If the mutant burnout was a really important plot thread then I certainly hope Claremont brings his A-game and stop giving us filler story arcs in between and just focus on the burnout crisis instead. The irony about it thought is that he still has to build up certain subplots that are in relation to this main one and yet he manages to accomplish little every time he does because there's just something underwhelming and half-baked about the way he's written the last four issues or so. I think the pacing has started to suffer by the end of the Sentinels arc and we're trudging along the dangerous possibility that this could get more convoluted than necessary. We have S.H.I.E.L.D vs. The Consortium vs. the X-Men. We got individual vendettas from Storm and Black Magik (who will make an appearance because their arcs are unfinished after all), and then we have the blindingly stupid character conflict of Jean Grey regarding the men she's romantically interested in.
In issue #17, Jean and Moira have a girl talk during tea time. Of course, it's about Jean's love life because apparently that's the storyline she's been strictly confined in since we stared XMF. She hasn't been going in missions and taking on more active, participatory roles either, and her bereavement process had stretched far too long that it was derivative by now. Worse, she had just made out with one of her long-time friends while recovering from the loss of another which is just so tacky. I don't know about you but Jean is not impressing me at the moment. She's basically helpless, making some truly confounding decisions and becoming receptive to Hank's affections which he never blatantly expressed, mind you. I know I said in my review for the third volume that I won't be harsh with her because I understand her grief but honestly! This is a grotesque way of characterizing one of the most empowered superheroines in comic book fiction, reducing her into a small role of a woman who lost her love interest and is now eager to jump with another because hey, it's the only way she could deal with the potentially life-ending mutation burnout. It's just frustrating because so much fucked-up shit are happening around her and with other characters and we have yet to see her involved in a decent piece of storyline outside her romantic dilemma at hand. I mean, how long is she going to stay cooped up in the mansion, going on meditative walks or having various heart-to-hearts with people who obviously have more important things to do than listen to her pain? I am not happy about the role in which you have cased Jean Grey in, Mr. Claremont. Please remedy this ASAP.
RECOMMENDED FOR POSTERITY: 6/10