byzantine's The X-Men #26 - Holocaust! review

Empires rise and fall

I'll have to say this is the most ambitious issue in quite a while. An empire rises and falls, the internal conflict within the X-Men gets the spotlight treatment and a new subplot established. If not for a few poorly conceived scenes, this would be a favorite. 
First on the Kukulcan front. The new avatar of the deity is soon confronted with attacks by Ramon, Toloc and Cyclops. Easily knocking out all three of them. Cyclops even finds his own blasts reflected back at him. Knocking out for several hours. Then Kukulcan uses a "solar sphere" to transport himself to San Rico, in search for an ancient capital of the Mayas. 
Ancient buildings long-covered by plant life see the light of day once more. An ancient path to the city is also restored. A telepathic summon to the modern descendants of the Mayas reaches much of the peasantry in Central America. They start heading towards the city of their ancestors. Placed in labour to revive an old empire. Arriving police forces become the new army of the city. Werner Roth delivers some pretty good artwork, as the plot starts to resemble "The Hour of the Dragon" (1935) by Robert E. Howard which also features the restoration of a long-dead Empire.  
On the X-Men front there are three significant developments. First, with subplots concerning Jean. She doesn't participate in the mission of this issue. But she is the one researching the Maya history and legends for the X-Men. This is the second time Jean provides necessary background to a foe, after previously researching Logan. She seems to be acting as the main informant for the team. Her friendship with Ted Roberts is further examined. And she is re-introduced to his buddy Calvin Rankin. The Mimic finds her strangely familiar and wants to learn why. Introducing a subplot about the restoration of his memories.  
The second significant development is in the relationship between Cyclops and Angel. Cyclops finally resolves to express his feeling for Jean. But Angel already suspects what those feelings are. Which leaves Warren very irritated with his leader. He spends much of the issue sarcastically commenting on Scott and his various patterns of behavior. Even Warren has to admit he comes off as a "poor man's Hawkeye" (a reference to Hawkeye criticizing Captain America over in "Avengers"). It seems refreshing actually. The subplot of Scott and Warren not liking each other had been introduced back in #3. But this had been overlooked for quite a while. Internal conflicts were always part of the charm in Fantastic Four and Avengers. Why not the X-Men?  
The third significant development? Angel was supposed to keep Kukulcan preoccupied while Beast and Iceman were attempting to cut off the deity from its power source (solar energy). Cyclops fails to get that and attempts to blast Kukulcan from behind. The danger sense of the avatar warns him in time, allowing to escape the blast. Meaning it is the Angel who gets blasted. This is the second time Warren gets this treatment, following #21.  
When the battle is resolved, Warren is still severely hurt. He drifts in and out of unconsciousness. But manages to voice his suspicion that Scott did this on purpose, trying to get rid of a rival. The issue ends with Scott cradling the wounded Warren in his arms. While wondering if that blast was really an accident, or if he subconsciously was trying to kill Warren. Beast and Iceman seem to be giving their leader the silent treatment, with Scott worried that they already think him guilty. A nice little cliffhanger, promising that the issue will have repercussions for some time.  
The issue has some very poor moments though: 
*Professor X looks at an image of Kukulcan and notes the transformation from the form of El Tigre. A plot point of the previous issue was that the Professor had no idea what their foe looked like. His students got the necessary image from a television broadcast. Which still doesn't explain how did the Professor know enough to notice any change in appearance. 
*Cyclops blasts the night watchman (from the previous issue) a few minutes too late. Why? Because he needs to manually handle his own visor. A peculiar weakness which doesn't really fit with previous depictions. Remember that orphanage scene from #25? Cyclops uses a blast with his hands nowhere near his visor.
*Professor X explains to the Beast the use of  indexes and annotations in research volumes. While this could use an explanation within the story, it makes the resident intellectual Hank seem a bit too ignorant.  
*When arriving at Xavier Mansion to deliver the needed books, Jean notices that Scott is missing. He is still unconscious, but that leaves her thinking about him. Warren is annoyed that "she's still got a thing for Cyclops", Which makes it seem as if he is reading her thought balloons. Since when is Warren a telepath?  
*Professor X joins the X-Men in their transportation to San Rico. But doesn't join them in the mission. What was the point of him leaving Westchester County, then?  
*Cyclops first manages to crash the X-Men's boat on some rocks, then is the only X-Man needing rescue (by Warren) when they are attacked by caimans. Lastly,  leading them straight into a trap. He is left in doubt of his leadership skills. While Scott never was a brilliant leader to begin with, the issue seems to go out of its way to depict him as incompetent. 

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