(Don't worry. I know that title looks a little defeatist...probably of the depressing, "woe-is-me" variety, but it actually has nothing to do with me personally...)
Hell, I may as well get this out of the way, too...
CONSIDER THIS BOLD SECTION WRITTEN IN ALL-CAPS YOUR SPOILER WARNING. I'M ABOUT TO RUIN THE UTTER HELL OUT OF A PARTICULAR COMIC BOOK STORY - THE X-MEN "MESSIAH COMPLEX" STORY, IN PARTICULAR - IN TALKING ABOUT IT HERE. IF YOU'RE IN THE BOAT I'M IN - YOU REGULARLY READ AND KNOW COMICS BUT DON'T GET EVERY ISSUE AS IT COMES OUT EVERY WEEK AND CHOOSE TO WAIT UNTIL ALL OF A PARTICULARLY STORY IS COLLECTED IN ONE VOLUME TO READ THE WHOLE THING IN ONE SITTING (DEFEATING THE IDEA OF A MONTHLY, SUSPENSEFUL STORY, BUT WE'LL GET INTO THAT DISCUSSION ANOTHER TIME) AND DON'T HAVE ANYONE ELSE TO DISCUSS YOUR FASCINATION WITH BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE YOU KNOW IS THAT BIG OF A GEEK AND DON'T MIND ME GIVING AWAY THE PARTICULARS OF THIS STORY, THEN BUY ALL MEANS KEEP READING. IF ANY OF THE ABOVE ISN'T YOUR CUP OF TEA OR YOU DON'T WANT "MESSIAH COMPLEX" COMPLETELY RUINED BEFORE YOU GET TO TURN A SINGLE PAGE, THIS SENTENCE IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO HIT THE "BACK" BUTTON ON YOUR BROWSER AND FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO READ.
Now that that's done, on with the show. The first big X-Men event in 10 years, I actually approached "Messiah Complex" with a bit of anticipation. Granted, the idea of an "X-Men event" several years ago would have been a groaner - and this is coming from someone who grew up reading them. Several shoddy "crossover" stories lead to that, the peak of which--wait, lemme rephrase that. The nadir of which was the "Onslaught Saga" - a story that was brutal and blatant in its contrivances. A story that, at times, confused even me - and I knew what was going on because I'd read these characters for so long!
"Messiah Complex", though, was a breath of fresh air compared to stories past. One of the things that helped me along was the inclusion of The Marauders, Sinister's band of merry nasties (whom I remember fondly from reading the Mutant Massacre - the X-Men's first big crossover story - as a kid). Scalphunter, Arclight, Riptide, Vertigo...All those dudes were bad as hell back then. That tie to the(n)m warmed my heart, even if they were the same ruthless asses.
Another breath of freshness was simply in the pacing. The story was simple - since the Decimation two years prior, the first Mutant baby has been born and everybody wants a piece of her for their own goals and reasons. It's a simple chase story told clearly and with some side-stepping. The side-stepping, however, contributes to the story (or at least the mood) overall and isn't there just for superfluous "dramatic emphasis".
As for "dramatic emphasis", there are plenty of moments that do that on their own. The baby's kidnapper is revealed to be...Cable? Bishop turns traitor. Ditto Mystique. Mister Sinister is killed (~!) by Mystique (the single moment that, honestly, shocked me above all the others. Rogue is alive and almost commits murder. And then, the big one...the one that spawned the title of this Blog in the first place...Professor Xavier is shot in the head and, apparently, killed. All of it hits like a kick in the nuts and none of it feels like it was done for shock value. There are reasons for every action, and all of them are detailed.
Lastly, the story itself ends on a downer note (c'mon, Xavier's dead...that's about as much of a downer as you can get with the X-Men), but leaves plenty of threads wide open. It was a monumental story, sure, but it had a purpose - to shake up the X-Men something fierce and take things in new directions. This is the whole idea of "crossover events" and something the glut of them in the early 90s failed to do with any significance. This one has, in big ways. And the way it was done was marvelous (no pun intended, really - I'm still a much bigger DC fan).
This was excellent stuff, and now has me wanting to read the "Divided We Stand" arc and the renamed "Legacy" series to see where the (disbanded?!) X-Men and their allies go from here. I have much more territory to cover, though - I have the "Sinestro Corps War" to finish up yet and the afore-alluded to "House of M" story to plow through as well.
With all that, though, I'm also reading Scott McCloud's Making Comics for some last-minute refinement techniques and a general understanding of what I'm about to undertake myself. I've read comics all my life; it's time I started making them as well.