Great story. Excellent writing. Fairly new-reader-friendly.
I have not read any X-Men comics since the end of Grant Morrison's New X-Men. I previously read "House of M" as an Avengers story, so I knew about the downsizing of the mutant population already. I recently decided to take an interest in the X-titles and did some research on the best jump-in points. Messiah Complex seemed the best bet. So I will be coming at this review as a reader who had not read X-Men for years prior to this story.
Let's start then with accessibility. In spite of several major events that occurred before it (everything from House of M until now), this book is pretty easy to pick up and go. If you have any base knowledge of the X-Men, even from the movies or cartoons, you should find some familiar elements. A few events are ongoing from previous stories. From the start we know that the X-Men, the Purifiers, and the Marauders are all searching for the first new mutant since M-Day. I had no idea who the Purifiers were. I only knew their deceased leader from the movies really. That said, it was very easy to understand who they were, what they were after, and how they factored into the story. As for the Marauders, I knew Mister Sinister, Mystique, and Gambit going into this, so that was easier to digest. As the story progresses, Bishop, Cable, Forge, and X-Factor, and the New X-Men (a group of students) are drawn into the story. I had no idea who Layla Miller was, but after this one story, I'm already a fan.
There sure are a lot of mutants in this story for a story about how there aren't a lot of mutants. In spite of all the characters and trivial references to past stories, Messiah Complex is very accessible to new readers. Those with at least some previous reference should feel fairly comfortable. All the ideas, plot lines, and character motivations are explained and well-developed.
If I had been a reader of any single X-title at this time, I might have been a bit annoyed by this story. It crosses over between 4 separate series and you really need to read them all in order to have a clue what's going up. In a nutshell, if you were just an X-Factor fan, you are going to have to bite the bullet and read the other 3 series too for the duration of this story. Even if each time held the focus in their own book, there's just too much going on.
Messiah Complex is packed with story, which is probably the most satisfying aspect of the book. A lot happens. The messiah baby switches hands several times. Everything works within the story logic. No one is doing anything that seems out of place. There are shocking moments just for the sake of shock factor with perhaps one exception at the end involving Professor Xavier.
X-Force is a very interesting team to come out of this story and I look forward to reading that series. Madrox and Layla's story is one of the best I've read in a while. I love possible future stories and Layla reacts to everything in such an interesting yet mysterious way. "She knows stuff," as we are often reminded, so events play out differently for her than everyone else.
I have never liked Cyclops. I'm not sure I do now, but this was a step in the right direction. His interactions with Xavier definitely up my respect for him. It doesn't hurt that he's romantically involved with one of the most interesting characters in the X-Men universe, Emma Frost.
In this entire story, the only element I found to be worthless to the plot was Predator X, which appears to be a super-dinosaur created in a lab to hunt and eat mutants. This added nothing to the story other than a monster to fight on the side. It's a decent idea that didn't really fit with this story.
I only gave this 4 stars mostly due to the Predator X story and overabundance of characters. The story itself is very good and the quality of writing superb. Some readers may be put off by the variation of art styles due to the different artists on each of the four series this story was collected from. Chapters from New X-Men display the most jarring differences, while the other three are similar enough in style to gel together well.