Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: Adam Kubert (p), Danny Miki (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with the nuclear plant reaching critical mass in high orbit, where it explodes. We then look in on the X-Men, as we see Wolverine & Cyclops are about to have it out, over Logan's attempted murder of Scott. However, this fight is over before it can even begin, as Scott blasts Logan into next week with an optic blast, before informing him that he's no longer a member of the X-Men. We then see in a rather unusual twist, the X-Men are welcomed by cheering crowds, and when they hand Magneto to the authorities we see the media embraces the team as misunderstood heroes. As the X-Men find themselves being hailed as heroes we see a meeting is called with top ranking military officials to discuss what to do with the X-Men, as they're far too popularity to simply lock away, but the power they command makes them a threat. We then see an intriguing comprise is offered up in which the X-Men essential become operatives of the government, much like the Ultimates, and in addition to becoming a training ground for the rising mutant population, the X-Men will act as an elite strike force to take on mutant threats. The book then ends with the X-Men enjoying a party with the Ultimates, and Xavier & Nick Fury look to be getting along quite famously, though one still gets the sense that they don't trust each other.
I do hope that the behavior of several characters in this issue is the result of some telepathic persuasion by either Xavier, or in more likelihood Jean Grey, as Mark Millar is simply calling upon the reader to accept a wholesale attitude change by far too many people. I mean this is the same government who in the first issue was launching Sentinel attacks upon mutants who were doing little more that moving about their everyday lives. This is same group that painted Xavier & the X-Men as being in collusion with Magneto, and sent the Ultimates after them. However, after the X-Men hand Magneto over to the authorities, all of a sudden this past connection is forgotten, and the X-Men are suddenly the toast of the town. Now this change of attitude does take the book to an interesting place, as I don't think the X-Men have ever enjoyed a we'll scratch your back if you'll scratch ours relationship with the government in power. Now X-Factor was a government sponsored group of mutants for pretty much the entire run of that series, and X-Statix has been having a grand old time of playing with its all mutant cast, who have found acceptance behind the shield of celebrity. So in the end a government sponsored X-Men isn't a completely foreign idea, but it is one that stands in stark contrast to what we had been getting.
I will give this issue credit for dealing out some fairly unexpected hands, as one has to love the almost flippant way that the battle between Cyclops & Wolverine was handled. I mean yes it's probably the way the battle should play out, as Cyclops would have to be a complete fool get into a fight with Wolverine where he didn't take the first & only shot of the contest. Still what makes this battle so much fun is that it's clear Mark Millar is almost drawing a perverse delight in the idea that he's essentially thumbed his nose at readers who were anticipating a highly charged contest between these two. There's also something quite daring about the idea that Wolverine could be booted off the X-Men, as I don't think there's ever been a time when Wolverine's position on the team hasn't been a guaranteed fact of life. Now if Mark Millar really wanted to turn things on their ear he would have Wolverine recruited into the Ultimates, but then again I suspect Logan's time in these pages is far from over. Another surprise in this issue is the revelation that Jean is perfectly content with her power levels, though a conversation with Thor would seem to suggest that perhaps she shouldn't be. It's also nice to see Rogue & Nightcrawler have found their way on to the X-Men, and the last page also manages to deliver a nice surprise.
Adam Kubert would be at the very top of my list if I was looking for an artist who could deliver action that would leave readers wanting more, and this issue does offer up a couple examples of his considerable talent in this arena, as the explosion that opens the book looks fantastic, and the scene where Nightcrawler is making his way around the party has me eagerly anticipating the moment when this character gets used in a combat scenario. However, where Adam Kubert's work isn't quite as impressive is when the book shifts to talking heads, as while he has some range when it comes to facial expressions, there are moments where I was left disappointed that the art wasn't able to inject more life into certain encounters. I mean the conversation between Jean & Thor is a very important moment, and the art fails to sell the gravity of Thor's warning. The same goes for the final scene between Xavier & Nick Fury, as the future of the X-Men is being discussed, and the art decides to employ a flat, almost uninspired panel design, that completely fails to convey any real sense of gravity. Still the art did have some fun with the blink & it's over quality of the Cyclops versus Wolverine encounter, and while the cover has very little to do with the story inside, it's still a fairly impressive action shot, with a nice three-dimensional quality to it.
I'll give Mark Millar credit for taking the book in a wholly unexpected direction, as by issue's end not only are the X-Men the darlings of the ball, but all their past sins have been washed away, as they are now operatives of the government. What's more they aren't under the table operatives, that the government can wash their hands of should the tide turn against mutants once again, but rather the general public appears to be quite enamored with our collection of mutants. Other fairly major changes, include Wolverine getting himself kicked to the curb by Cyclops (a very bold step for an X-writer), and it would appear Nightcrawler & Rogue can now be counted as members of the X-Men. Toss in the resurrection of Psylocke, the suggestion of a European branch of the team being created, and a dire warning from Thor about the Phoenix force, and this issue is just brimming with ideas for readers to digest. It's certainly taken the book into unexplored territory.
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