Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: David Finch (p), Art Thibert (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As the X-Men race to the side of a stunned Jean Grey who has just unleashed the Phoenix Force against an advancing attack helicopter, we see Xavier has to work to keep Jean from being torn apart by the guilt over the people she has just killed. Meanwhile the X-Men have decided to move against the mercenary group that has come after Wolverine, but they soon discover the leader of this group does not plan on letting herself, or any member of her group be captured.
To be perfectly honest this felt more like a issue we would normally get in-between arcs, rather than the final chapter of an arc, as this is more a collection of little character moments than the conclusion of any real story. Now yes the X-Men do gather together to deal with the group that was dogging Wolverine's heels in the opening chapters, but given the leader of this group murders all her own men and then puts a bullet in her own head before the X-Men can even finish announcing their arrival, this is hardly to most dramatically satisfying of endings. Now the situation with Jean Grey remains quite intriguing as while I came aboard the X-Men a bit after the classic Dark Phoenix saga, and didn't actually read the story until a couple years back when it was collected in the Essential Volume trades, the simple fact of the matter is that it is clearly recognized as the single most impressive story in X-Men history, and as such having this book dancing around the edges of this story generates a very real sense that something very impressive is looming just over the horizon. I also enjoyed the fact that Jean was genuinely disturbed by the fact that she killed the people inside those helicopters, as far too often in comics this is a detail that writers shy away from as it could serve to turn the readers against the character. I also have to say that the Nightcrawler fan in me is delighted to see the character looks to be a regular member of the cast.
As for the art, David Finch looks to be this book's regular artist and I have to say I'm quite impressed by his ability to deliver some fairly detailed art on a timely basis, as this book is operating on the 16 issues a year format, and he was able to deliver the art for this entire arc. Now his work isn't the most expressive of styles as the character are a bit stiff at times and their faces don't convey a wide range of emotions, but I will give the art full marks for the quiet little scene where Nightcrawler is told to leave the room by Professor Xavier. The panel sequence where the mercenary leader gets an earful from her mysterious controller was nicely done as well, with the final panel close-up of her eye being particularly effective. There's also a fairly impressive double-page shot of the X-Men smashing their way into the warehouse, and the arrival of S.H.I.E.L.D. in their black ops helicopters was also quite solid. Great looking cover shot of Nightcrawler too.
Some fairly solid character work is done with the character of Jean Grey in the opening half of this issue, as it's clear her control over the Phoenix Force is slipping, and while she is torn apart by the guilt she feels over having killed the two men aboard that helicopter, the simple fact of the matter is that their deaths are the result of her losing control over something that has been shown over in the Marvel Universe as being able to decimate entire solar systems. Now the resolution to the plot involving the group that was hunting Wolverine is given a rather abrupt ending as the leader of the group decides to end the lives of herself and her men when the X-Men confront her group, and as such the X-Men are little more than spectators in this final encounter. Still I do like the idea that Wolverine has a far more checkered past than he seems to have in the Marvel Universe, as it acts as a springboard for future encounters with people who have a genuine grievance against Wolverine, and simply because he's wearing a white hat now, doesn't erase his past involvement in some terrible acts of violence.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!