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Ultimate X-Men #41

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell




Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: David Finch (p), Art Thibert (i)

Publisher: Marvel

The Plot:
When a young mutant's powers first manifest, we see he is horrified to discover that his ability is to secret a toxic gas that vaporizes anyone within his general vicinity, and before he's able to get to an isolated location 265 people are dead. We then see Wolverine approaches the young mutant, and we soon discover that the X-Men have decided it's for the best that the world never learns that a mutant was responsible for this situation, and as such Wolverine acts to make sure this secret stays buried.

The Good:
I love the idea that the X-Men are able to recognize that there are some events that are so damaging to Xavier's dream of peaceful coexistence that the only option is to sweep the problem under the rug, and hope nobody looks too hard for the truth. I also rather enjoy the idea that Wolverine is set up as the person in the group that deals with these problems, as it adds an even more ominous edge to the character. Now Peter Millgan was the first to travel down this road over in the pages of "X-Statix", as he had the loveable Doop take a potential recruit that proved to be mentally unstable out to the woods, to remove them from the picture. However, Brian Michael Bendis gives readers the opportunity to get to know the dangerous mutant that had to be culled from the herd, and it makes it more dramatic when the potential victim is allowed to come across as remorseful for his actions, and that he's not being killed to protect potential victims in the future, but rather to keep mutant/human relations from going off the deep end. The book also does a pretty fair job in its opening pages to sell the nightmare of this teen's mutant ability, as one almost expects him to wake up screaming, as it all plays out like a bad dream, with the final line that his girlfriend makes being particularly effective. In the end this is a pretty powerful little done-in-one tale, which makes it a bit of an oddity at today's Marvel.

David Finch is a pretty solid artist when it comes to delivering the nightmare that is the opening pages of this issue, as one can't help but feel for the young teenager as we watch his world come flying apart, with the shot of his girlfriend being vaporized before his eyes being particularly effective. The art also does a pretty solid job of selling Wolverine's ruthless quality as even when he's trying to be nice, and offers the kid a beer, one can't help but get the sense that this meeting is not going to end well. However, the one area where his art isn't nearly as impressive is when it comes to delivering the more emotional aspects of the story, and while there's a great close-up shot of the young mutant's eye when he discovers he's killed 265 people, there's far too many shots where it looks like he's of the mind that people are only allowed a couple of expressions when they're upset. Still, the art does tell the story in a fairly effective manner, as the final page does a great job of suggesting Wolverine's actions without actually showing them.

The Bad:
I find this to be the case a fair bit on Brian Michael Bendis written books but when one removes his highly enjoyable dialogue exchanges, or in this issue's case fail to include one, than the issue in question ends up being a ridiculously fast read. Now the story does an effective job of presenting a nightmarish scenario, and we get some rather interesting insight into how the Ultimate version of the X-Men respond to a sticky problem that could effectively turn all humans against mutants. However, there are moments in the issue where I found myself wanting a little more substance, as if nothing else it would've been nice to get a scene between Wolverine and a member of the X-Men who objected to the actions that Wolverine was being asked to take. The story also leaves the situation unresolved, as while it's all well and good to say that people will simply believe it to be a tragic chemical spill, there are going to be investigations, and even with S.H.I.E.L.D. actively working to conceal the truth, there will need to be a target for the families of the dead to set their sights upon. I mean one doesn't simply have 265 people up and die mysterious deaths without offering up a better explanation than it was "some kind of chemical leak", as people will want to know what kind of chemical can literally vaporize an entire town, and given this leak leaves all the non-organic material untouched many people are going to have trouble believing this was a simple accident.

Cause Being A Mutant Sucks:
A fairly powerful little story, that suffers a bit from being a extremely quick read. In fact, in spite of its unexpected revelation about the X-Men's method of dealing with a problem like this, I found this story to be a bit thin when it came to truly examining the ideas at play in this issue. I mean offering up a mutant who has a power so dangerous that its emergence lead to the death of hundreds of people is a great little idea, and while there is something to be said for the clear-cut solution the X-Men employ to this problem, I found myself a bit disappointed that Brian Michael Bendis went for the quick solution without taking a moment to dig a little deeper. Than again I suspect the whole point of this issue is that this is the type of problem that is so horrific that there really is only a single course of action one can take if one doesn't want the train to go completely off the rails, and Brian Michael Bendis does a pretty effective job of making the young teen into a real character before Wolverine has to remove him from the picture. Still I would've enjoyed a little more attention centered around the decision that is made by the X-Men.



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