Spencer, Nick

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

3 out of 5

(2 book)

Ultimate Comics: X-Men Vol. 1

(Art by Paco Medina, Carlo Barberi and Juan Vlasco)

The first book of the relaunched Ultimate X-Men, set in the aftermath of 'Ultimatum'.  Mutants have been declared illegal and those that aren't in internment camps are on the run.  As the US Government tries to deal with the public discovering it was instrumental in creating the X-gene, William Stryker Jr. unleashes a religious crusade against mutants.

One of the many things that always annoyed me about the Ultimate Universe was that mutants turned out to be created due to an escaped biological contagion.  This meant that the X-Men, who have always been an allegory for race relations in America, were effectively the products of a disease.  I don't think it's what the Ultimate writers intended but it was the result of some pretty short-sighted thinking on their part.  Here, finally, we get a book that actually addresses this narrative and gives it the weight and examination such a revelation deserves.  We get to see what it means to mutants to find out that they are not the next stage of evolution but are the result of an experiment gone awry.  I particularly enjoyed Johnny Storm's reaction that him getting his powers as the result of science gone wrong means that he's the same as his mutant friends thanks to this revelation.  It was a nice counterpoint to the darker and more disturbing connotations of the revelation.

Aside from the exploration of mutants-as-plague theme, there's not a great deal to write home about here.  Stryker's a perfectly serviceable villain for the story but he's nothing that any long-term X-fan won't have seen before.  We also have to deal with our heroes, particularly Kitty and Rogue, acting so stupidly that, whilst in character for the context, they end up being great frustrations to the reader.

3 out of 5

 

Ultimate Comics: X-Men Vol. 2

(Art by Carlo Barberi, Paco Medina, Walden Wong and Juan Vlasco)

The political tidal wave of the revelation about the origins of mutants continues to spread, followed closely by an army of Nimrod Sentinels out of government control and on a mission to eradicate mutants across the USA.

Picking up where Vol. 1 left off, we start here with Quicksilver trying to cope with the ramifications of his role in giving Cerebra to the Sentinels.  This story line was fine as far as it went, which I'll get back to in a moment, but I have to admit was spoiled a bit for me by how Scarlet Witch is drawn.  The massive-boobs/half-naked outfit she appears in feels like it's from an earlier age in comics history and wasn't something I was happy to see return.  

After Pietro's story there's a brief interlude about how Nick Fury is using Jean Grey as an operative.  It's not fleshed out and doesn't go anywhere at all, which leads me to this book's biggest flaw; nothing gets resolved.  This is a book completely unable to stand alone due to following so closely from the first book and then failing to round out any storylines thereafter.  For example, instead of addressing the last-page character reveal from Vol. 1, that plotline gets totally dropped and we instead get no less than two more 'bombshell' character reveals that also go nowhere.  It's fine to set up plotlines for later books, but this book feels like that's about all it does, having almost no plot of its own.

Things do briefly get much better when the story moves on to a mutant internment camp already on the verge of boiling over when the news that the US government created mutants breaks.  Here we get to see the divisions within the mutant community as some hold to the hope of coexistence with the humans and other call for violent revolutions.  This is this book's strongest moment and reminded me (positively) a great deal of David Hine's 'Decimation: The 198', which dealt with a similar theme in the mainstream Marvel Universe.

3 out of 5

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Marvel Comics (here)