By: Kieron Gillen (writer), Salva Espin (art), Jim Charalampidis (colors), Dave Sharpe (letters), Jordan D. White (assistant editor) & Nick Lowe (editor)

The Story: Hope and kids head off to find another emerging mutant with a new liaison to the big-boy X-Men in tow.

What’s Good: Most of the fun from this issue stems from seeing new characters doing new things.  Between Hope and her Five Lights, Hope is the best known character and we (the readers) still don’t even really know what her powers are.  The rest of the Lights are really black boxes beyond a cursory description such as “Laurie is blue, had fins on her head and can fly.”

So, those of you who bitch and moan that there aren’t even any new characters in comics, you should check this out because it is almost 100% about new characters.  And you almost feel like you’re learning about their powers at the same time as the writers.

Probably the most interesting of these new characters are Kenji and Teon.  Kenji (who everyone says is an Akira rip-off, but I haven’t read Akira, so there!) seems to view his body as a piece of living organic art, which should be interesting to anyone who enjoys the artform side of comics.  There is also the small fact that Kenji may or may not be evil making him more interesting.  I think Teon is mostly getting his positive vibe because he’s hanging out with Wolverine.  For years, it has seemed that the only way to make new characters stick with the X-titles is to have them be mentored by Wolverine, so perhaps we’re seeing the same formula that worked so well in the past with Kitty, Jubilee and Armor (someone needs to use Armor!) only with a young man instead.

I have mixed thoughts about Kitty being the new liaison for Hope’s team.  On one hand, IMHO the biggest thing making the X-titles weak over the last several years has been the lack of established roles for the characters.  For better or for worse, I think we would get more interesting stories if characters like Kitty are forced into a defined role on a sub-team of X-Men instead of being a minor, supporting character in all of the stories.  By putting her in a role like this, we are most likely to get interesting Kitty moments as she interacts with the new team and has to deal with being the grown-up after decades of being the “kid”.

Espin’s art works.  I’m not rushing out to buy original pages or anything like that, but I can really respect his very clean style.  He seems to draw what the scene requires and doesn’t noodle with it.  There is nothing too aggressive or experimental about his art, but from looking up his bio… he’s a new(er) comic artist and there’s nothing wrong with starting out with clean and effective story telling.  More folks should be doing this instead of trying to copy Jim Lee without having Jim Lee’s talent and experience.

What’s Not So Good: Although I am applauding the use of Kitty as liaison and I think it is an overall good, there is a part of me who says, “Really!??!?  Kitty has to be stuck babysitting?”  Which is what happens in this issue because once things get real on the mission, she hangs back to coordinate with local law enforcement or something.

One other minor complaint that may not bug a lot of people, but it is under my skin now (and hey, it’s my review)…  I had a hard time seeing how Cyclops would send Hope (the mutant messiah) and these Lights (the only new mutants since M-Day) on potentially dangerous missions since the beginning of the series.  But, at least on those early missions, Cyclops and Wolverine were on site too.  Here, we see Hope and the Lights go out on this mission with only Kitty when we know (from the rest of the issue) that Wolverine, Storm, Rogue and Nemesis were available.  For one thing, isn’t retrieval of the 6th new mutant since M-Day kinda important?  Wouldn’t General Cyclops send his best people on that mission?  For another, just last summer, we saw all the anti-mutant wackos trying to kill the mutants in Second Coming and we also saw back in Messiah Complex what the bigots did when Hope was born.  It just seems odd to send new mutants who are completely untrained, and thus a danger to themselves and everyone else around them (according to old X-Men lore) on such a key mission and send them out into the open where the bigots can take shots at the new kids.

There’s kinda a formula for introducing new heroes: They get told to “stay home” while the grown-ups go to save the universe.  While the grown-ups are gone, Dr. Doom attacks the mansion and the kids acquit themselves rather well in battle, despite their inexperience.  When the grown-ups get home, they say “Wow.  You’re more powerful than we though and you kept your head in a tough situation!  Welcome to the team!”  The Lights kinda need that story right now.

Conclusion: This is a well-told story with very clean and straightforward art.  I do have a couple of problems with the basic story set-up because I just can’t imagine the Lights being sent on these missions.

Grade: C

– Dean Stell

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