By: Brian Wood (writer), Carlo Barberi (pencils), Juan Vlasco (inks), Marte Gracia (colors), Joe Sabino (letters)
The Review: Unlike the other titles tied into the Divided We Fall/United We Stand crossover event, Ultimate Comics X-Men has found a sure footing in this tumultuous new world; it’s not like Mutants were having the best of times before America started burning, so when war came, they were ready. While the last few issues have seen Kitty Pryde’s band of renegade mutants on a road trip that took in the sights of a nation crumbling at its grass roots, this latest instalment shows the X-Men decisively fighting back, providing both the team and the tie-in with its first solid win.
Building on Kitty’s recent efforts to inspire the survivors of the mutant internment camps into action, we finally get to see their guerrilla rebellion make some serious inroads into the Sentinel-controlled Southwest; split into teams and given their targets, it’s up to the X-Men to kick some ass and take some names. In Iceman’s group, a stealthy approach is taken to secure the liberation of Camp 14, and an established 616 X-character makes their Ultimate Comics debut with a veritable “Fus Ro Dah!” of a beatdown. Elsewhere, Wolverine Jr. leads an assault on some mutie-hatin’ militiamen and new recruit Black Box makes a discovery that funnels the story line towards an imminent conclusion. There’s a lot of deftly-executed tactical action going on, and after the last few issues have featured little more than talk about a revolution, it’s a welcome catharsis.
In fact, I think that this is easily Brian Wood’s best entry in his Ultimate run so far. Now that the gloves are off, there’s a hearty dose of DMZ ‘s gritty paramilitary vibe imbued to proceedings, and some of Matty Roth’s righteous pragmatism has certainly found its way into Kitty Pryde’s character. Wood began his stint on the book wisely focusing on a small group of characters to give context to the larger conflict, and now that United We Stand is coming to a close, Kitty’s manifesto is made clear – “The mutant cause is, ultimately, one of peaceful coexistence,” though she’s willing to “match any aggression with an equal and appropriate response, and no more than that”. A final showdown with Stryker-Bot (for want of a better name!) is imminent, but beyond that Wood has laid some great foundations for the future of the series. After all, I’m pretty sure Storm may have a few things to say about how she views the ‘mutant cause’ following the events at Camp Angel…
Carlo Barberi’s art is as handsome ever with a clean, contemporary look that really brings big action to life, particularly any time powers are employed; a streak of telekinesis tearing through a Humvee here, a Psionic sucker punch there – beautiful stuff. It’s of a slightly more cartoonish bent than that found elsewhere in the Ultimates line, but then again the book features a pretty young cast, and as such the look fits perfectly. Marte Gracia’s colors also deserve a special mention as Wood’s script demands lots of exterior shots of open landscapes at differing times of the day, all of which are beautifully rendered with vibrant sunsets and crisp, starlit nights. It pops off the printed page, and is all the more stunning when viewed on a retina display.
Conclusion: I’d been looking forward to Brian Wood making his presence felt on this series, as his talent for giving a voice to the disenfranchised always seemed like such a great fit for this book. I’m glad to say that this issue is the best evidence yet that he’s taking the Ultimate X-Men, who often seem to inhabit the most overlooked corner of the Ultimate Universe, in the right direction. He’s shaped Kitty Pryde into an iconic leader for a new generation of X-Men who find themselves in world where there’s nothing to lose, and everything to fight for.
- Matt Sargeson