Ultimate X-Men #86
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Pencils: Yanick Paquette
Inker: Serge Lapointe and Karl Story
This is Part 3 of 6 in the Sentinels story, but nothing so complex that you can’t jump on is ongoing. This book has been shedding readers and I’m actually annoyed at why. Originally issues felt like an event and were written by huge name Mark Millar. Now these issues are much closer to the X-Men’s core and are written by the superior Robert Kirkman. While Millar is good, he lacks subtlety and his characters often lack depth. Kirkman writes proper characters and proper stories, being responsible for arguably two of the best books on the market, Invincible and Walking Dead. He’s great and, major events or not, really should be getting more attention in general, but for his very good work on this title in particular.
As we pick up, Xavier is dead (again, for an alternate universe major events often occur way to similarly) and Cyclops has turned the mansion into a regular school for mutants. Bishop has decided the world needs X-Men and gathered his own team to continue the X-Men’s work. Situating both of these at once offers interesting possibilities in seeing which is more effective for the X-Men’s mission statement of improving equality. Thus far, the field team has seemed more useful and effective, but we’ll see how this develops. As this issue begins, the active X-Men have infiltrated a Sentinel base and are about to battle the Fenris twins.
The main plot consists largely of a fight between a bunch of Sentinels and Bishop’s team. That’s well and good, since they wandered into the lion’s den last issue, it makes sense to follow that up. The big fight should be mostly over now, besides a cliffhanger at the finish, there isn’t much left besides the resolution. The pacing is properly executed and allows for furthering of the major subplots.
The Mutant Liberation Front subplot is far more interesting than the plot currently. In normal continuity, the MLF were basically Mutant Terrorists lead by Stryfe. Essentially they were super-villains who attacked humans, not exactly a unique X-Men concept. Here they are actually more like political activists. Stryfe is clearly up to no good and has his own agenda, but he comes off as powerfully charismatic and actually seems to be handling himself properly so as not to come off as a one dimensional maniac. He’s a character that can really work as a major antagonist and I’m looking forward to seeing more from him, particularly in light of this issues revelation, which makes him far more thoughtful and interesting than most previous incarnations.
Beast has also broken free of SHEILD and is attempting to reach the X-Men. Nothing seems to be done with that, nor with the Phoenix subplot, but both are at least mentioned so as to remind readers they exist. It’s not subtle, but it’s far more effective than ignoring these goings on for months before a big revelation.
This book succeeds mostly on the strength of its storytelling and pacing. It’s a single issue where nothing is resolved, but it comes at the right point in the larger story, and the art and writing do a good job of keeping the fight interesting, with some good power uses and nice characterization. The three major subplots see one advanced in a big way and luckily, that’s both the most interesting and one that ties into a major plot. This is the best current book with X-Men in the title and will likely remain so with Kirkman writing until Ellis takes over Astonishing. Pick it up if you’re a fan of the mythos or just enjoy well told superheroics with fun art and great timing.