Writer: Aron E. Coleite
Pencils: Mark Brooks
Inks: Jaime Mendoza & Troy Hubbs
Colours: Edgar Delgado
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Considering my love of all things X-Men, people may be surprised to learn that I have actually steered clear of reading anything related to the Ultimate Universe line. Truth is, being such a continuity geek, I really had no interest in seeing it all ‘re-invented’, despite the high quality of creators that have been involved with this particular series along the line. Following the departure of long-time writer Robert Kirkman, issue 94 sees the comic-book debut of Heroes writer Aron E. Coleite, joined by Mark Brooks on art. So, is this a good jumping on point for new and sceptical readers?
Well, in some sense, yes it is – following a Colossus flashback, the X-Men engage in a game of softball, the traditional downtime activity of choice in Westchester County. Usually, this is the point at which new readers are at least partially brought up to speed on recent plot-lines and their effect on the central characters. To its credit, this scene isn’t forced, but it doesn’t really deliver a great deal either, besides from re-affirming Colossus’ place front-and-centre as a key driver for this particular story. (Rather more is revealed in the recap page, which, as its name implies, is a fair place for this sort of information to go – something to do with Apocalypse and Phoenix that really made little sense to me, but I guess that’s why you read the other 93 previous issues!) Anyway…I guess what this all adds up to you is that none of this is likely to directly impact on your understanding of this particular adventure, besides the obvious continuity issues, which is all well and good.
Also sticking with X-Men tradition, the game is halted prematurely by an attack on the students of Xavier’s school. Now, I don’t think I’m providing any real spoilers (it has been reported pretty widely) that the assailants are none other than Ultimate Alpha Flight, who do not appear to have been brought to life in any previous corner of the Ultimate Universe prior to this. Apparently, they have come for one of the X-Men, but their target may not be the most obvious choice.
Now, I can understand that Coleite wants to get straight into the action rather than drag the Flight’s appearance out unnecessarily, and hey, an ambush is an ambush, but the pacing of the whole attack just doesn’t ring true, and it all seems to happen a little too quickly. To make matters worse, the name captions next to the newly introduced members of Alpha Flight is a rather cheap trick in a storytelling sense, and doesn’t appear to make much sense in the context of the narrative.
But this is not just an X-Men vs. Alpha Flight story – as mentioned earlier, this story is shaping up to be as much about Colossus than anyone else. As Jean reaches into Piotr’s mind to calm him down following the battle, she uncovers a secret that could have massive implications for the X-Men and everyone’s favourite metal mutant. Now, without ruining the surprise, the premise behind this reveal is actually quite interesting and has great potential – essentially, the fact that Colossus has a mutant power to turn his skin to steel does not mean that this should have any measurable effect on his physical attributes, and the ramifications of this are actually quite inventive. But again the pacing of this development really lets the book down. I can only assume from the reactions of the rest of the team that this has come completely out of the blue, with no reference from previous issues; what strikes me as most odd is that Jean has only just discovered this from a simple mind probe despite all their time living and fighting side-by-side (yes, I know Jean’s powers have been enhanced by the Phoenix powers, but still…)
Mark Brooks’ art is reasonable enough, and in one sense is perfectly suited top such an over-the-top super-hero story; in his defence, I’m just really not too much of a fan of the anime / cartoon style that influences his work, but even so the final product (in conjunction with inkers Jaime Mendoza & Troy Hubbs and colourist Edgar Delgado) does seem a little rushed in places and I’ve definitely seen him do better work (I actually really enjoyed the X-Men Annual he produced with Mike Carey last year).
I don’t mean to be too hard on this book, especially given that Coleite is doing his debut comics work, and that there might be more to come in later issues that contextualises a lot of these rather oddly-shaped events. It really isn’t all that terrible: it’s unfortunately just a case of a nice idea, not-so-great on the execution.
Tags: Ultimate Universe, X-Men