Review: Ultimate Comics X-Men #8 by Nick Spencer & Carlo Barberi

Ultimate Comics X-Men #8

Written by: Nick Spencer
Pencilled by: Carlo Barberi
Inked by: Walden Wong & Juan Vlasco
Colored by: Marte Gracia
Lettering by: VC’s Joe Sabino

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from Marvel Comics on Comixology

When I was sitting down to write this review, I realized something odd. By the time I was reading X-Men regularly, it was a massive franchise with six ongoing titles (Wolverine, X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Force, X-Factor, and Excalibur…and seven if you count Alpha Flight, which really is an X-Men spinoff). I had read a few issues of Uncanny before that, but that was really when I started reading and caring about the X-Men characters.

Even crazier is that the X-Men franchise just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Even with less than 200 mutants in the world, there are still about a dozen X-Men titles every month. I was concerned that at one point there would be more X-Men titles than mutants left!

Why is that important for this review? Ultimate Comics X-Men is the one lone X-Men title in the Ultimate universe. So when Nick Spencer wants to focus on side characters, it’s not like it can happen in a spin off title. And that is what has happened the last two issues of Ultimate X-Men. Spencer has taken a step back from telling us stories about the Ultimate X-Men to show us a wider view of what’s going on with mutants. And while that is something Spencer does really well, it has made these last two issues feel like they were missing something.

Summary (contains spoilers): It is never good when you read a “Previously in…” of a comic you read every month and say, “I have no idea when any of that happened:”

We are told about Nick Fury’s covert mutant team “Ultimate X” who consists of Liz Allen (most random name drop ever), Karen Grant, and Derek Morgan, and about two mutants named Xorn and Zorn who led a revolution against the Southeast Asian Republic.

The first few pages of this book basically just expand on that summary, showing us Xorn and Zorn’s two flying cities and talking about how they came to power in Tian.

Scene shifts to Nick Fury and Val Cooper talking about the Ultimate X team. They have gone to Tian undercover and are working to find a way to stop Xorn and Zorn. We find out that team member Karen Grant is really Jean Grey in disguise. Val is concerned that having a powerful mutant like Jean Grey in Xorn’s hands is like giving him a nuclear weapon. Fury reveals that Jean isn’t really in Tian, she’s using telepathy on a global scale just to make people think she is, when she’s really in Fury’s office.

I kind of thought this was a cool little twist. But then things got odd…

Turns out that Xorn knew who Karen Grant was all along. And that’s she is tricking Fury and she is not only really physically present at Xorn’s (presumingly making the version in Fury’s office a telepathic projection), but also working with Xorn to help bring Tian to greater glory.

Review: Here’s a word of advice. While it is interesting to see how things might turn out different in the Ultimate Universe, some characters just don’t need to be Ultimatized. Xorn was an interesting concept when it was Magneto in disguise, but when Marvel started the whole “there is another Xorn…and he has a brother” it just became a parody of itself. We don’t need Ultimate Xorn.

And Liz Allen? (By the way, it’s ALLAN, huge pet peeve of mine when that is spelled wrong). Always liked her as part of Spider-Man’s supporting cast, but as the Ultimate version of Firestar? That is just pointless.

Even the reveal that Ultimate X is sometimes called “The Runaways” comes off kind of cheap.

I do want to say that this comic was very well written. And as a stand alone one-shot, or as a seperate spin off, I think I would have liked it much more. But by dropping it on the reader in the middle of Ultimate Comics X-Men, it almost felt like Marvel is just stalling. And when you are paying 4 bucks an issue for a comic, the last thing you want to feel is like the story is just spinning it’s wheels.

Issue 6 ended with some major surprises and cliff hangers…and then issue 7 focused on Quicksilver, and Issue 8 seemed to ignore everything going on entirely to take us on a side trip to Tian. Issue 9 and 10 seem to take place entirely in Camp Angel. So that means it’s not until issue 11, we finally get back to the X-Men team.

Reading the solicit for issue 11:

“The Nimrod Fleet continues their brutal massacre of mutants. Stryker is reborn. The face of the United States is changed forever.”

You can’t help but wonder if you are getting ripped off.

Most of these stories seem like they would be better as back up stories, not taking the full focus of the comic. We don’t even really have a full X-Men team now, just some random mutants who kind of hate each other and appear in cover images as a sort of team.

Granted, Spencer is a great writer, and I can see him pulling this all together into one coherant narrative, but I can’t help but look at my ever growing comic bill and think “Maybe I just need to wait for this to come out in trade.”

I also thought that the Jean Grey reveal had some really cool potential to it, until the end we aren’t sure exactly what we are supposed to know about these characters. This entire side trip just leaves us hanging. And not in the “I want more” way, more in the “I sort of feel like I might have wasted four bucks and ten minutes of my time” way.   Who’s side is Jean Grey really on?  I am not sure that I care anymore…

I love Paco Medina’s art, but Carlo Barberi did a great job in this issue. I did think some of his action scenes were a little oddly laid out, but the still shots really were beautiful and made up for a lot:

I know it sounds like I am really down on this issue, but I really did enjoy the writing and the art, I just felt like it was a little out of place in the middle of the Ultimate line’s only X-Men title. And it seems like we still have at least two more “side issues” before getting back to the X-Men’s battle against Stryker and Nimrod. There is only so long this cliff hanger can get drawn out before readers are going to lose interest, and I don’t want to see a book that started with such strong promise lose momentum.

Final Score: 7.5 I liked seeing more of the world, but I really just didn’t feel any connection to these characters at all. Last two issues have really made me miss the X-Men.

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