Ultimate Comics: X-Men #5

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill

I'm somewhat confused by this comic. No, I'm confused by the intent behind this comic. One would think, given how execrable Ultimatum was, that referring to it in any way would be a fatal misstep. It made worst of lists the year it came out, and a few since then, the stench was so bad. But then Loeb came back and wrote the continuation, Ultimate Comics X, which was better for the simple virtue of having Blob not eat anyone. And Arthur Adams kind of saved everything with truly amazing art, and it was sort of interesting that there was a new Angel, and Jean was undercover and Wolverine's son wasn't Daken.

Only, the perennial curse of the Ultimate line struck, and issues never came out, and it was time to redirect again. So here comes Nick Spencer, and he's got to still sift through Ultimatum fallout (unforgivable), in that Magneto's state-destroying flood has made mutants insanely hated public enemies. Plus now the secret is out that they're not homo superior or natural genetic variations, but were actually engineered by the US government as super-soldiers. 

So in times of rampant paranoia and fear, with no one to trust, people turn to any crutch they can find, and that's where faith begins to play a part. Spencer is redoing the Stryker/Sentinel/Nimrod story with a clearly insane William Stryker, tortured by his draconian dad, and clueless about his own mutant gifts, as a reverend offering salvation. Of course he's delusional, but also violent, and thus what the X-Men are called on to do this issue is halt a series of grizzly public executions at his hands.

And on our side, we've got Rogue, guilty and confused as always, except this time on a rather epic scale, and no Mystique in sight to set her straight. I forget what's become of Ultimate Mystique, but Ultimate Rogue is more of a mess than 616 Rogue, if that's possible. You might be, too, if your Magneto did more than just steal a sub every now and then.

So she betrays the covert team that has formed around a wary Kitty (which includes Johnny Storm, a welcome addition, especially as he's about the only person in this world trying to be labeled a mutant) at a crucial point. And if that isn't enough, Quicksilver is currying favor with the government, which compromises their Nimrod sentinel fleet, quite by accident. It's all a giant clusterfuck, and my main hope is that Spencer has a plan for pulling the team out of this funk and getting past the misfire that, instead of revamping the Ultimate universe, seemed to sound its death knell. The characters left are interesting enough to keep it going, if only he doesn't try to retell 616 stories for much longer. Having the X-Men without Wolverine, Cyclops or Professor X could, and should, mean something new.

Paco Medina's art is perfectly acceptable. While not reaching the distinctive heights of Adams, not being asked to draw Wasp's intestines (or to forget that she was Asian in this reality) puts him miles ahead of David Finch. I think there's a Scarlet Witch story in the works, and I'm sure he's up to the task. He just needs fresh characters to draw.



Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.

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