I mentioned that this is my favorite roster in terms of the X-Men titles in the weekly Essential write-up and this issue is a great example of why that is so. We get more of a taste of the new mutants than we’ve gotten between establishing the staff and having cross-over events, and it definitely feels like Brian Bendis, or editorial, or both felt like an issue of this kind was needed. There’s very little plot advancement and no new plots begin, but this isn’t a filler issue either partially because it takes place independently of any greater storyline and partially because it is 100% focused on establishing where these new recruits are at. They’re dropped into a hostile, foreign environment and tasked with, very simply, surviving. Actually, they aren’t even tasked with THAT, as it more or less organically comes up in the course of the issue. I’m not going to list all the recruits by name nor go in-depth on their great moments because this review would wind up being a six page text wall, but suffice it to say that everyone gets at least a MOMENT to shine, though some definitely get more than others.
The art by Chris Bachalo, with a shocking THREE inkers in Tim Townsend, Al Vey, and Jaime Mendoza is a revelation in this issue. I’ve always been a fan of Bachalo’s chaotic, cartoonish style, but in this case he shines as brightly as I’ve ever seen because the issue has a frenetic, rapid pace that meshes with his style perfectly. I could actually see an artist like him requiring that many inkers by simple virtue of his style being so bombastic and wild that it almost literally can’t be reined in by one person. It reads more like a high-quality cartoon that you’re blinking significantly through as you can ALMOST hear the sounds that are happening between panels, though another part of that is definitely due to the skillful placement of word balloons at the borders of panels.
It’s unclear how much time actually passes during this exercise. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but one character experiences what is apparently an incredible trauma and even personal transformation in what seems like the space of under an hour while off-panel. Longer may have gone by, but it’s hard to get a handle on exactly how much that was. Cyclops at one point comments that they were there for around fifteen minutes, but he could be speaking hyperbolically (he’s extremely angry) and if it was fifteen minutes, I’m curious as to exactly what could have happened as that doesn't feel nearly long enough for the entire issue.
Speaking of Professor Visor, there’s a panel in which his facial expression doesn’t at ALL match what he’s saying. He’s shouting at a student for failing their training, his dialog indicates he’s absolutely furious, but he’s got this odd smirk on his face. And I say odd because it doesn’t look intentional, it looks out of place.
This issue was, ultimately, necessary. The new students of Cyclops’ school were in danger of fading into the background of a book dominated by more established characters and larger storylines, so I’m happy to see it return to the core concept of training the next generation of mutants.