These poor X-Men from the past can’t catch a break and can’t even catch their breath! After confronting a mutant with dimension-door opening abilities, they’ve found themselves trapped in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. We left off with Jean meeting Miles Morales and as the issue opens, we catch up with the other X-Men who were present, most of whom aren’t in great situations themselves. Brian Bendis whirls and whips us from one perspective to the next as our newly arrived mutants get their bearings. The focus falls squarely, once again, on Jean and Miles as she reads his mind to find out what their next move should be.
Mahmud Asrar is on the linework and this is a fantastic looking book. The action is fluid and intense, giving the reader a great sense of displacement and confusion that’s shared by the characters. The linework and impact give the entire pace a breathless quality. The colors, by Marte Gracia, are likewise gorgeous and bright, bringing the Ultimate Universe in broad daylight to life. He uses a simple selection of colors, but that makes each one stand out so completely and distinctly from one another, that it never seems simple or lacking in depth.
It’s strange that this is such a significant occurrence, because this issue feels a great deal like it’s in a holding pattern. People act and react strangely to the sudden presence of the X-Men in their midst, especially the football players that X-23 runs afoul of. I understand that this is a universe where strange, unexpected things are fairly commonplace, but blind rage doesn’t seem like an appropriate reaction to have at someone materializing out of thin air. Jean Grey is, likewise, incredibly invasive with Miles’ thoughts. She doesn’t ask, she TELLS him she’s going to read his mind, despite prefacing it by saying she’s learning not to. Her impatience and frustration is understandable, but to me it’s an extremely unlikeable, even uncharacteristic move and Miles doesn’t escape the lack of solid characterization. This is someone who met his own doppelganger from another dimension, but seems baffled that this version of Jean Grey has no recollection of having fought Galactus. It creates confusion simply for the purpose of having a (gorgeous) two-page spread and to fill time and space.
I’m still interested and intrigued to see where this book goes, but what we have here seems to be an unfortunate hiccup. It reads like an establishing issue for the Ultimates universe, and not just the characters in it, but that universe is similar enough to the main 616 one that it feel like it’s going through the motions and killing time. There are some interesting developments (I can’t wait to see what Beast gets into), but overall the issue feels needlessly prolonged. At the very least, it is still a blast to read and look at and fans of the series will find much to enjoy, but we’re going to have to wait until next issue before things really take off.