GN Review -- Ultimate X-Men, v. 1: The Tomorrow People / Mark Mil
Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...
I've read and enjoyed various incarnations of the Marvel Ultimate Universe, most notably Ultimate Spider-Man and the Ultimates. The X-Men from this universe, however, have until recently not made it to my hands for a thorough reading. Sure, I've read about them, and know a lot about their adventures as far as they occur around Spider-Man, but their books have avoided me for a long time.
Wow. What a read.
I don't know what I'm surprised about, to be honest. I knew this was the Ultimate Marvel universe, where things were going to be ramped up and amped up to appeal to modern readers without the weight of continuity pressing down on the mythology. I knew Mark Millar was writing it, and am well aware of how he can present a radical re-imagining of a superhero team in this reality that is both compelling and familiar. But I was still pretty blown away by what I saw in this volume's pages.
Things start off with a recruitment drive as Jean Grey visits several troubled young mutants and pulls them to Xavier's school. Their first mission--rescuing the young mutant Bobby Drake from Sentinels--reveals their existence to Magneto, leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, who quickly decides to raise the stakes for Xavier and his charges. He sends one of his assassins, the man known as Wolverine (!) to infiltrate and take out Xavier, then kidnaps the President's daughter, demanding an immediate end to the Sentinel program that has been laying waste to mutants throughout the story.
The X-Men go to Croatia to rescue the President's daughter from the Brotherhood, who of course put up a fight and eventually gain the edge when Magneto arrives on the scene. Magneto, who is visibly upset with the X-Men for foiling his plan, nevertheless has his people help them free their injured, possibly dead comrade Beast, and tells them to "just go." Cyclops, upset with how badly the mission went, temporarily leaves the X-Men and joins the Brotherhood, while Wolverine, who's seduced Jean, confesses to her his motives for joining--and staying--with the X-Men. While successful in negotiating a suspension of the Sentinel program, Xavier is nevertheless horrified to see that the President will send them on one more mission: an assault on the Savage Land, Magneto's base of operations.
Magneto's response is both swift and forceful: he reprograms the Sentinels to attack any non-mutants, and sends them back to Washington, D.C. He goes along with them to execute the President. Xavier and the X-Men do everything they can to protect the populace, and Cyclops convinces Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to come with him to stop their father. In a final face-off, Xavier and Magneto clash, with Xavier surviving only because of the timely intervention of both Wolverine, who's switched sides and joined the X-Men; and Quicksilver, who steals Magneto's helmet and renders him vulnerable to Xavier's telepathy. Magneto is vanquished in grand fashion, the Sentinel program is put on ice, and the Brotherhood has an opportunity to join the X-Men if they wish--with Xavier promising things will only get more interesting...
There's definitely a familiar feel to this X-Men story: the characters are all there, there's the wooing of prospective mutants, a tug-of-war rivalry between the Brotherhood, and the ever-familiar anti-mutant hysteria among the general populace. But when the differences come up, they really rise up and smack you across the face. Wolverine working for the Brotherhood?! Magneto having eaten human flesh?! Beast nursing an unrequited crush on Storm?! Storm as a newbie who barely has any control over her powers?! Magneto and Xavier so blatantly and forcefully trying to kill one another, despite their past frienship?!
Needless to say, this is a darker, more vicious incarnation of the X-Men and their world, and I'm eager to see what other changes to other characters and plotlines lay in store for future volumes.
Artistically, this was a very well done story. Adam Kubert, along with brother Andy, deliver X-Men that look remarkably like their prime universe counterparts, with just enough difference thrown in to show that these are not *quite* the same X-Men. All of the elements sport this motif, from the main characters, to Magneto and the Brotherhood, to the Sentinels. The locales are all drawn extremely well, and the action scenes are epic, fluid, and memorable. In short, exactly what is called for in an X-Men comic.
Overall, this was a highly enjoyable read, definitely one that X-Men fans should be aware of. It's definitely on the darker side of the spectrum, with a more visceral Magneto and a downright vicious Wolverine, but it's also a compelling read, with good art and a worthwhile initial story arc. Highly recommended.