I wish I knew what to make of this issue, but after reading it I really don’t have much more to go on than I did when I looked at the cover. In actuality, the cover(s) offered a little more to go on than the story did.
Spinning out of “Ultimate X,” this issue doesn’t do much to introduce new characters to new readers or older readers to those older characters. Nick Spencer presumes a certain level of familiarity between all parties and dives right into his story. Spencer’s story starts with nine caption boxes on the first page and those boxes carry throughout the entire issue. Spencer jams this book so full of subtext and narration that it threatens to eclipse any significance the story not contained in the narrative boxes might provide. The narrator of said boxes becomes clear at the end of the issue, right about the time that the premise of what is going to happen from here gets cluttered.
The cover offered up Jimmy, Ultimate Wolverine’s little boy, all grown up and assuming a costumed identity of his own, with Kitty Pryde, Human Torch, and Iceman ready to stand behind him. That little mutant connection never happens in this book. What does happen is a whole bunch of beginnings of stories and dropping of names, but very little resolution or action. A father takes the threat of mutants in his house very seriously and does something about it, and that is the most intensely unnerving scene of the whole book. Spencer writes it as such, and it drives home the desperate times afoot in this series, but the rest of the book doesn’t do much around it.
Through it all we get the story of mutants on the lam, juxtaposed with a discerning government trying to move on from a devastating public scandal. Spencer puts a lot of work into both stories, but neither one offers much of a hook for me to hold on to.
What does hook me is Paco Medina’s art. Although the actual execution of his characters varies wildly from one page to the next (take a look at the variances in Karen Foster’s appearance between pages one and three) Medina provides an energy to the characters that imbues those characters with energy and life. These aren’t simply cutouts on a background. These characters exist in the space around them that Medina has crafted. Sure, some of those surroundings are painfully phototraced, like the first page taxi, but Medina drops in enough perspective and detail to move past phototracing back to mere photo-influenced drawing. I like what I see here, I just wish there was more action with actual heroes and villains (or, at the very least, just heroes).
This new direction with new creators and new storylines should excite me, but doesn’t. This issue is so much less a first issue and more like a prologue of an actual story still waiting to be told. There are lines being drawn, alliances being forged, decisions being made, but none of those delineations are proclaimed in this issue. Perhaps future issues will offer more insight and adventure. For now, though, this issue just falls flat.