There’s a lot to like in this new “Ultimate X-Men” #2, but it’s not quite firing on all cylinders yet. The result is a strange mish-mash of ‘very cool’ and ‘not quite’ that’s frustrating in its missed potential.
In this issue Kitty Pryde (The Shroud), Bobby Drake (Iceman), and Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) come to the aid of former teammate Rogue as she’s attacked by mutant hunting Nimrod Sentinels in New York City. They escape together and Rogue reveals that she’s on a mission from God, who is literally talking to her. Interestingly enough, the bad guys led by Reverend Stryker (who is like no Reverend I’ve ever seen) also claim to be on direct orders from God. This idea of God talking directly to both sides has emerged as one of the more interesting aspects of an otherwise fairly rote tale of man versus mutant.
Nick Spencer does have some interesting elements at his disposal here -- most notably the reveal that man has “accidentally” created mutants -- but so far, with the exception of the God plot thread mentioned above, he’s not mining them as well as he could or should be. As a result, the story so far feels like most “X-Men being hunted tales.” That said, in this issue the interactions between his small cast of heroes -- Rogue, Kitty, Bobby, and Johnny -- works nicely and he’s well served by limiting his cast. Spencer also has a solid action sequence which nicely shows off our heroes power, inexperience, teamwork, and what they’re up against.
Though I’m traditionally not a huge fan of a lot of narrative captions, I think Spencer’s best writing and most interesting ideas are his narrative captions that open and close the issue. If he can find a better way to blend what’s he’s doing in those captions with the rest of his action and character moments, I think he might have something here. In the meantime, it’s not quite working.
Paco Medina’s work is very pretty. It’s a little overly slick and clean in places, which makes it feel a bit fake, but the storytelling is nicely paced and the characters are beautiful. Everything is very easy to follow, which is an underrated skill in comics when it should be the necessary basics. Medina draws a particularly great looking Rogue, which I’m always a sucker for, and gives Kitty the best costume she’s ever had to go with the best code name she’s ever had, though I’m not sure either of them make much sense. But none of Kitty’s code names or costumes have ever made much sense, so why change such a long running tradition now?
Overall there’s a lot of potential here; Spencer and Medina could be a formidable team. Reading this issue, one can only hope that they’re still just finding their stride. There’s definitely time for them to turn this around and make this book into something special rather than just superhero business as usual.