Miles Morales aside, the latest Ultimate Comics relaunch hasn't exactly set the charts on fire, but it's impossible to deny books like "Ultimate Comics X-Men" is coming up with original, interesting stories you wouldn't find in the "real" Marvel Universe.
In this case, it sees Nick Fury's team of covert-ops X-Men, Ultimate X, on a mission inside the mutant haven Tian. Only, all may not be as it seems. The team -- Liz Allen, Karen Grant and Derek Morgan -- are undercover against (or possibly working for) Xorn and Zorn, a pair of twin Chinese mutants who each command a flying city. Fury thinks he has the situation under control. So does Zorn. However, the only person who actually seems to have some control is Karen Grant (aka Jean Grey) but we don't know which way she's taking things.
The twist here is cleverly done and while we get two versions of the truth, it's hard to tell which is correct. The reality of the story holds up to either interpretation. As a follow up to Ultimate X, it's certainly interesting. The chat between Fury and Val Cooper is note-perfect, as Fury uses their conversation to demonstrate how brilliant he is at his job, while Cooper's exposition reads like genuine analysis rather than an infodump.
As interesting as it is, this story is also miles off to the side of what's been happening in "Ultimate Comics X-Men" for the last few months. It's very hard to get invested in something that appears to be a side-story. This is a good issue, well-executed and grippingly so -- but not a lot happens and solicitations suggest we're not going to see the story revisited for some time. Admittedly, it's easy to trust that a writer of Nick Spencer's ability has a legitimate plan to tie everything together in the future, but at this pace it's going to take far too long.
Carlo Barberi is at least a strong artist with Mike Turner influences and enough originality to make two characters conversing in an office into an interesting visual experience. There are some issues with his female characters looking a little -- er -- under-nourished, but there's a lot of expression in the faces and body language and it keeps the story moving even when the characters aren't.
Ultimately (no pun intended) this is a reasonably good comic, but in context it falls a little flat. It feels like a chapter of a story continued next issue, but that's not how the structure of this book seems to be working. It's not really clear what Spencer's doing and there's a very real danger readers will lose patience with this book before he lets them know.