Nick Spencer and Paco Medina's "Ultimate X-Men" #12, like most of the issues in the run thus far, has some interesting ideas but doesn't quite come together into a satisfying story.
Spencer's script remains a bit too cryptic and the primary reveal in this issue -- of who the faceless man throughout the story is -- falls decidedly flat. Whether that's the fault of poor execution or just because it's difficult to surprise readers given the players involved it's hard to say. The issue has high points, such as the scenes with Layla Miller and the suggestion of things to come and big characters on the horizon, but it's all a bit unclear still, and combined with a faceless man, a supposedly insane Alex Summers in a straight jacket, and some bizarre pages that can only be described as flashbacks (I think) it's a little too much. None of it quite makes sense or resonates.
However, the biggest failing in this issue has to be the visual execution of Spencer's story. While Medina has a very pretty comic book-y style and his interpretations of some of these characters has been fun, he doesn't appear to have the specific skills needed to pull off what's required in this installment from Spencer. The faceless character revealed at the end of this issue spends his time walking through page after page aging everyone he passes to the point that they die at his feet. But Medina doesn't render this "power" clearly and thus it's not even entirely clear that's what's happening. For the most part everyone looks very non-specific and generalized and the result is art that feels almost antiseptic. You can connect it to nothing because the images feel so emotionless. Backgrounds for the most part feel unfinished and far too clean, which on the whole creates an atmosphere of rushed generalities.
Additionally, the reveal on the final page, which I believe we're supposed to be surprised and impressed by, loses a lot of its punch with some truly bizarre choices. Why is Apocalypse wearing blue earmuffs? It's possible of course that we've got another (more interesting) reveal headed our way, but as of right now it feels laughable instead of cool.
All told, I'm glad to see this book changing direction with a new writer coming on board next month. While Spencer had some good ideas, for whatever reason they never quite came together into a satisfying read and it will be good to see if someone else can turn the book around.