Brian Wood's "Ultimate Comics X-Men" continues to deliver a tale epic in scope and personal in execution. When joined by Mahmud Asrar for "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #24, the two gentlemen are able to deliver a very strong beginning to a new arc called "Natural Resources."
Brian Wood sets things in motion in this issue that are going to be exciting to watch play out. With allegiances shifting, loyalty always in question, numbers dwindling (then surging) and a complex and mostly secret strategy, the lives of Wood's X-Men are incredibly complicated in the best of ways. I like seeing Kitty at the center of Wood's world, and how smart she plays it without letting the power get to her, which feels very accurate to Kitty. In the regular universe, even with cool stories popping up for Kitty Pryde every once in a while, it's easy to feel like she never really gets the spotlight for long, and that she'll always be seen as one of the X-kids compared to some of the other veterans. But it's not so in "Ultimate Comics X-Men" and Wood's development of her as a series lead and as a leader is good.
Easily the best thing about the Ultimate books, including "Ultimate Comics X-Men," is the opportunity it provides to see old characters in a whole new light. It gives readers a chance to discover (and rediscover) characters all over again, and never is that more true than in the end of this issue. The "twist" Wood delivers here is great. I'm not sure how unexpected it is, as X-Men readers were likely always a little bit prepared for this character's return, but it has a certain gravitas that I appreciated -- i.e. it left me with an expectant smile for what Wood will bring in the next issue.
Asrar fits in with beautiful ease on "Ultimate Comics X-Men," especially considering this book has such a large and diverse cast compared to something like "Supergirl." Asrar tackles the cast and demands of the book as if he's been drawing it for multiple issues, rather than this being his first crack at bat. There are some slightly weak areas, likely a result of the aforementioned large cast, but the strengths far outweigh the weakness. His handle on a character like Storm is stunning and makes a reader wish he could stay on this title indefinitely. The same is true for Karen Grant -- a beautiful execution of that character from top to bottom. The world building Asrar does in this issue -- fleshing out the "Ultimate" Utopia (so different than the regular universe Utopia!) as well as Tian -- is effortlessly wonderful.
There's no doubt that Wood and Asrar make a great team. I'd love to see them longer term on this book (as I understand it Asrar cannot stay indefinitely) but as it is, I'll enjoy them while I've got them!