Brian Wood and Mahmud Asrar have really accelerated my love for "Ultimate Comics X-Men," a book that has suffered from inconsistent art in the past. Asrar is a great fit for the title and I wish he'd stay on, as I enjoy seeing him on a book with an ensemble cast. His excellent character design work and clean storytelling are put to good use.
This was an issue of big reveals and very cool moments, but Wood's left plenty for the big finale. Perhaps my favorite element is the slow burn of Rogue bonding with the sentient seed -- all barefoot in nature and climbing trees, communicating and being in love with it (and it with her) finally paying off. As Utopia is attacked, the sentient seed has something to say about it, defending itself and its people with all it has. This is such a creative and innovative use of Rogue's powers, and I love that Wood has found this avenue for her (bonus points for Asrar drawing a gorgeous Rogue).
Beyond the imaginative work with Rogue, Wood brings reveals about what's been going on with Psylocke all this time (and as a result everyone stops acting so nutty), while Jean outs herself as having hidden layers, not to mention a force to be reckoned with. Wood even finds some time for a moment of passion between Storm and Blackheath that feels organic and natural, despite happing in the sidelines during the heat of battle.
I continue to love Asrar's take on these Ultimate X-Men. His style is clean and crisp and feels modern and young, just like the book itself; full of revolution and big dreams of a better world. His character design -- from the aforementioned Rogue, to a mohawked Storm, a very young Armor and a Magma that deserves more screen time based on her design alone -- is exceptional. He takes what has come before and made it his own in the best of ways. I only hope it can hold once he moves on. Asrar's storytelling is flawless, executing on both compelling action scenes and more intimate human moments with equal aplomb. His characters emote and feel, but he doesn't overreach. Thus, there is a tonal nuance that feels right on the mark for Wood's story. Wood and Asrar are a great fit and I hope to see a lot more of them working together in the future.
Jordie Bellaire's colors are fantastic, especially when she's able to cut loose in night scenes, bathing everything in subtle darker shades. It's particularly stunning when contrasted with Utopia alive with fire and explosions. She also makes bold choices on things like Armor's power set: a bright unapologetic pink.
This is the penultimate issue in "Natural Resources," and the last page is a gem of a cliffhanger as the arc barrels toward the final issue. It's hard to believe that I swore of "Ultimate Comics X-Men" once. What a difference a year (and the right writer and artist) makes!