Nothing in this issue quite matches the ferocity of that Chris Bachalo cover, but by issue #9, "Young X-Men" has established itself as a good series, even though it started off with a bumpy opening arc.
If you haven't been following this series since the beginning, or if you sampled it at first and then dropped it, you may not know some of the revelations that have occurred over recent months. The team, as we found out at the end of the first arc, was put together under false pretenses. The "Cyclops" who was giving them their marching orders turned out to be a fake -- the Hellfire Club's Donald Pierce in disguise (or via illusion, or whatever) -- and the team was eventually brought under the wing of the real Cyclops but with a shattered sense of self-worth. And Ink, one of the most antagonistic/annoying members of the team, turned out to be not a mutant after all.
All of which leads into the two-part arc that concludes with this issue, as we see the Young X-Men face off against a team of super-powerful gang-bangers, enhanced by a mutant tattoo artist. The very same tattoo artist who had seemingly given Ink mutant powers back in the day.
The concept of a mutant who can tatt super-powers is a good one, and Marc Guggenheim plays with it well in this issue. Ink is kind of a lost soul, and has been since this series began. He is easily manipulated, and he seems to lack a sense of who he is. The loss of his "mutant" identity has shaken him, and in this issue, he is able to overcome many of his personally obstacles and become the kind of hero he should have been since the beginning. Guggenheim has done a nice job with his character, and what he does here -- and the new tattoo he demands from the mutant artist -- will amuse and/or disturb long-time X-Men readers and casual fans alike.
Rafa Sandoval is no Yanick Paquette, but he has provided some nice art for this two-part arc. There's no doubt that after nine issues, this has been the best-looking launch of the New Mutants/New X-Men/Young X-Men kind of team. Sure, many of those series attracted great artists later on (Bill Sienkiewicz and Skottie Young to name a couple), but the first nine issues of "Young X-Men" have looked better than plenty of X-Men comics of any variety. And Guggenheim's ability to provide clean, straightforward, and often charming characterizations, has made this book a fun read month in and month out.
Maybe because of the lack of hype, or the lack of gigantic crossover event significance, I seem to forget how good "Young X-Men" is sometimes, but whenever I sit down to read an issue, I close the comic totally satisfied. "Young X-Men" #9 is straightforward mutant superheroics, done with a bit more artistry than you might expect, and now that the series has established itself, I think it will only get better.