I'm not entirely sure why "X-Men" #10.NOW is being flagged as an "All-New Marvel NOW!" issue. It's in the middle of a storyline, and not just the one that began with this series, but rather one that kicked off a couple of months ago. As an introduction to the series, it ultimately does Brian Wood, Kris Anka and Clay Mann a bit of a disservice. Even with a two-page recap of what's happened to date, I suspect new readers might be a little mystified.
Wood's story picks up immediately where "X-Men" #9 left off, with the new Sisterhood of Evil Mutants leaving Monet passed out while Arkea continues to stir in multiple new bodies. Wood's brings back a creation from his previous "X-Men" run to help get Monet out of the nasty cliffhanger she'd been left in, while X-Men and Sisterhood members alike zip around the globe in search of different targets.
I like the basic idea of "X-Men" #10.NOW -- after Arkea's initial introduction at the start of this series, I feel like this storyline is finally starting to give us an idea of the real threat that she possesses -- but at the same time Arkea is also starting to feel like a character that's a little bit too all-encompassing. Restoring the Enchantress's powers, merging Typhoid Mary's personalities... you name it, Arkea can do it. Mind you, that's also true of another character brought into the mix this month, which makes me wonder if eventually we'll see two pieces take each other off the board at once. But for the moment, it in some ways reduces the impact of "X-Men" with Arkea able to do just about anything. With no real weakness in sight, it makes any fighting Arkea and her Sisterhood feel a bit futile at best, and promising a deus ex machina solution at worst.
I will give Wood credit that Rachel Grey and John Sublime's strange relationship is continuing apace in the background here, in part because it's nice to see someone doing something with Rachel, and in part because I think Wood is the only one who understands what these two characters see in one another. It's a romance that seemed to first happen off-panel, but whatever it is, he's determined to make it work. Also in the realm of characters where it's nice to see them being used, Wood is trotting out a lot of the younger kids that were quietly pushed into the background once "Wolverine and the X-Men" brought in its own younger class. Every member of the X-Men has fans floating around out there (even Maggott, as it turns out), and I like that Wood's making a lot of them very happy right now, even if their part of the story only kicks off in the last five pages that seem to be operating in their own little universe.
The closest "X-Men" #10.NOW really comes to being the start of a new storyline is that Kris Anka and Clay Mann take over as artists. Anka draws the first 15 pages, and his art works somewhat well as a transition from Terry and Rachel Dodson's art from the past few issues. It's from that same smooth school, although Anka's characters have faces that look a little flat, and bodies that are curiously lumpy in places. He's definitely at his best when drawing the new Lady Deathstrike, with her day of the dead face paint still looking iconic and eye-catching. I've liked a lot of Anka's covers lately, but this feels a little lacking in energy.
Mann draws the last five pages, the ones that feel like they're from an entirely different comic. This is in part because of the sudden jump in setting, but also because Mann and Anka really draw nothing alike. Mann's art is a bit of a chameleon these days, ever shifting and tweaking itself for each new project. I like what he's doing here; it actually reminds me a bit of Olivier Coipel, who drew the first three issues of this "X-Men" series. His characters have sharp cheekbones and determined looks, and the little touches like the glare patterns on Jubilee's sunglasses lend a sense of realism. Ultimately, the complete disconnect between Mann and Anka's art is fine, if only because Mann steps everything up and ends the comic on a stronger visual note.
"X-Men" #10.NOW is an odd book for Marvel to shine a spotlight upon. Wood's in the middle of a storyline, and there are two different artists whose styles look nothing alike drawing the title. I'm still enjoying "X-Men" but there has to have been a better example in the pipeline than this one to hopefully lure on board new readers.