"X-Men" #12 wraps up the Arkea storyline that's been present since the debut of this series, having briefly been put to the side for a "Battle for the Atom" crossover. Brian Wood, Kris Anka and Clay Mann's conclusion manages to wrap up in such a perfunctory manner I can't imagine who will find this to be terribly satisfying.
After all of the build-up, with Arkea forming a new Sisterhood of Evil Mutants, the story doesn't so much come to a conclusion as it's suddenly halted, with half of the story shoved out the door with "to be continued" signs hanging above its head, and the other half stuffed into the trash bin. In doing so, it's with a series of revelations that either make no sense, or come out of nowhere.
Take, for example, the piece of information early on where, as the X-Men attack Arkea's stronghold, readers are told that Arkea can't escape because the home is nowhere near an electrical grid. How exactly is this supposed to make any sense? It's like a character in a wheelchair deciding they're going to make their headquarters the 9th floor of a building with no elevators, only stairs. It feels like a strange recognition of the fact that Arkea is too powerful a character to defeat, and then pushing her into an illogical situation to let the heroes have a chance. When Arkea is finally defeated, it's ultimately just a random piece of made-up technology. The different characters' powers have nothing to do with it, nor is there some clever plan unveiled by the X-Men. It's deeply unsatisfying.
One could make the argument that Arkea's real purpose was just to bring back deceased characters like Lady Deathstrike and Madelyne Pryor, or to restore Amora the Enchantress. While that's a fair enough idea, it's worth noting that virtually nothing is actually done with the characters here. They're restored, and then just waltz out of the story to be brought back at a later date. The same's even true for one of the X-Men, who abruptly quits in order to hang out with some supporting cast; once again, no doubt to show back up in a later story. But as before, the transition is so sudden and out of nowhere that it's not satisfying.
It's hard to keep from wondering if part of the problem is Wood losing several pages to the "Meanwhile..." backup story for the past few issues. Having less space to tell your main story can certainly be an issue. Unfortunately, the plot for the backup is no less satisfying; there are some cute character moments here and there, but the story itself is uninteresting.
Anka and Mann handle the main and second stories, respectively, and neither one is setting me on fire from a visual perspective. Anka's art has some interesting moments, like the debut of Pryor's new body, as she sits on her bunk looking perfectly normal yet terrifying at the same time. And I like Psylocke's new outfit that doesn't show off tons of flesh, in part because of its simplicity. But for every strong moment, like the close-up on Amora's face as Monet holds her down, there are others where characters seem barely sketched in. Mann's art is just fine, but there's nothing that stands out save for Prodigy's swim trunks. The faces are good, it's easy to follow, but it doesn't jump out at you.
"X-Men" #12 is a colossal disappointment, to the point that it's making me wonder if it's worth continuing to read this title. There are some great ideas packed away in here, and little moments here and there (like the revelation of what of Pryor was still around, last issue), but the execution of the stories is where it all falls apart. If future storylines are going to be ended in such a manner, I'm not convinced that it's worth going through them in order to get let down once more.