X-Men #2 [The Wood Pile]
X-Men #2 (Marvel): This issue immediately follows events in the first, with John Sublime and his twin sister Arkea bringing dire warning and wreaking havoc respectively inside the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning. An impromptu squad of X-Men including Storm, Rogue, Rachel, Psylocke, Kitty, Jubilee (and Beast, really) are forced to deal with a sentient bacterium with the power to navigate and control any technological host, now inhabiting Omega Sentinel Karima Shapandar. Got that? I hope so, because it’s the best X-Men book currently on the stands, courtesy of Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel. Whereas Sublime can control human minds, Arkea controls the tech, and Beast is tinkering away down in his lab when first contact is made with this new amalgamation of intimidating entities. It’s quite scary to see him feeling so threatened. For some reason, when the security lockdown protocol went into effect, I immediately thought about school shootings out here in the real world, maybe some residual concern in the zeitgeist that Wood subconsciously tapped into. It’s all the more chilling because of it. The entire issues ratchets up the intensity to 11. Rachel and Psylocke are given some great screen time and they do an on-the-fly shift from interrogation mode to crisis management mode. Beast and Rogue work together surreptitiously. These are smart people who are used to dealing with incidents like this all day long. The cast is slinging codes and executing tactical plans; it’s the type of procedural crap I totally eat up. In the middle of this mutant melee, we get an indication that the infant Jubilee brought home is maybe not an infant(?) because Betsy can’t get a psychic reading on it. It’s tough to write team books and get the cast on equal footing, with equal screen time, and equally strong character moments, but Wood juggles everything with style. I chuckled to myself when I read Arkea’s line to Rogue about being “stronger than the blue one, though her outward physiology presents as inferior.” It felt like very sly commentary about the gender politics and power dynamics inhabiting the very core of the book, while still keeping Arkea’s cold precision in character (“trouble mating?”). It’s all just really smart stuff, like Beast quickly deducing that it’s the tech allowing Arkea into Karima’s host body. Let me just say that Kitty reporting they’ve lost control of the Danger Room is a moment where she looks absolutely beautiful. I could be bold and say that Coipel has delivered one of the best renditions of one of my favorite mainstream characters in Kitty Pryde, but that would really be giving him short shrift for the remainder of the work. Take a look around. Storm looks exotic. Rachel looks futuristic. Sublime looks pissed off. The Blackbird looks menacing in the hangar. Coipel sells the big splash page of Rogue. There are some silhouetted shots that have a level of simple grandeur to them I’ve not seen since Eduardo Risso was hammering away on 100 Bullets. The colors are phenomenal as well, with moments like the white hot bluish jet wash of The Blackbird piercing the crimson sky. Hell, there are beautiful crimsons all over the place. By the end, you realize the cliffhanger was neatly tucked away in the corner of an earlier scene for anyone paying close attention. All of that said, Coipel has matched the perfect aesthetic to Wood’s perfectly taut script. I was fully engaged from start to finish. Grade A+.