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Ultimate X-Men #46
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Brandon Peterson

Last time Ultimate X-Men got a new writer, the story leapt off on an arc far removed from the prior setting. The focus was on one member of the team fighting old foes and joining-up with heroes from outside the franchise. It generally stayed away from the threads of the last arc.

This time, they’re working double-time to reassure us this is a team book.

Our story opens with Jean-Paul, a teenage boy, standing on top of a high school building, crying his eyes out. Nightcrawler suddenly appears and begs that he not jump, but the sheer shock of Nightcrawler’s demonic appearance is enough to force the boy off the ledge and into the arms of Angel. They once more plead that he not commit suicide, to which he retorts he never intended to.

He just wanted to be alone after being kicked off the track team for doing a mile run in under three minutes. He swears he never took steroids, and… but that’s why they’ve come for him, isn’t it? Jean-Paul accuses Xavier of running a cult, segregating mutants from the rest of society, and getting his students killed (see last issue) before storming off, leaving Angel and Nightcrawler dumbfounded.

Back at the mansion, Wolverine and Colossus are releasing their frustration over Beast’s death on the Danger Room and each other. Emma Frost is outraged to see Xavier allowing such behavior and takes Havok out on a road trip, hoping the Professor will get over being dark and mysterious before his students go nuts and start killing each other.

Rogue and Iceman have a nice little moment together discussing dying young and the finer points of ice-skating until Kitty Pryde walks in and sees they froze-over the pool for the lesson just when she was about to go for a dip. Stuck in her bikini, she rushes to her and Storm’s room only to find the door locked. Embarrassment overriding politeness, she phases through the door to see the room trashed and Storm… well, let’s just say Storm’s not taking Beast’s passing well.

I’d like to be really excited about this run (especially after all those months of rumor that Chuck Austen would get to ruin this book, as well), but Vaughan introduces a new/old character to the Ultimate universe who could just as easily mean bad things as good.

I won’t ruin the surprise, but it’s the same feeling of worry I got when Bendis brought Venom into Ultimate continuity. Sure, it turned out all right that time, but who couldn’t feel the icy fingers of rotten Marvel continuity creep around their necks when that was announced? What kind of can of worms will this one open? Who’s to say?

On the other hand, Vaughan isn’t afraid to show upfront that he KNOWS the X-Men. The pairing of Angel and Nightcrawler makes for a great visual, but it does an even better job of highlighting how such drastically different looking creatures are equally alien in the eyes of man. Wolvie using his claws to relax isn’t that new, but seeing Colossus' masochistic side is oddly satisfying after so little characterization of late (especially considering he’s the only Ultimate X-man whose Marvel Universe counterpart is neither active nor alive). Bobby and Rogue connecting works, and its pretty hard to mess up young Kitty Pryde, but they aren’t the most impressive accomplishments of the new crew.

This is probably the first time in years that I’ve felt a connection with Cyclops. I mean no offense to the legions of talented writers who’ve handled the character over the years, but, face facts, the man’s a cold fish who holds everything in. Just about every incarnation of Ol’ One Eye has been dull, boring, and made you want to smack the bastard right in his dopey red visor.

Vaughan reminds us that Jean Grey and he are the perfect pair because she can see past the awkward façade to the strong, intelligent man hiding inside. His Cyke is the guy who invented worlds and planned war campaigns in his head while the other kids were playing freeze-tag, and Jean is the only person who can see he’s not creepy but creative. He’s not obsessive, he’s driven.

And, come on, is that not the ultimate not-scary geek fantasy or what?

I also finally feel some compassion for Storm. Bendis probably deserves a lot of credit for that, but Vaughan only has her in one panel and you can feel just how messed up she is. Brandon Peterson sets a great tone in the artwork, making the subtleties of Kitty’s face and the power of Storm’s emotion come to life. And, man, does the coloring team revel in Nightcrawler’s brimstone. If you just downloaded the Mile High Comics preview, believe me, you haven’t seen anything.

So, from what we’ve seen in Ultimate X-Men #46, it looks like the torch has been passed on to the right team. With any luck, the new storyline won’t bother me as much as I fear it might. Only thing I can tell for sure: Vaughan knows his X-Men.



Jason Schachat

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