After Days of Future Past effectively rebooted the entire series by rewriting the future, the series comes full circle by bringing back a bunch of familiar superpowers in teenage form — Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Nightcrawler, and Storm.
X-Men: Apocalypse trailers begged answers for the questions: Who will join the mutant megalomaniac En Sabah Nur? Who will fight to stop him?
After seeing the movie, I’m prepared to answer those questions with another: Who cares?
X-Men: Apocalypse contains everything terrible about the X-Men movies, turns all of the good into a routine exercise, and spins its way to an anti-climactic finish for the second worst entry in the entire franchise.
Talk about being a shell of its former self — you would think Bryan Singer had hit his stride after releasing back to back critical darlings X-Men: First Class and the aforementioned DoFP.
The X-Men scramble to ward off a potential resurrection of Arkea Prime only to discover their worst fears coming true.
The new Sisterhood is already one step ahead with the meteorite that carried Arkea to Earth now in their possession.
Escalation is the issue’s theme with Sabra and Gabriel Shepherd joining the X-Men, Jubilee and Karima Shapandar using their espionage skills to lock onto Ana Cortes’ position, and Rachel Grey interrogating her former boyfriend John Sublime.
Sublime feels Arkea come back online, and the effects are devastating. After possessing Reiko, Arkea gives power to Cortes, Typhoid Mary, and the Enchantress who has been freed from Odin’s imprisonment.
A burglary at the Mansion leads the X-Men on a chase ’round the world to keep Lady Deathstrike and her new allies from reviving a dangerous foe.
Last issue, Deathstrike entered the body of Ana Cortes, hoping to gain access to the Omega Sentinel technology that has since come back online with Karima Shapandar’s return to form. A failed raid put Yuriko onto newer intel which gave Deathstrike and her hired gun, Typhoid Mary, information on the existence of a more dangerous enhancement — Arkea Prime.
A successful snatch and grab at the beginning of X-Men #8 opens the door for a meeting between John Sublime and Yuriko/Ana Cortes with a discussion about the potential of Arkea’s power. A brief tussle over the chip reveals the chip containing Arkea has become inert.
This issue would have been the end of Arkea and the story arc, but Sublime can’t keep his mouth shut about the original meteor that brought Arkea to Earth. Deathstrike and Typhoid Mary team up with Enchantress for a three-team partnership that presumably begins the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants.
X-Men #8 spends less time building up the components of the team, moving ahead at a brisk pace with Psylocke tailing Typhoid Mary to Colombia. If the issue were a movie, there’d be plenty of expensive set changes as the story goes to South America then Norway with a brief cutscene at the Jean Grey School.
The developments in the plot are interesting enough, though the details are a little sketchy. Brian Wood has it all mapped out, but some of the elements seem a bit forced. Sublime gives away too much by talking about Arkea’s meteor — in the X-Universe one should never make assumptions on the safety of information — and it’s a little bit convenient that all of the information about Arkea Prime is stored in one box. That a C-lister like Typhoid Mary could sneak into the Mansion for a snatch and grab — if anything, it shows a lack of awareness on the X-Men’s part especially in the wake of Deathstrike’s raid.
Perhaps the biggest plot hole — Arkea’s existence on a meteor would make sense if she weren’t bacterium (singular). Maybe there’s some comic book science to be done or a re-examination of Arkea Prime’s biology on a microscopic level. Either way, it just seems like the story’s a little bit on rails at this point with manufactured plot points coming out of the woodwork to move things forward.
The artwork by Terry Dodson and Barry Kitson has a few inconsistencies — Kitson’s artwork has a similar tone to Dodson’s, but facial recognition takes a hit in some panels. It’s still largely well done, and the inks by Rachel Dodson, Kitson, Scott Hanna, Karl Kesel, and Terry Pallot keep things defined with bold and distinct lines.
Jason Keith’s colors are soft with a touch of gloss. There’s a clay-like texture to skin tones that looks a little plastic, but the quality shows in Keith’s shading and atmospheric lighting which changes with the environments.
The birth of the Sisterhood gives the X-Men a formed threat, but will Wood give readers the action scenes to boot? With Battle of the Atom taking precedence, things for the X-Men title have been a little shaky, but there’s potential here to produce something.
X-Men #8 (2013)
Words: Brian Wood
Pencils: Terry Dodson and Barry Kitson
Inks: Rachel Dodson, Kitson, Scott Hanna, Karl Kesel, and Terry Pallot
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Having taken over Karima Shapandar’s body, Arkea Prime uses the Omega Prime Sentinel form to take over the Jean Grey campus systems.
Escalation drives the action as the waking Arkea fights off Beast and Rogue, while the rest of the X-Men scramble to contain the threat and regain control over the X-Mansion and safely locate Jubilee and her infant.
Kitty Pryde eventually makes contact with Arkea and comes to grips with being the one thing that can put the mechanical body out of commission. The only problem — stopping Arkea means losing any hope for reviving Karima Shapandar.
It’s a quick-paced issue that races from start to finish. It’s clear that Arkea has the ability and modus operandi to become a formidable foe for the X-Men, and as they chase her down in the Blackbird, the remaining students and teammates back at the mansion discover one of her little surprises.
Olivier Coipel’s pencils are amazing, and this issue’s pages are packed with detail and movement. Coipel knows how to draw dramatic action, and the panels barely contain what’s going on. From Rogue and Arkea trading blows to Pryde’s melee skirmish, the visuals are clear and easy to interpret.
Coipel’s characters look solid, existing in dimensions rather than the flatness of the page. A team of colorists — Laura Martin, Matt Milla, and Christina Strain — worked on this issue painting it with a brilliant palette that lifts the art off the page.
The colors also influence the atmospherics, from the rooms locked down in red-alert to the moody cockpit of the Blackbird. It’s evident the artistic team spent a lot of time and energy into this issue’s artwork.
With the introduction of Arkea complete, Brian Wood’s story continues to move forward at breakneck speed. Not that there’s no time for characterization — Kitty gives Karima every chance to prove she’s somewhere in that mechanical body — and Storm leads the team with a poise that’s becoming of her. Kudos to Wood for the respect he has for the characters. They’re able, powerful, and ready to defend.
X-Men #2 shows how important this title is to Marvel’s stable of X-Books. It’s got heft and drama — even heft in its drama. In its writing and in its art — the book is sharp and streamlined for maximum entertainment.
X-Men #2 (2013)
Words: Brian Wood
Pencils: Olivier Coipel
Inks: Mark Morales, Scott Hanna, and Olivier Coipel
Colors: Laura Martin, Matt Milla, and Christina Strain
Letters: Joe Caramagna
It only took about 50 years for the heads at Marvel to come up with the idea of creating an X-Men book with a team composed solely of women. How many of the greatest X-Men stories were driven by the X-Women? Looking back at decades worth of stories that involved Jean Grey turning into the Dark Phoenix, Kitty Pryde going back in time in Days of Future Past, the Scarlet Witch wiping out most of mutantkind, and the recent developments surrounding Hope, it’s not unfounded to expect this X-Men book to come through with solid characterizations and epic stories.