The title is technically a misnomer as the “first” volume of Brian Wood’s run on this title was his contribution to the “Divided We Fall, United We Stand” crossover a few months back. Though I’ve been hyped for his run ever since it was announced that he’d be taking over this title, that storyline turned out to be more of a deck-clearing exercise than anything else. Wood established Kitty Pryde as the new leader of the mutant population and lead a successful uprising against Stryker’s sentinel army in the southwest. For her troubles, Captain America gave her two options: you can take a mutant “cure” and be normal again, or accept this plot of land as a sovereign mutant nation. Given that there wouldn’t be much of a series if she and everyone else took the cure, this volume follow’s Kitty’s efforts to lead the group of mutants who refused the cure into a new era. I’m a sucker for stories like this that involve people trying to forge their own nation and there’s some good stuff to be found here as Wood taps that vein.
Once Kitty and the mutants who refused the cure arrive at their new homeland, they immediately realize that they’ve been given a raw deal. The land is some of the most arid and barren (not to mention radioactive) in the (former) American Southwest, and even though some of the mutants have the ability to effect some basic terraforming, it’s clear that forging a life out here is going to involve some hard work on everyone’s part. Of course, there’s also the fact that not everyone sees eye-to-eye with Kitty on her decisions. Chief amongst these dissenters is Nomi Blume, a.k.a. Mach Two, one of the youngest remaining mutants who journeyed all the way from New York to join in the fight. Now that the fight against the sentinels is over, she wants to keep fighting to punish the humans who turned the future of her species into a political decision.
With this shift to a group of outcasts trying to carve out their own place to live in a world that’s currently in chaos is not only true to the general premise behind the “X-Men” in general, but all of the politics discussed here also brings it more in line with Wood’s signature series “DMZ.” This story isn’t nearly as good as that one, but there’s ambition and purpose here that we haven’t seen for a while in this title and that makes for a compelling read overall. The drama only increases when some of the mutants manage to create a grain seed that will grow in any kind of soil no matter how poor. Now that they have the potential to end world hunger, the amount of people who want to see their species wiped out has only increased.
It’s good drama, and I’m certainly invested in seeing where the story of this new mutant nation goes. The volume isn’t without its problems as sometimes the characters can feel more like mouthpieces for the ideas Wood is espousing rather that individuals in their own right. That’s particularly true of Nomi’s opposition to Kitty’s leadership, which tends to come off as more petulant than reasoned. Yes, she’s essentially a tween, and her actions could be reasoned out as youthful arrogance, but it strains credibility to think that someone so young would be able to have the authority she manages to command.
There are also issues with the art as the introductory issue from Filipe Andrade tries for an impressionistic approach and misses the mark. Rather than making the characters expressions and emotions appear more vivid on the page, his work looks rushed and odd with peoples’ eyes appearing unnatural on their faces. Veteran “Ultimate X-Men” artists Paco Medina and Carlo Barberi (with David Baldeon filling in at the end) handle the remaining issues and they do solid work, in spite of all of the “posing for the camera” that goes on with their characters in nearly every single scene. I imagine that’s done to raise the excitement level for what is essentially an entire volume of talking heads. That’s right, if you read superhero comics for the action, then you’re not going to find a whole lot to like here outside of a few skirmishes after “the powers that be” send a few fighters over to test to the new mutant nation.
Even if there isn’t a whole lot of action here, the verbal drama and political maneuvering does make for an interesting read. This might not amount to much with the Ultimate Earth currently on Galactus’ lunch menu, but this is something that I’ve seen coming for years now. All that indicates is if the Ultimate Universe is going to be put out to pasture, Wood will be sending out his part of it on a high note if he keeps this up. Nation-building is always interesting and I certainly hope that he’ll have enough room to give the story the satisfying finish it deserves.