Last issue we saw Angel and X-23 ride off into the snow together (X-23 being fiercely against being carried, the duo stole Cyclops’ motorcycle) and this issue picks up days later. We get glimpses of what the two have been up to, and it looks like it’s been just what they both needed. We also see the two of them actually talk about what’s brought them together and they don’t come to any kind of concrete consensus, a notion I found surprisingly refreshing. Superheroes, especially those in the X-books are known for bed-hopping around and even when two wind up staying together more long-term, it’s rarely clear exactly what attracts them to one another beyond the physical. Brian Bendis looks poised to address this, and the fact that no concrete answer is presented at the moment isn’t at all out of character: we ARE dealing with teenagers, after all. The character development continues as we return to the school for some psychic, and combat, training between Emma Frost and Jean Gray and here things escalate. The ultimate resolution, however, is as unexpected as it is apropos and opens the door for some new, interesting storylines and developments later in the series. We even catch a glimpse of Kitty’s ultra-long distance relationship with Peter “call me Star-Lord” Quill. This issue gives these characters a chance to catch their breath and develops new, interpersonal relationships of all varieties and the characters are so well-written that, despite the many focal points, nothing feels rushed or thrown together.
Sara Pichelli’s linework is nothing short of amazing. The characters all look detailed and unique (particularly with the Cuckoo’s new looks) and the facial expressions are clear and detailed enough that this could have been a completely silent issue and the basic ideas and feelings would have still been communicated. The level of detail Pichelli achieves in every panel is nothing short of amazing, particularly with certain pages’ panel layouts. Marte Gracia brings a surprisingly dark palette to a story that is extremely light-hearted, but the darkness doesn’t clash with the tone. Part of that is because, while the colors are dark, the visuals themselves are still incredibly crisp and clear, and by the end of the issue, things have lightened significantly, matching the tone of events perfectly.
I’m having a hard time coming up with things to dislike here. Every now and then, particularly in the middle of the book, the colors look a little drab. Most especially in the Gray/Frost scenes, but even then it’s only a panel here or there.
It looks like we’re going to get into another crossover with the revelation of Professor X’s Last Will and Testament, so I’m glad we got this break to develop these characters and give them some new ways to interact. The unexpected resolutions, the unlikely hook-up and the continuing flirtation all come together, never feel forced, and make this book dramatic without being dour. Bendis has got something really, really great set up here and I can’t wait to see how he continues to execute on it.