Jumping-on point indeed! This book recaps most of the large plotlines of the past 19 issues while continuing to the move the overall story forward with an excellent sense of pacing and briskness. Brian Bendis has, over the last few issues, done an amazing job at establishing the new characters and reestablishing the old ones in their new roles, so the time feels right to have the team roll out, and that’s exactly what we get. Cyclops’ less-than-merry band are drawn into a trap but without any notion of who set it in the end, only that it’s someone who knows them very, very well. We also get to see what Dazzler’s been up to since Mystique assumed her identity, and even get a great reason that Mystique didn’t just kill her and be done with it, AND we see ex-X-Man-in-training David getting interrogated by Maria Hill about Cyclops’ whereabouts. We even get some slight update on what happened to Eva on the training mission, assuring the reader that is a future plotline that will definitely be explored. The characters are all written with the usual Bendis wit and all come off as individual people with very different personalities. This particular issue actually balances the focus on the staff and the students extremely well, which is the perfect fit after the last two issues had their foci more on one or the other.
Chris Bachalo explodes back on pencils and, despite my enjoyment of the previous artist, it’s great to see him back. He brings such a bombastic flavor to the proceedings, making the action scenes have an incredible weight and impact while the dialog crackles with tense energy. Accompanying him is the veritable battalion of Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin and Victor Olazaba all on inks while Bachalo himself and Jose Villarrubia handle colors. It never ceases to amaze me how well a group of that size can maintain such an incredible consistency of tone and style without treading on each others’ toes, and yet here we are. Every panel on every page is defined, crisp and ready to burst with kinetic energy. The action scenes remain clear and, in a few cases, absolutely stunning to look at, particularly when Magik unveils a new trick.
We’ve been here before. The Uncanny X-Men detect a new mutant, they go to investigate, IT’S A TRAP!!...yet here they go, just charging in without so much as a scouting party nor any kind of backup plan (at least not for the team, Magik had something up her sleeve). It seems a little ridiculous to have them keep falling for this EXACT trap.
I know it's a temporary situation, in the longrun, but I was really happy to see Dazzler make a triumphant, even dignified, comeback so to see her sidelined so quickly and so completely has been somewhat disappointing.
This issue does a great job of illustrating why this is still my favorite of all the X-books. It’s got a great, well-written cast featuring tons of new characters and some of my favorites of old, and some of the most consistently great art out there. This issue is a great place to jump on and, minor plot quibbles aside, is a glorious celebration of a straight-ahead superhero story.