Chris Bachalo is BACK, baby! I’ve proclaimed my love of Frazer Irving before, and he was a perfect fit for last arc’s descent into Limbo, but it’s great to see Bachalo return to a book whose tone he helped define and he, along with Tim Townsend on inks, haven’t lost a single step. His highly stylized art still frames the revolutionary X-Men’s trials and tribulations in the most appropriate way, and it’s a good thing they’ve got a familiar face back to work with, because Brian Bendis is taking them into some unfamiliar territory.
The man most famous for shaking up his rosters hasn’t lost a moment either, having one team member resign after the last arc proved too much for him to stomach. Cyclops not only confronts Magneto about his triple-agent status, but does so under the guise of asking a much more important question that I will ALSO leave for the readers to uncover. Needless to say, things have been breakneck and intense for the last several issues, so it’s good to see them slow down and take stock to catch their breath. Bendis brings his usual biting wit and quick, ping-pong word balloons we’re used to and there’s actually a lot to say in this issue, so it’s good to have someone used to saying a lot in a little time on the case. He’s clearly having fun writing specific characters, such as the Stepford Cuckoos and Emma Frost, and that fun translates seamlessly onto the page.
The issue rings a little bit hollow. Things absolutely happen, and they’re things of consequence, particularly by the end of the issue, but the whole thing feels a little disjointed, not just from previous events, but from itself from segment to segment. It’s a difficult thing to put my finger on, but the issue almost feels more like a series of disconnected, or barely connected, vignettes than they do part of the greater narrative. It’s understandable that they’d want to take things a little slower after the venture into a Hell dimension, but this feels a little TOO much like a whiplash effect in the other direction.
We get some great pay-off by the end of the issue, so the fact that it’s not the strongest in the series is of little consequence as it’s still excellent. I always like to see new or formerly-second string characters get their time to shine and Bendis is one of the best in the biz at doling out those moments to those characters (remember Luke Cage BEFORE Bendis?? Me either, Sweet Christmas!) in a way that still seems organic and in keeping with the rules of the established universe. Chris Bachalo returning is just icing on an already filling and delicious cake as he sinks his teeth back into the characters he helped establish with appropriate gusto. Pacing issues can easily be ignored in the case of an issue this strong, and I still heartily recommend this book.