Ultimate X-Pressions
by Ascian

A Review of Ultimate X-Men: Issue 16 - World Tour: Part 1

First, some words about Professor Xavier.

What a bad-ass. Truly. I'm not talking the gun-toting kind, either. Mark Millar has created the most frightening incarnation of Professor Xavier ever--he is a teacher that actually expects something of his students, whose idea of success is measured by results, and not intention or mere effort. In other words, you don't just ・im high・in his school. You hit the target, or else. The horror, the horror.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's a summary of the plot, complete with bad grammar and incomplete sentences:

Bad guy on boat. Bad guy steals policeman's body and kills people. Bad guy jumps off boat and goes to Burger King. Two days before bad guy does this, Jean and Storm gossip about boys and stop bad lady with gun. Meanwhile, Wolverine, Peter, and Bobby are in nightclub on drug bust. Wolverine gets big lecture from Bobby's mom. He wears sexy cowboy hat. Beast and Scott do not wear anything sexy, but do find bad people to stop. Students get grades on how well they stopped bad people from doing bad things. Xavier gives big lecture. Xavier also gives big lecture at press conference. Xavier gets phone call from Moira-I-need-whiskey-now-McTaggert. Xavier + Moira = Son = Bad guy on boat.

So. There is a story, and it goes a little like this: some guy says, ・o-and-so is a good person.・ The instant response is, ・ood for what?・

And that, I believe, is the moral of this month's tale. It is not enough to be a good person--you have to be good for something, too. You have to walk the walk--and walk well, with courage. The X-Men are supposed to be the symbol of a peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants, right? But if all they do is sit around the Mansion, looking pretty and talking big, how is that peace going to come about?

What Millar has done is really impressive. He's turned the X-Men into a team that is striving to make a difference--to use their powers in ways that change regular human lives for the better. There aren't any space aliens, dimensional rifts, or gratuitous mutant villains to battle. Instead, the X-Men are fighting indifference, hatred, and greed--three evils that are more frightening, more destructive, than any mutant on an ego-trip.

Maybe that is part of the contrast Millar is trying to show, by beginning his story with what appears to be a young mutant who has no reservations about killing, no conscience or guilt for the lives he takes. Who takes no responsibility, but lives only for himself. Needless to say, the rest of the issue shows the other side--and even if the motives of the X-Men aren't entirely pure (after all, they are going for a grade here), they're still doing good.

Good by their standards--by ours, too--but not by Professor Xavier's rigid codes of conduct. As he quickly makes clear, it's not enough to stop the bad guys--you have to do it in a way that is humane and politically correct. That means no maiming, killing, disfiguring, or acting like a caveman, and probably includes restrictions on foul language in front of children, chewing tobacco, and the public extraction of phlegm. And get this: Professor Xavier doesn't like prisons, either. Oh, and exactly where was your son? Hmmm? Folks, I hear the sound of the hypocrite bird singing. Tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet.

We also have some nice character bits in this issue. There is a hilarious panel that has Wolverine trying to sweet-talk Bobby's mom and failing miserably--but with the cowboy hat on, which makes it all right. The relationship between Jean and Wolverine is again addressed, Storm making some fairly pointed barbs about Jean's come-hither-but-stay-the-hell-away attitude towards our favorite Canadian. There is also some foreshadowing--Jean is beginning to show interest in Cyclops, and as for Storm, little Bobby Drake may be getting some action. No one seems to mind, though. As Storm says, ・et's just enjoy the attention while we're the only girls on the team.・ Sounds like a good policy to me. If I had that much beefcake eye-candy strutting around, I'd・ell, let's not delve too deeply into what I'd do.

The end of the book has Peter pulling a disappearing act, but I'm sure we'll quickly find out what that's all about. Besides, it was obvious something was going down with him, what with all the pensive expressions being drawn on his face throughout the story. My guess? His powerful little sister is going to be making an appearance, and soon.

The best part of this issue? It is refreshing to imagine a school where the measure of one's success is rooted in how well one benefits society--and that it is not the size or showmanship that matters, but the lasting quality of that aid. Today's assignment? Make a difference in someone's life.

Sounds good to me.