Ultimate X-Pressions
by Kristin

A Review of Ultimate X-Men: Issues 19

Summary Plot:

Issue 19 picks up from the beat of issue 18. Wolverine, Storm, Beast, and Iceman are on their way to the airport to personally greet Colossus, who is being brought back to the team by Cyclops and Marvel Girl. Their conversation is soon interrupted by the horrific sight of Betsy Braddock. Possesed by David, her body floats in the air with the rage of David glowing in her eyes. Chaos bounds as objects ranging from a park bench to a dog are flung in the air among David・s trapped parents ・the terrified Moira wrapped in a steel rod and Professor X, held hostage by the twisted manipulation of his own wheel chair.

David crows to the X-men as he morphs Braddock・s molecules into a monstrous visage. Wolverine throws the others out of the car and rams the vehicle straight for David, who cockily sends the car hurtling in the opposite direction. Though physically helpless, the Professor uses his telethapy to direct the remaining X-Men in an all out fight against his son. As Wolverine heals, Beast, followed by Storm, goes for a straight attack and is tauntingly rebuffed by David. Bobby struggles desperately against his fear, which has so overwhelmed him, he is unable to use his powers. To David・s delight, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Colossus arrive. (Well he blows up their plane after transporting them to the ground in their uniforms) As his father・s favored student and surrogate son, David attacks Cyclops first, who strikes a blow on the empowered David with his optic blast. Enraged, David beats up on Cyclops while the Professor tries to motivate Bobby to fight. Upon seeing David turn on Storm, Bobby shakes his paralyzing terror and gears up to become the ULTIMATE ICEMAN ・dangerous, glaciered in ice, his potential fully realized into a badass ICEMAN! He orders David to get the hell away from Strom. Then David throws a car into him.

David then turns on his Xavier. He morphs space, taking he and his father to Paris・what would have been the next stop on the Professor・s book tour. People mill about as David taunts his father, then laughingly kills the ・dozens upon dozens・ of people who had been walking idly by. David follows the path of his father・s dream to Madrid and makes his father watch as he destroys the building in which he had been asked to lecture. Rome is next, and the professor watches as the museums and galleries he had planned to take the X-Men to are callously destroyed, killing more innocent people. He then takes them to Sydney. David knows how much his father was looking forward to this part of their tour. After all, the X-men web page is hugely popular in Australia. Then kills a thousand Australians. All this in less then five minutes, with the professor unable to do anything but watch. Gloating, David returns them to Berlin, and the X-Men batter uselessly against the force shield that surrounds the two. David glories revels father・s agony, exults in being unstoppable・and prepares to kill his father. Then help comes from an unexpected source ・Betsy Braddock. She traps David in her body the same way he had trapped her. Upon seeing Betsy regain control, Xavier begs her to use David powers to undo the damage he had done, to bring back the lives David had taken in his crusade to destroy his father・s dream. But Betsy knew there was no time for that, knew David would regain control and that there was no way to stop him but by sacrifice herself. When the professor hesitates, not wishing to reduce to barbarism, Colossus smashes a truck into the body of Betsy Braddock. David and Betsy are dead. The sudden death is immediately followed by Storm・s screams: she doesn・t think Bobby is breathing.

The X-Men stand as Betsy is lowered into the ground. Moira remarks on the kindness of Betsy・s father, who had expressed remorse at David・s death. Xavier comments on the Lord Braddock・s exceptional character and his own poor one. He describes the horrible mess he made, the death of his son, Betsy・s death, his failure in raising his son and his inability to cry over his son・s passing. He blames himself for Bobby being in intensive care and doesn・t blame the boy・s parents for suing Xavier and telling the press that he was a danger to children. He considers himself both careless and dangerous and declares his dream to have been stupid. Moira listens as he proclaims that he will be ・disbanding the X-Men for good.・

Review of Story

The Events

This was a rare issue in which the story was both intensely intimate, and at the same time was grandly epic and explosive. Most comics are absolutely incapable of such a feat, having to pause in the middle of the action and plot development for the personal growth of characters. But this issue delivers・in a major way. This was a rocking resolution, so much so that the ending far outstrips the build up of the previous issues. The impact of this story is that of a succession of explosions. The systematic beating of each X-Man as they came up against David was suspenseful; there was strong communication of futility and desperation. Later, this device is mirrored and intensified in David・s callous destruction of each city of his father・s tour. The linear path of this plot in no way lessened it・s dimension of emotion. The Characters

The ・Beast Temptation・ thing ran kinda long, but it did serve to further establish Beast・s identity. Of special mention was the development in Bobby Drake・s character. His transformation from the terrified boy to the badass Iceman was a huge moment for this character, and the writing played it for all it was worth. I might personally wish that Bobby wasn・t immediately crushed after this new achievement ・it seams a waste of such a terrific concept ・this leaves several pathways of development for this character which I eagerly await. For the most part, the reader has a clear understanding of where each character is, but there were some significant lapses. Marvel Girl and Colossus are seen in small panels apparently trying to attack David, but neither one does anything in this entire issue until Colossus rams the truck on Betsy ( and didn・t that come out of nowhere!?). But then, there has to be some characters who are the least used.

The Dialogue

While the dialogue teems, as all comic books do, with quick quips and some clumsy exposition of a character・s actions, this issue has some serious quality in its writing. The subtle use of words and the depth of meaning behind them are impressive. For instance, note the use of Storm・s full name when the professor is urging Bobby to action. Just in saying ・Ororo Munroe・, the reader gets the dimension of who she is, what he feels for her, and what Bobby・s motivation is.


Moira calls her son a degenerate? What is that? I understand her begging Xavier to kill David more than I understand that little bit. But the big problem is that Moira practically jumps from being desperate so save her son to wanting him dead. There should have been more character evolution there.

When exactly could the Professor use his powers against David? His abilities were useless against David in the Fast Food place and when he came to just before David let Wolverine・s body be run over, he was unable to stop his son. But in this issue, he states that the reason he can・t stop David is that Betsy・s telepathic abilities shield him, not David・s mastery of his abilities. One could argue that Wolverine・s mental Weapon X defenses shielded him from Xavier, but that wouldn・t explain the professor・s inability to stop David before he jumped into Logan.


David taunts that Storm・s feelings for Beast are the result of the Professor・s manipulation. This, I would normally dismiss as the usual bad guy・s insult during the big fight. However, there was previous foreshadowing. Storm・s musings that Xavier is messing with her head during the car ride lend credence to this subplot. David comments casually that Colossus had the same attitude as Storm concerning the professor・s dream. Normally, I would say this was a definite sign that these two were going to get together ・and I would be right, too. But the Colossus ・gay・ rumors are very strong, as were references in issue 18 to the big man・s homosexuality. My guess・it could go either way, but there is no doubt Millar is deliberately misleading fans.

Review of Artwork

The Cover

Frankly, issue 19, in terms of artwork, is the most (and, in my opinion, the only) poorly done issue in the series. To start, the cover is without a doubt the blandest, plainest pieces ever done for a cover, especially for a book of this caliber. It resembles a sketch more than it does a finished cover. The depiction of Braddock is formless; the lines have no definition and appear out of proportion. Her face and hair lack detail and her entire body lacks dimension. The white backdrop, coupled with the depiction of a fire substance that looks like paint splattering, give the appearance of an amateur job. While the concept is brilliant, the poor execution makes this a cover that will draw very few new readers. One expects so much better of the superbly gifted Adam Kubert. I have found all of his previous work to be nothing less than tremendous, but this was so・ blah. In all fairness, when compared to the covers of many other artists, this one blows the competition away. But when you compare this cover to Kubert・s previous Ultimate X-men work・

The Book

I can honestly say that I am not particularly for or against the controversial Chris Bachallo, but this issue was really disappointing.

The worst crime of this artwork was the continuity of the paneling ・there wasn・t any. Many key moments in this issue had no evolution, which lessened the impact of some of the great drama that occurs in this story. The greatest wasted moment in this issue was Bobby・s character development, the way it was handled was such a waste. We should have seen Bobby・s move from being afraid to his overcoming his fear to his transformation into the iced Iceman. This was fabulous drama and a big moment for the character of Bobby Drake, but the way it was drawn from panel to panel, the reader does not have a clear understanding of what・s happening until it・s done. Another such example of this is David・s manipulation of Betsy・s molecules to the monstrous form. The drawing completely ignores that there was a transformation. One second we have Betsy・s face, then the next we have David・s ・monster face・.

That・s not to mention the action scenes, which was nearly devoid of fluidity and solid motion. Some panels are a near replica of the one that came before and others barely connect with each other. The drawings require some study and have no sense of a clear sequence of movement and momentum, which is so essential to comic book storytelling. The use of multiple, smaller panels are at times too repetitive with no particular point, making wasted space, which says nothing of the poor paneling placement. Distribution is jarring and the width in between panels are often uneven - a deliberate, artistic move (I think), but an unwise one. Often, there are no borders between panels and the scenes clash horribly, further disturbing the storytelling process.

Naturally, the drawing is distinctly Bachalo・s; his funky look, ・boxy・ angles, wiry builds, and men・s facial hair. While this look does not appeal to everyone, it is good for what it is. There is a definite overuse of blacks and shadowing which takes away from the whole. However, the paneling in which Bachalo put serious detail into has good artistic merit. The drawings do have a hard, sophisticated edge to them, for all that they are out of place.

There were particular visual elements that expounded on the story and took it to a whole new level. Bobby・s terrified reflection a mirror when we first view the horrific visage of David frightening form or the use of Xavier・s own wheel chair to hold him hostage ・representing the ultimate stripping of power. But what most struck this reader was the use of the green park bench. The visual statement of that green bench had as much impact as the wrenching dialogue of David・s feelings for his father. It has such impact because the bench was the frame for that steely calm clash of wills between father and son in issue 18, during which David swore he would destroy everything his father had built. There is an intense poignancy in watching the Professor forced to sit on that bench with his son, as David kills mercilessly, ripping at his father・s soul. It works especially when you compare the two versions of the bench scene, the first scene so quietly intense, with the calm confident Professor and the poised elegant look of Betsy Braddock. Then the second, the horrified Professor wrapped in metal and the taunting David, now in the form of a ghastly vision, chaos and anger burn in each panel. Brava!

The Characters

Well, Storm has half as much hair as usual, Jean has seven times as much hair as usual, and Moira has a whole new head of hair, while Wolverine, Cyclops, and Beast have 4 times as much facial hair. Add all that to the fact that each character, except Storm, now looks five years older and you・ve got a whole new look. Now, I understand that each artist brings their own design to the table, but I also believe there should be a conscious effort to make the appearance of each character consistent throughout each issue. Without solid character identities, which include physicality, the reader is unable to invest in the characters. Bachalo・s detailed Colossus continues to be a thing of beauty. He captured well the dignity and arrogance of Professor Xavier. And his version of ・monster・ David was thoroughly enjoyable. These characters have distinctly shaped, wide shaped noses and more rounded curves than Kubert・s design. The main flaw with his depiction of character is his use of heavy black lining and lack of detail in visible forms ・it was almost as if he chose to just draw the outline of a character without any features.

Worst Line:

・It・s like my body doesn・t want to put me in a situation where it knows I・m gonna die or something!・
Bobbie Drake a.k.a Iceman

Best Line:

Logan a.k.a. Wolverine


Astounding ending, the story telling powers of Mark Millar continue to amaze. The end of this plot was nothing short of stupendous. Personally, now that we have seen what all these characters can do, I hope Millar explores who they are. The ramifications of issue 19 are a prime opportunity for character exploration and I hope he exploits that. The art was the main drawback of the issue. Frankly, these last three issues have been below standard of this book, but that can be forgiven because Ultimate X-Men is so above standard. The story surpasses the book・s usual quality while the art recedes from it, so it all balances out.

XXXXX: Four X・s out of Five.