Ultimate X-Pressions
by Kristin

A Review of Ultimate X-Men: Issues 20

Summary Plot:

At the Auckland Sky-tower in New Zealand, Cyclops lead the X-men in a fight against a group of mutants called the Acolytes. As they fight, back in Westchester, Xavier silently wakes up and showers. At the tower, one of the terrorist mutants rails against Storm for throwing blowing his girlfriend off the roof, thus killing his only source of ・action・. Xavier shaves in his bathroom. Colossus stomps on the mutant guy who was going after Storm, suggesting to the crushed mutant that he meet someone else in physiotherapy. Xavier gets dressed. A heavily armored mutant opens fire on Wolverine. Xavier sits at his desk and pens a letter. Wolverine uses his claws on the guns, ripping them to shreds. Xavier places a letter on the fireplace mantle. The letter is addressed to Scott and the envelope instructs that it is not to be read before midnight.

My dear Scott,

By the time you have returned from New Zealand, I will have packed my things and gone. I apologize for not saying this to your face, but you know how we telepaths are with verbal confrontation.

I・m leaving because I・ve FAILED・failed as a HUSBAND, failed as a FATHER, and failed as a Teacher.

My books and lectures have told the world how man and mutant could live together in HARMONY, but I realize now that I was wrong.

Only one species may sit at the top of the food chain because that is the natural order of things.

I・m GLAD that my New York lecture was cancelled as a mark of respect for those David killed because I really couldn・t spout my claptrap with Iceman lying in a HOSPITAL BED.

I・m GLAD new terrorist groups are starting to form because what right did I have to subvert the ideals of THE BROTHERHOOD OF MUTANTS?

My biggest conceit, however, was this psychic rehabilitation of MAGNETO I intended.

In retrospect, it・s MIND-BOGGLING to think that I made a man forget who he was in the vague hope that he might one day come around to MY way of thinking.


That・s why I plan to remove those blocks later this afternoon.

It is clear to me now that Magneto must be freed and nature allowed to take her own course.

In New York, the Professor watches a man play with children in a park.

Back at the mansion, the X-men have returned. Logan and Peter converse while showering. Logan can・t believe that the acolytes broke away from the Brotherhood because Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch weren・t hardcore enough. He compares it to Nazis quitting because Hitler is too soft on gypsies. Peter says that Quicksilver・s ceasefire and his negotiations with the United Nations caused a lot of unrest in the Brotherhood. Peter figures that the Acolytes of Magneto won・t be the last of the splintered groups. Logan gripes that his skin is still riddled with bullets. How can he go on a date when his butt looks like the freakin Rockies? Peter smiles and says it・s good to be back. Logan smiles and says it・s good to have him back.

At the park, the man the Professor was watching walk up to him and asks if he is Charles Xavier. When the Professor asks why he thinks that, the man says he・s seen him on T.V. and that the professor is a pretty distinctive guy. He then says that he・s seen Xavier in the area a lot and asks if he knows one of the kids in his class. The professor says no, he just likes to know that there are other teachers who struggle with instructing disadvantaged students. The man chuckles and agrees that they do kind of have the same job. His students might not save the world, but maybe the similarity is why he is always so interested in the X-men and what they are up to. ・Very possibly,・ the Professor wryly says.

The man introduces himself as Erik Lensherr, a fourth grade teacher at the Institute of Special Education in the Bronx. He pauses and says the Professor probably knew all that. Xavier admits that he did, and comments that there are ・few surprises・ for telepaths. Erik inquires as to what the professor is doing in New York, when he heard that the X-men were fighting a militant faction of the Brotherhood in New Zealand. Xavier consents that the students are in New Zealand, but that it will be their last mission under his jurisdiction. At midnight, he will be closing the school. ・Are you serious?・ Erik asks.

・Unfortunately・, Xavier responds.

Erik asks about the professor・s pacifist mission and how he could turn his back on the dream now. The professor counters with the actions of his son in Rome and Paris. But Erik says that Xavier can・t be held accountable for the things his son did. For as many newspapers that blame Xavier for the murders, there are just as many that say that things would have been worse of the X-men hadn・t been there to stop Proteus. Then the professor points out that his lecture was about non-violent thinking, but that the X-men defeated their opponent by crushing him under a car. Erik asks if he is disappointed in Colossus for using violence. Xavier says that, far from being disappointed, he agrees with what Colossus did.

Back in the mansion, Ororo invites Hank out for Chinese. Hank politely declines, saying that he has already had his carbohydrate limit for the day. Besides, he wants to work on the spare parts Xavier bought. The VR hasn・t been working as well, and he wants to make something more tangible. Ororo tries to invite him to the movies, even offering to watch the European cinema she knew he was interested in. He says that he knows she loathes subtitled movies and she should just go see the Eddie Murphy flick with Peter. Suddenly, Ororo shouts at him to stop. When he says, ・Stop what?・ Ororo tells him to stop treating her like she was some kind of casual acquaintance. She compares his behavior to before, when they were considering getting their own place together, to now, when he can・t be in a room with her without his fur standing on end. She wishes she could take back her comment about the Professor controlling her mind. But Hank proclaims that it ・makes perfect sense・, and it・s the only possible reason someone who looked like her could be attracted to someone who looked like him. When she tries to say it・s because she loves him, he reasons that Xavier is making her think she loves him, so he・ll stay at the school. Not looking at her, he states that he loves her too much to let her kiss his face unless there is empirical evidence that what they have is the real thing.

At the park, Charles Xavier and the man who became Erik Lensherr, continue their discussion with Erik asking the professor if he believes violence is the answer. The professor remarks on how every other stage of human evolution ended in ・bloodshed・, so why shouldn・t it be the same for the end of Homo sapiens? Perhaps Magneto is right, the professor is an idealist trying to hold back the inevitable with ・brainwashing and a gang of pimple faced children.・ Xavier considers that maybe all he is doing is clinging to a human sentiment that ・evolution meant to obliterate・ Erik disagrees, his girlfriend had actually read something that argued that Magneto・s methods were closer to the baser side of human nature. He muses that Magneto・s ways were primitive for someone who was heralding a new, Golden age. He points out that even the Brotherhood is beginning to come around to Xavier・s way of thinking, especially with the negotiation talks that are going on. Erik tells Xavier that if he quits now it will set everything back. Xavier claims that he isn・t that important. He derails his character, calling himself an emotional vacuum. He recalls being unable to cry at his own son・s funeral. He remembers that while the mother of his child needed him to hold her as she cried, all he could think about was the mascara stains on his shirt. He sees David・s death as a sign. After all, if he can・t raise a child, how can he be expected to guide a generation of children? He calls himself a fraud and a fool. He declares that the people who buy into his ideas need to have their head examined. Eric tells Xavier that he is insulted and pulls out tickets from his wallet. When the professor inquires as to what they are, he tells them that they are tickets to his New York lecture. Even though it・s cancelled, he・s keeping them in case they change their minds. Absolutely stunned, the professor marvels that he chose to buy them of his own free will. Eric said he did, and at 49 bucks a pop.

The Professor breaks down, crying uncontrollably. In between sobs, Xavier looks up...・Thank you, Erik. Thank you very, very much.・ Erik kneels down and holds the professor as he cries.

At the Saint Charles Hospital in New York, Scott and Jean watch over Bobby, unconscious and still in intensive care. As they look through his room window, Scott asks Jean if she・s sure that the cops aren・t able to see them. Jean scoffs at his concerns, proclaiming sensory manipulation to be one of the first things she ever learned. She has seen to it that all the cops can see are two flies. Jean laments about how horrible it is to see Bobby lying in a hospital bed. Scott wonders how things got so screwed up, how is it that armed guard are hired to keep the X-men away from Bobby? Jean matter of factly responds that it・s because Bobby was put ・up against the most powerful mutant in the world while every other kid his age was playing Metal Gear Solid.・ When Scott asks if she blames the professor, she says she doesn・t, but is scared of how easily one of them can be taken down. But she says that they all knew what they were signing up for when they joined the school. She does hope that Scott won・t run off and join the Brotherhood the way he did last time one of the team was seriously injured. Scott reassures her that he ・isn・t going anywhere.・ She tells him that she・s relieved. Jean tells Scott that she has never been lonelier than the time he spent with the Brotherhood and that he is the only one that really gets her. Then she asks him to put his arm around her because she・s freezing. He holds her and nervously tries to say something to her. When he falters, she tells him he needn・t be so anxious. She・s a telepath, after all, and she knew that Scott like her before he himself knew. They kiss.

At the mansion, Professor Charles Xavier sits at the desk he had only hours before wrote his resignation in. He concentrates, communicating telepathically with all his students.

・Class resumes at nine a.m. tomorrow morning, my X-men.・

Review of Story

The Events:

This issue was a powerful piece of storytelling, standout among all mediums, not just comic books. Already, issue #20 has been labeled the typical character oriented follow up to an action arc. Screw that. This story had more momentum and more thrill rides than any drawn out action arc with two groups ducking it out against each other from issue to issue. This story was a series of one-two punches. It kept going until you are slapped in the face with the end. True, the real ending of the book does not come with the last page ・the reader knew that Xavier wouldn・t disband the X-men. The ending occurs with the emotional catharsis of Charles Xavier, and the potency of the man who had been Magneto holding the professor as he sobs. Millar makes a powerful statement in that it is Magneto, the professor・s greatest nemesis, who returns hope to Xavier. The heartbreaking irony adds all the more impact to Xavier・s redemption.

Storylines are interwoven and in depth, powerful in its simplicity. It・s expected that an issue focused on the characters will give the reader insight into the character. So of course this book is good about that. But what made this book so above par was the dimension of information given. A prime example of this was the Beast spotlight. The reader gets volumes from that exchange with Ororo. On the surface, it explores the possibility that Ororo may only love Hank because Xavier is controlling her mind. This is a nice continuation of a storyline ・but it delivers so much more. The reader understands Beast・s self ・loathing of his looks, his constant and deep seeded insecurity, his feelings for Ororo Monroe, the state of their relationship, her simple desperation to reconnect with him, and his response to the fear that what they have might not be real. And this is only one example of the interaction between the characters propelling the issue into a fully realized world, with each character a world unto themselves.

The Dialogue:

Damn, but Millar is good. Again, subtlety and insightful word use rule the day with mega impact. I・m wowed and gratified by this book, which assumes their readers have brain cells. The reader knows without a doubt how the book will end, so it・s hugely important how Millar chooses to play it out. The delivery of lines, the timing, and the meaning made for meaty interaction between the characters. The conversation between Charles Xavier and Eric Lensherr should go down in X-men history, period. But what really got me was the very last line of the comic. All that was said was when class would start. But the use of ・my X-men・ just made it so much more. Simply by adding the word ・my・ he adds high drama to one line.

I hate to criticize after all the raving, but the dialogue between Jean and Scott just didn・t quite have the same ・oomph・ as Millar・s usual stuff. It was played out without enough depth and seemed rushed. All the scene did was・serve the storyline. There wasn・t any layering for either characters and I still have no clue why this was the right time for these two characters to get together. In comparison to other writers, this was actually above average. But when you compare this piece of Millar・s work to his usual standard, it・s below average.


In the very first issue of Ultimate X-men, Jean said that she wasn・t capable of manipulating more than one mind at once. But in this issue, she casually brushes off Scott・s concerns about the cops noticing them. True, her mental abilities might have grown, but the line made it sound as if she learned to sensory manipulate several minds at once as her first lessons. And Jean had to be manipulating more than several people, including the cops and hospital staff. But we haven・t seen any growth in her abilities, so it・s kind of coming from nowhere.


The infamous shower scene. There wasn・t any sexual innuendo, but just the fact that two of the characters were naked and in close proximity・Anyway, so the foreshadowing of Peter・s homosexuality goes on.

Review of Artwork

The Cover:

Nice. Very, very nice. Adam Kubert has a particular genius. On the surface, the cover is well drawn and excellently detailed. And Stewert did a very fine job with the coloring. But what really impressed was the immediate tone and state of mind the image evokes. In one page, Kubert captures the place that Xavier is in and the setting for the whole of the book. He uses angle and positioning to its best effect, communicating the identity of Professor Charles Xavier with a simple image that is a statement of will and character. The lines are clean and definite, but filled with small pieces of detail that add to the overall picture. A nice touch was the fall theme and barren trees, an appropriate reflection of the main character・s psyche.

The Book:

This book was centered on conversation and reflection, to the point where dialogue dominates the art. But Kubert delivers with his insightful form of visual storytelling. He adds to the story, creating tension and chemistry by focusing on the right characters at the right time. With a deft hand, motion and non-motion become a driving force. As in photojournalism, the right angles are used to expose emotion and attitude.

In what could be considered a tricky beginning, Kubert cuts back and forth between an X-men battle in New Zealand to the professor getting dressed for the morning in Westchester. One must congratulate Kubert for providing such a clear vision of the two sequences. The art almost allows the viewer to hear the silence of Xavier going about his day in comparison to the sounds of battle.

In the Beast/Storm scene, Kubert once again uses art in perfect concert with dialogue, capturing the underlying emotion of the scene and character. The scene is drawn with Hank turned away from Ororo during their entire conversation. Physical distance between the characters and wide, open lines forming blank expanses of space add to the feeling distance for the lovers. Kubert・s drawing taps into the meaning behind the dialogue ・the way Ororo looks up from far away, unable to reach the man she loves to the way Hank does not turn to her, unwilling to reach out because of the way he looks.

One of the most incredible visual techniques used in this book was the use of a butterfly as a representation of the dream and belief in it. During the crucial conversation between Xavier and Erik Lensherr, the same butterfly seen fluttering around the rehabilitated Magneto in Ultimate X-men #15 follows the men in their conversation. In all honesty, I detested the use of the butterfly when we first discovered Magneto was alive. It seemed a disgustingly obvious ploy to send the message that Magneto was innocent and doing good. But the way it was used in this issue was ingenious and incredibly enriching to the story. The butterfly stays close to Erik as he argues in favor of Xavier and Xavier・s dream, keeping away from the professor as he cynically shoots down his former ideals. But when Xavier breaks down, his belief restored, the butterfly floats over and lands on the crying professor. It・s an insightful visual of the transfer of hope and Xavier・s evolution toward it. One could see the exact moment when belief in the dream is restored to Xavier, and it is as profound a feeling for the reader as it is for the character. I credit this to Kubert・s display of not just the character・s actions, but his vision of the characters・ emotions. The reader is left with a sense of finality as the butterfly flies over the single image of Erik holding the restored Xavier as he cries.

The penciling and the paneling aren・t even remotely an issue. As ever, Kubert uses clear, precise sketching. The action flows from panel to panel in a clear, straightforward manner, which follows the evolution of the story. The panels are well placed and unobtrusive to the plot and how it is presented.

The Characters:

There was one horrid close up of Jean・s face in which her forehead is huge and she appears to be a whole ・nother person. But hey, they say you are cursed without that one Persian flaw. With the return of Kubert, it・s a great relief to this Ultimate X-men fan to see the team looking normal again.

As much as Millar used this book for character identification, so did Kubert exploit this opportunity to develop his established physical characteristics. Intentional or no, Kubert has distinguished each character with individual ways of moving. He has given these two-dimensional figures a specific three-dimensional identity. A good example of this is Jean, who has a particular effervescent, sexy style of moving. He has maintained this visual identity throughout all the issues for Jean, as he has for all the characters. The stalwart, steady, rock solid carriage of Scott that was established from issue #1 is present as he looks at Bobby through a window. The way he holds himself is as much as part of the character as his physical appearance. The languid movement that Kubert has so excellently done with Ororo in the past is viewed simply by the way she stands and holds her hands in her pocket pants. The way Ororo holds her head as she looks up and the casual way she leans to the side is classic Ultimate Storm. This kind of consistency creates an immediate distinction from something as basic as posture.

Worst Line:

・I swear to God, you・re the only one who really gets me in that place.・ Jean Grey a.k.a. Marvel Girl to Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops

Best Line:

・Class resumes nine a.m. tomorrow morning, my X-men.・ Professor X a.k.a. Professor Charles Xavier to the X-men


This issue is one of the best books in the Ultimate X-men line to date. The art is top notch, a driving force in a script rich with drama and character exploration. Millar uses every opportunity for story enhancement, wringing as much emotion from the reader he can. This issue especially showed of the story telling abilities of Adam Kubert, who really drove the dialogue with his insightful vision of the characters. The events, the dialogue, and the art really come together in this issue. It offers slam in the gut emotion that the reader can really feel. This issue marks a significant development for this book; no other issue from this line has delved so far into the minds of the main characters. It・s a milestone in terms of character development and a gripping play into the dynamic Professor X, leader of the X-men.

XXXXXX: Six X・s out of Five.