We jump back into the countdown of my top ten comics of 2012 with a surprising book that I would have never guessed would make this list this time last year… ULTIMATE X-MEN BY BRIAN WOOD, PACO MEDINA, CARLOS BARBERI, AND OTHERS!
This time last year, the Ultimate title that I was in love with was The Ultimates under the direction of Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic (it was my #7 book of 2011). But, Hickman and Ribic left that title for Avengers and Thor: God of Thunder, while Ultimate X-Men writer Nick Spencer was replaced with Brian Wood. What Wood did with the title was make it a book about a revolution, about a world where mutants are not just feared and hated, they are penned up and killed — and just when it seems like they’ve won, like they’ve finally gotten their freedom, something comes along and all but 20 mutants decide to stop being mutants. Forget the 198, Wood made mutants a truly endangered species on the brink of extinction. And he made them unable to function as a single group.
That one-two punch of mutants coming together to fight against oppression and win only for humans to come along and find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat… it was masterful. It was taking advantage of the Ultimate Universe in a similar way to how Hickman did the same in The Ultimates. Take some familiar toys and fuck them up, because… why not? He could never do this on X-Men, but Ultimate X-Men is a whole other story.
Kitty Pryde has been the protagonist and leader of the mutants… even though, now, a sizeable minority seem to want her dead, because she seems intent on playing nice with humanity. In the most recent story, the mutants invent a seed that can grow anything anywhere… and she decides to give it away for free. This, after President Rogers gave mutants a dead piece of land for their reservation. You can see why some would simply want to declare war on humanity and die taking out of a few humans. But, Kitty sees a better way. It’s a more spiteful way, I think. A “You try to kill us? Well, we’re going to solve world hunger. Fuck you.” way. It’s doing good in a manner where everyone will want to accept it and some will hate themselves for it. It’s forcing humanity to embrace its hypocrisy.
What would someone do if they were in a similar situation? Wood is quite good at creating these dramatic, fucked up contexts and, then, exploring how people would act in them. How noble intentions can go wrong, how people will still insist on doing stupid things, and how things will usually wind up bad even when it seems they can’t.
Honestly, what I keep waiting for is for Wood to be paired with an artist that can make his scripts sing like they should. This is a book that makes this like despite the art. It’s rarely been bad, but it doesn’t enhance and improve like it should. It’s serviceable at best. The strength of Wood’s writing — and the way that writing like this appeals to me specifically — carry the day.
In 90 minutes, I will return with my #7 comic of 2012.
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