Though the Nuhuman Ulysses — who is the character responsible for “Civil War II” — isn’t directly seen in Cullen Bunn and Andrea Broccardo’s “Civil War II: X-Men” #1, his impact most certainly is. As a handful of mutants seal themselves in a skyscraper to protect themselves from the approaching Terrigen cloud, the group is threatened by one team of X-Men and then some Prime Sentinels before they are ultimately saved by another team of X-Men due to Ulysses’ intervention. Bunn’s uneven story never really quite finds its footing, and the incursion of multiple X-Men teams seems like a desperate move to encourage fans to buy this unnecessary tie-in.
The issue kicks off when Magneto’s team shows up and accuses the affluent group of mutants of turning away their less fortunate kinsmen, but the encounter is barely underway before Bunn introduces another threat: the Prime Sentinels. It’s an all-too-convenient twist that one menace shows up just in time to deal with the other, especially when the Prime Sentinels’ mission could have been completed beforehand by, say, shattering the windows of the rich mutants’ haven. As soon as the Sentinels are dispatched, Magneto’s team remains vulnerable to the effects of the imminent cloud, but are in turn saved all-too-conveniently by Storm’s team.
This mishmash of pop-up battles consumes the first half of the issue, and the effect isn’t so much an adrenaline rush as it is dizziness. The second half doesn’t really serve up much of an antidote, as the two teams largely stand around trading quips and barbs with one another. Bunn’s uses these exchanges to establish the two teams’ opposing viewpoints regarding the Inhumans in general and Ulysses in particular, but the concept is really nothing new; there have been teams of X-Men with different agendas before. The issue simply seems to shine a light through the thin premise of the overall “Civil War II” storyline, and dividing allegiances over a character who practically came out of nowhere doesn’t really generate enough substance for a single series, let alone multiple tie-ins.
The comic is more artistically pleasing, as Broccardo’s style is light and uncluttered and he confidently manages all of the different mutants that Bunn’s script calls for. Some characters lose their details at a distance, and there are some inconsistencies from panel to panel, but his layouts are clean and attractive overall. He does his best to keep up with Bunn’s overfilled script early on and also manages to add a little pep to the lethargic backstretch; there are enough dramatic poses and cross expressions make it look more exciting than it really is. Colorist Jesus Aburtov also keeps the art looking brisk by skillful use of color contrasts that further add some zest to each page.
The artistic highlight of the issue is David Yardin’s beautiful cover, which faithfully captures the likenesses of a dozen or so characters but also symbolizes the divide between the two teams. That’s about as good as “Civil War II: X-Men” gets, though, as there’s just not enough depth to the basic idea to justify this issue, and the story does nothing to prove otherwise.