Last issue ended with a countdown, and time’s run out. Strangely, there’s no explosion, but that doesn’t mean the X-Students are in the clear. Things eventually go from bad to worse, but students Primal, Bling, Pixie, and Hellion show Professor Pryde how well they handle duress by working together to stay alive. They eventually discover that Arkea’s hacked into various systems from the Danger Room to the main servers, and Pryde makes the difficult decision to phase through the control center if they want to prevent Arkea’s cyberattack from spreading to machines outside of the X-Mansion.
In Bangladesh, the X-Men follow Arkea’s trail to the Szent Margit Institute. It’s obviously strange that Arkea has returned to the point of her origin, but Sublime informs the team that his sister is reassembling herself using the cybernetic implants given to the patients inside the hospital.
The team infiltrates the hospital and meets resistance in the form of the living-hacked who’ve been taken over by Arkea’s ability to control machines. Psylocke quickly penetrates through the defense, and just as she’s about to put Arkea down — the order is given for an immediate halt.
The question of whether Karima Shapandar still lives within her Sentinel body is answered when her consciousness calls out to the X-Men. Falling upon Psylocke’s sword, Karima kills off Arkea and takes fll control over the Sentinel body.
The issue ends with Storm and Rogue questioning the future of the team. Rachel seems to be the dark horse of the group — her questioning of Storm’s order to down Arkea brings to mind Storm’s own questioning of Cyclops’ motives and direction. Though they’re not officially an X-Men squad, Storm acknowledges she can’t predict the future and calls the current grouping to stick together.
The whereabouts of Arkea and Sublime are complications that add intrigue, but overall, the issue — even if it’s the third act of the Primer story arc — feels a little anticlimactic. After Karima takes matters into her own hands, the scene shifts forward as the X-Men load Karima into the Jeep. Sublime is nowhere to be found, and Rachel is mysteriously absent. What’s missing in between creates a large hole asking to be filled.
The story feels rushed and hollow where the main team is concerned, but the X-Mansion scenes give the characters a chance to showoff their skills and prove their mettle.
Brian Wood’s scripting of the X-Students gives them a natural feel — they talk and act like teens running on adrenaline. The sassy Bling is particularly well written, and Olivier Coipel’s pencils add great visual flair with accurate body language and tells. Coipel’s artwork looks great most of the time — Storm’s Mickey Mouse gloves and Rachel’s emotionless expressions are minor gripes — and the visual arts team gets a solid thumbs-up for pushing the action and creating visual tension with cinematic lighting, vivid backdrops, and clearly defined characters.
Back to the Bangladesh side of the story — that part of the issue could have benefited from a few more pages, and the abrupt ending feels like a wet blanket over an otherwise great introduction to the series.
On the one hand, as powerful as Arkea is, the team’s handling of the situation speaks highly of their chemistry and abilities.
On the other, the victory over such a strong and violent force is a snorefest without much payoff.
There’s also concerns with Jubilee’s relationship with the baby. Jubilee seems to be in a mental state that’s younger than the students fighting back at the mansion, and there’s a lack of connection between herself and the baby that feels distant, even with all of the cooing and baby talk. Right now, the baby seems more like a pet or sidekick, speaking a language that only Jubilee can understand.
Big picture — things are heating up, and the potential for a great story is there. This issue is a lull, but it isn’t indicative that things are falling apart. It might not be what readers expect, but there are clues and foreshadowing building up for future issues.