After last issue’s tight character focus on Cyclops, Brian Michael Bendis gets into plot-mode with this issue, as the long-simmering X-Men Vs SHIELD storyline bubbles over, at the same time as several other subplots reach interesting turning points. Whilst I loved last issue, it was great to get the big picture finally moving.
The issue opens up with 2 short scenes that, as I said, give 2 of this book’s subplots new impetus. The first sees the recently fired Hijack approached by Maria Hill and SHIELD, who demand that he tell them where Cyclops’ base is, but unfortunately, he has no idea. What I found most interesting here is the levels of paranoia that Hill has reached, how she thinks that Cyclops fired Hijack on purpose so she could find him as another level of manipulation. Everyone is playing everyone here, and at this point, it’s hard to guess why Scott Summers does anything. Hell, Maria Hill might not actually think this, it could just be a ploy to get Hijack to talk. This book is messing with my mind!
The other scene continues Mystique’s evil plans, as we finally discover what’s up with the original Dazzler. She’s not dead (hooray!) but she’s drugged up to her eyeballs, is blindfolded and, most crucially of all because of her powers, has her ears bunged up so she can’t hear any sound. Mystique explains to Sabretooth that she’s keeping her alive so she can use her to make the Mutant Growth Hormone that’s funding the takeover of Madripoor, and we actually see her get injected. This is all kinds of fucked up, I love it. Ever since Bendis’ run began, Mystique has been this crazy wildcard in the middle of Cyclops and Wolverine and SHIELD, and it’s great to see everyone keep overlooking her as her plans actually work out. When she finally does reveal herself… it’s going to be epic.
The main meat of the story involves Cyclops and his X-Men doing what they do best, going to meet a new Mutant and try and recruit them. There’s an interesting bit of tension between Cyclops and Tempus beforehand, it could be because of her crush on him, but more likely it’s due to whatever happened to Tempus when she time-travelled in #17. Just like with Mystique, when those details come out, it’s going to be great. The X-Men head to site of the new Cerebro spike, which is Chicago, but when they arrive, there’s no Mutant there, just a Sentinel who spits smaller Sentinels out of it’s mouth. We’ve seen this group of X-Men go up against Sentinels loads of times already, but this time, the evil robots have something new up their sleeves… they can stop mutant powers. Goldballs can’t use his balls, Magik can’t teleport them away, Cyclops can’t use his blasts.
Luckily, they can’t block everything, as Tempus is able to make a time-bubble, and Magik uses her sorcerer powers to create a massive flame dragon. Magik working with Doctor Strange has really paid off, and I liked how this issue used the same technique to depict the magic spells that Bendis used before when writing Strange in the Avengers. With the Sentinels destroyed, everyone has their powers back, but really, the X-Men lost here, as the good citizens of Chicago turn on them. The Sentinels are just as much a PR weapon as a physical one. Cyclops ends the issue by declaring war on whoever it is that’s been attacking them with the Sentinels, whether it’s SHIELD or not, he doesn’t care, he’s going after them. We of course know that the person behind these attacks is mysterious bubble-head man, and we see him again here, watching Cyclops, and tinkering with another Sentinel. I have no idea who this dude is, but I can’t wait to find out.
Chris Bachalo’s art was once again excellent, I love his unique layouts in action scenes, the page where Cyclops just went to town with his optic blasts were fantastic. And also, Goldballs has a costume! It’s great! This issue kick-started the conflict we’ve all been waiting for, Cyclops has declared war and shit just got real.