Round two of Rogue and friends versus Exodus is something of a bright and bombastic light show. Christos Gage serves up some interesting character moments, whilst David Baldeon really does deliver on the art.
Now the biggest through line of the issue is the Wolverine/Rogue dynamic and how it takes an interesting path. No longer the trusted friends they once where, Gage decides to do enough damage to make their relationship a hell of a lot more interesting. In fact in the grand scheme of things, it even puts Rogue in a precarious position within the school. Stemming from a logical moral dilemma, Gage manages to really run with the idea of Rogue wanting to warn Cyclops against Wolverine wanting to deal with the problem in secret. Rogue’s side is understandable, she left on good terms, her love interest lives there and she is worried about the collateral damage, which could include the children on Utopia. Whereas Wolverine’s side of the argument seems a little thin as he doesn’t want to give Cyclops the opportunity to prove his point. Although Wolverine’s argument seems a little petty, it actually really works on a character level, showing a man full of pride who is still hurt when it comes to the events of Schism. It truly has reinvigorated both characters relationships and their interactions are the highlights of the issue. Especially the moment Rogue tears into Wolverine with her “Ah didn’t wake up one mornin’ between ninja fights and decide ah wanted to be a teacher” line.
But it isn’t all Wolverine and Rogue. Frenzy’s scenes with Exodus are solid. They play off their mutual past and Gage has given her a rage that suits her codename. Both Cannonball and Iceman get moments to shine. Cannonball getting the biggest push he’s had for a long time and it’s nice to see he is as capable as ever. Although it is fair to say that Gambit feels like he is simply skulking in the background. It may only be this one issue, but he seems more like a cameo than a member of the main cast. Rachel Summers only does marginally better because her power set is useful in this situation. She is a visual presence but that seems to be it. Again Exodus isn’t much more than his pompous, self-righteous self, but he is a menacing force of nature as Gage’s script has him once again tear through the X-Men. However Gage does deliver a great cliffhanger, which is a genuine red herring surprise. With the youth of Utopia arriving, you can imagine the stakes of the conflict have just been raised which gets the excitement for the next issue going.
Another area of excitement is Baldeon’s art. His style is still a little cartoony, especially the characters faces, but he really brings it this issue. The fight is well-crafted and has a sense of space that is sometimes lacking in aerial dogfights. It’s kinetic, clear and fun as the X-Men use teamwork to attempt to deal with the godlike mutant. It does fail of course, as Baldeon’s Exodus seems to effortlessly quash the threat. That is the true beauty of Baldeon’s rendering of Exodus, he really does exude power. But it isn’t just Exodus, Baldeon litters the book with some great visual moments. The reveal of Hope and the teen X-Men is a great image; in fact it wouldn’t make a bad poster. Iceman powering up is another great moment, which adds some power to Bobby Drake that we rarely see. But the stand out visual treat has to go to the psychic duel between Rachel and Exodus. Not only is it a nice image with Rachel encased in the Phoenix effect and Exodus producing a lion avatar, but it also has a few minor images, which are very interesting. Showing the battle on multiple fronts, from a school playground to a chess match, they are interesting representations of a psychic duel and give a unique perspective to the proceedings.
So, even though two of the main cast members are slightly neglected the rest of the book has a solid core, which really entertains. The newfound conflict between Wolverine and Rogue has a lot of potential to be very interesting. Gage really sells the emotions through his script, whilst delivering a great action packed fight. Aided by the wonderfully bright renderings of Baldeon and this is an entertaining read. Both Gage and Baldeon know how to sell rising tension in the fight scene, which looks set to explode next issue as Hope arrives. With all that’s on display it does conjure up memories of X-stories gone by and that is why it works so well. It delivers fresh character interaction, but with a hint of yesteryear.