It's just another day on the island of Utopia. Colossus and Kitty and Namor are fighting a giant robo-shrimp. Magneto is arguing with Dr Nemesis. And Cyclops is 'prioritising'. The number one priority soon becomes clear as Agent Abigail Brand of space defence agency S.W.O.R.D. asks the X-Men, ever so nicely, to save the world.
The crisis is partly of their own making, as it centres on a massive assault ship heading for Earth from Breakworld, whose warlord they once annoyed. So off into space the mutants go, for a few issues' vacation from the increasingly tiresome war on oppression.
This is the best X-Men issue I've read in years. I'm used to the gorgeous art of Terry and Rachel Dodson, whose expressive characters and design flair remind me of the Paul Smith period. And I know Keiron Gillen can write a mean comic script. But I wasn't prepared for just how good the Dodsons and Gillen would be together - there's a classic feel to their X-Men, but a freshness too.
The book opens with a nicely done recap, before we join Kitty and Peter for a picnic, a sweet and funny scene that becomes even better once Namor (power: super-pompousness) appears. There's some spot-on banter between the three of them, but respect and concern too - the Sub-Mariner cares that Kitty is stuck in phase mode (click image to enlarge).
The scene with Dr Nemesis of the X-Club illustrates just how much the mutants have to deal with at the moment, while also hinting that Magneto aims to solve the mystery of Kitty's condition. And the subsequent visit with Cyclops shows that the X-Men's leader is too distracted to pick up on this.
That apart, Scott Summers is in fine fettle, ensuring Agent Brand knows that she having asked the X-Men for help, he's in charge of the mission - he's simply firm, rather than the ass we've gotten used to over the last several years.
Ah yes, Abigail Brand. Never liked her in Astonishing, she was too much the gobby Claremontwoman, so I avoided the S.W.O.R.D. ongoing. Which was written by Gillen. Which I now wish I'd bought, because as presented by him she's a hard-nosed delight - obnoxious, sarcastic but bright enough to know when she should step back. And I love her prisoner/advisor Unit, who seems a cross between C3P0 and Hannibal Lecter.
And every excellently written scene becomes that much better thanks to the Dodsons' facility for selling the moments that build to the bigger drama.
Gillen said in an iFanboy Don't Miss interview this week that he's aiming to find the emotion in stories, that if a writer doesn't make us care about the X-Men, they've failed.