The X-Men’s mission in Eastern Europe continues as Storm and Colossus carry on battling War-Machine who has been tasked with patrolling the volatile region.  Their battle is cut short when the nation of Symkaria invades the airspace of Puternicstan, who has recently come to own a small army of Sentinels, which they hope to re-purpose to utilize against their surrounding nations.  Their plan involves the “remains” of Domino, who appeared to be killed by a Sentinel last issue, but her luck powers kick in as they never have before.  Psylocke leads Warpath and Jubilee in a rescue attempt, running into interference on their way.  Things really hit the fan and Psylocke calls in Storm and Colossus, accompanied by War-Machine, for back up, but it seems the Puternicstanians have cracked the Sentinels’ code and succeeded in turning them into all-purpose killing machines, which they demonstrate by attempting to terminate the one non-mutant in the bunch, War-Machine.

Though this issue was a brisk read, it contained enough revelations to keep things interesting.  The Governor of Puternicstan is fed up with the constant conquests of the tiny nation by surrounding countries like Russia and Latveria.  The accumulation and development of Sentinel warriors is a desperate political move to preserve that nations sovereignty.  Basically, their plan calls for one Sentinel to serve as a “queen bee” directing all of their others, and of course to reprogram them to strike human targets, not mutants.  It’s kind of ironic, then, that the X-Men have embroiled themselves in this mission!

I love Storm and she comes across well here, as she typically does as a competent, rational leader.  The rest of the X-Men get to cut loose as well against their respective enemies.  I will be intrigued to see how Psylocke runs this show after Storm departs.  (I presume she will be exiting the X-Books, now that she has joined the New York-based Avengers… then again, that never stopped Wolverine.)  In a way, this book’s lineup reminds me of the Island of Misfit Toys, but more like the Island of 90s Misfit Mutants.  Domino and Warpath were part of Rob Liefeld’s ‘X-Force’ and Psylocke and Jubilee came to prominent during Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s run on ‘Uncanny X-Men.’  Why isn’t Gambit on this team, while we’re at it?  That’s not a bad thing, it’s just an observation.

I don’t normally like overly-political stories, so this storyline has that working against it.  But it’s handled well and doesn’t bore me, so it’s fine.  There is some crisp dialogue, which is appreciated.  I am quite frankly just glad this is a “fresh” story and not a rehash of an existing X-Men tale.  Despite the Sentinels’ presence, they’re not in the Savage Land, the Hellfire Club isn’t involved, etc.  So kudos there!

Will Conrad’s art continues to impress.  It’s hyper detailed, clean; it just works!  It isn’t showy, but the quality is sturdy.  I must admit, I wasn’t familiar with his work before this book, but he’s excellent!  I predict great things from this guy!

Overall, a satisfying read, but not essential.  I enjoyed it well enough, but I’m not dancing in the streets over it, so…

Vedict: Borrow

X-MEN #21
Written by Victor Gischler
Art by Will Conrad
Cover by Adi Granov