This issue kicks off with a bang, as the X-Men battle an army of Sinister clones in their attempt to recover the head of the Dreaming Celestial.  Hope gets to show off her marksmanship, but Agent Abigail Brand of S.W.O.R.D. wants this battle wrapped up, because a fleet of Celestials are on their way to Earth to investigate what has happened to their brother.  Realizing they are all in danger, Sinister declares a cease-fire and invites the X-Men to parlay with him.  It is, of course, a trap and everyone knows it.

Inside, Sinister delivers an explanation for his motivations.  As a child, young Nathaniel Essex visited Greenwich Park and was inspired by the strict order of it all.  “People walking the paths preordained for them, everyone knowing their place, and the sanctity and purity in that.”  He explained that he then created a perfect body and then inhabited it and began cloning this new perfect body.  “As each new clone emerges from my creation engine, it looks at its peers and surroundings and instantly knows it’s place– and takes it.”

(X-Spoilers on…)

Sinister explains that he doesn’t care that the Celestials are coming, because they will wipe out humanity, but he is certain that his species and the mutants will survive to do battle.  He then springs his trap and his clones attack the X-Men again.  He mentally possesses all of them except for Colossus, whose Juggernaut helmet protects him from mental control, Emma Frost and Danger.  While Colossus is taken down and Danger is destroyed, Emma frees Hope who borrows Magik’s teleportation and seems to take Sinister out for good.  However, since Sinister’s clones are all of one mind, that isn’t the case.  No matter how many of the clones the X-Men kill, they are still outnumbered!

I love this take on Sinister.  He is so much more sophisticated and cerebral than he has been in the past!  And the larger threat of the Celestials also looms ominously.  The fact that this team of X-Men is made up of the most powerful mutants on Earth– Cyclops, Emma, Submariner, Magneto, Colossus, Storm and Magik, plus Danger– facing such large threats, brings to mind Grant Morrison’s take on the Justice League from years ago; the most powerful heroes battling the biggest threats!

The pacing is well-balanced, with a huge super battle in the beginning allowing the various heroes to show off their specialties, followed by a lot of exposition, then even more action, with a few dramatic twists.  The characterization is accurate, however I couldn’t help but notice that this team is made up of a lot of elitists!  Emma and Danger have always been cold and aloof.  The Submariner and Magneto are outright superior in attitude.  But Sinister flat out accuses Scott of wanting to rule the world, pointing out his new aggressive stance as the first step in his path.  He even draws comparison between their two plans.  Ironically, it’s the actual queen, Storm, who has the most grounded persona in this group!

Regular penciller Carlos Pacheco received some assist, this issue with two additional pencillers, Jorge Molina and Rodney Buchemi, chipping in.  The artwork by Carlos Pacheco is… flawless!  What else can I say?  He delivers it all, crisp, clean lines, excellent motion and drama, pacing, storytelling, facial expressions, body movement… he’s just fantastic!  But the fact that I didn’t even realize while reading that there were two other artists filling in, speaks highly of the others’ work as well!  It flowed seamlessly!  Nice work all around!

This story is grand and dramatic, but still packed with action.  It’s a perfectly balanced super hero team book.

Verdict: Buy

Written by Kieron Gillen
Pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, Jorge Molina and Rodney Buchemi
Cover by Pacheco, Cam Smith and Frank D’Armata