This issue is yet another tie-in to X-Men vs. Avengers which I simply cannot keep up with, so those sections of the story didn’t really mean anything to me.  Basically Gladiator and his forces, the Shi’ar, came to Earth to stop the Phoenix, but now the Phoenix Force is divided between five of the X-Men, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Sub-Mariner and Magik.  (Magik doesn’t appear here.)  I’m not sure how Gladiator plans to get the Phoenix out of them, but they all fight a lot.

The portion of the story that I did like was the focus on Warbird, Kid Gladiator’s body guard, who happens to be a character that hasn’t been showcased very much.  We get flashbacks to her childhood, beginning with a scene that is the reverse of the scene in ‘Watchman’ where she is taking a Rorschach test.  She sees a butterfly but lies and says she sees “a Vanzzarian Tusk Hound… with its skull split open” among other horrors.  We quickly get a feel for the war-like nature of the Shi’ar, how power and savagery are the norm and beauty and art are consider deviations.  She reveals, via narration, that she was artificially birthed in a “slave womb” a captured alien female, used to carry babies like herself but who would die during childbirth, thus Warbird noting that “when I was born, it was in a rush of blood and alien death screams.”  From that point, she was raised to be a killer, learning to assemble a rifle before she could talk.  However she reveals a dark secret: she liked to draw.  She would draw pictures of birds or flowers, but as soon as she finished each one, she burned it, lest someone find out her shame.  This is all conveyed over a scene of her, a few months ago, locating a terrorist cell and massacring them all.  Well, all but one… a small child, lying on the floor… drawing.

In another move that went against the Shi’ar nature, she let the boy go free, but after confessing what she had done, was disciplined.  She was given an assignment that would make her hate children– guarding Kid Gladiator.

I thought the Warbird story was VERY well-done and the Gladiator scenes were handled pretty well also.  But since it was so reliant on everything going on in the crossover, it didn’t make a ton of sense to me.  But the dialogue and everything was just fine.  I’m really loving Nick Bradshaw’s art in this series and he does his normal great job here.  In fact, the Warbird scenes had a weight and sense of drama that he hasn’t really employed yet, since this series is usually lighter in tone.

It was good, but the crossover hampered this issue, so…

Verdict: Borrow

Writer – Jason Aaron
Penciler – Nick Bradshaw
Cover – Nick Bradshaw and Justin Ponsor