This is probably the best comic I’ve read this week, and that includes my usual favourite Uncanny X-Force. This is part 2 of the Final Exam storyline, where Jeremy Briggs is threatening to depower all of Earth’s superheroes. The Academy kids are split as to whether they agree with him or not.
This issue is full of great character moments. Every one of the Academy students has a moment of realization somewhere in this issue, and they’re all very well handled. On the side who agrees with Jeremy Briggs, Veil, Hazmat and Mettle are enjoying being normal again. However once they learn of the danger their friends are in, they are forced to make the most difficult decision of their lives. Saying how Striker deals with the situation would spoil the second half of the issue, but it’s great too.
For those who are fully against Jeremy Briggs, both White Tiger and Reptil are dealing with being separated from the magical artifacts that have long been fused to their bodies. It delves deep into White Tiger’s reasons for taking up her brother’s mantel – four panels of dialogue explore this enough to fill an entire issue. X-23 is experiencing dying for the first time as she’s being poisoned by the metal on her claws and dealing with injuries from a giant’s punch. Through this, she reflects on how all her victims might have felt in a way she never has before.
There are enough deep character moments in this issue alone to fill an entire story arc. Somehow, this issue still feels balanced and has enough space for several good fight scenes and further plot development. The only thing holding this issue back is the art. It’s not bad by any means, but there isn’t anything special about it either.
It’s a shame that Marvel recently announced the end of this series. It has consistently balanced its large cast well and is very good at exploring the mind of a troubled teenager. This is probably the best issue in the series so far (although I haven’t read the second paperback or the Fear Itself tie-ins yet). I highly recommend this issue and this entire series. While everything you need to know is on the recap page, I highly recommend that you find the previous issue as well. Hopefully all these kids (or at least those who survive this storyline) will have somewhere to go after this series ends.