Review by Ian Keogh
It’s been noted in reviews of the preceding Ultimate X-Men graphic novels that Mark Millar was still developing as a writer, and viewed in hindsight they’re not the showstoppers they were when originally published. However, that’s placed into perspective by Chuck Austen’s writing on the opening chapters of World Tour. They’re not very good. The plot is basic A-Z with no surprises other than ones requiring some better explanation as Gambit is introduced to the world of the Ultimate X-Men. Austen overplays his Cajun accent and French terms, requiring numerous footnotes with translations, and not a single scene rises above the mundane and predictable. The background free art of Esad Ribic has a fluid quality, but can’t save the story.
The A team of Millar and Adam Kubert is back for the remainder of the book. The title story is preceded by what appears to be a very ordinary piece offering a few thoughts on the relationship between mutants and humans spotlighting how the X-Men spend their days when not evading Sentinels. It lures you in, though, providing the answer to the surprise revelation that closed Return to Weapon X, and acts as a coda to The Tomorrow People. It’s a clever prelude to the fireworks that follow.
They concern a mutant named Proteus, whose parentage differs slightly, but significantly, from his main Marvel universe counterpart. He remains a form of psychic vampire, transferring his consciousness from body to body, having to shift constantly as he rapidly wears through the energy of his hosts, leaving them lifeless husks. What he’s additionally able to do is confront the X-Men with their personal fears and pasts, possessing the unhoned psychic talents of his father.
Kubert’s art has modified slightly from the previous books. The unnaturally thin and angular women still appear, but there are fewer facial lines, and as much of the book occurs in poor weather he’s atmospheric in modifying the cast according to its effects. It does, however, beg the question why the X-Men should ever face anyone in poor weather when Storm ought to be able to control it. The team look better when Chris Bachalo draws the penultimate chapters.
While one group of X-Men concentrate on Proteus, others are attempting to persuade one of their number to return to the team. They’ve become sick of constantly facing unadulterated hatred from humans merely for being different, and consider a quiet life is the answer. It’s an effective counterpoint with a euphoric resolution.
For all of Proteus’ power and an emotionally strong background, he never really convinces as anything other than a child having a tantrum. He’s there as the underlining of issues that Millar’s been expanding from the start of the series, and while much of ‘World Tour’ is ordinary, the social issues under the spotlight lead naturally to a very fine epilogue.
World Tour is also available in hardcover as Ultimate X-Men volume 2, where it’s combined with the following Hellfire & Brimstone. That same content is also available as the bulky paperback Ultimate X-Men Ultimate Collection volume 2.