When the Ultimate X-Men were launched, the original X-Men team history ran to almost forty years, and the core membership of the new team was a crowd-pleasing line-up picked from them that’s seen just three additions over seven volumes. That status quo is challenged in New Mutants. To Brian Michael Bendis’ credit, he doesn’t entirely take the easy route by sticking to new variations on the X-Men from the mainstream universe. Some are new, and others differ considerably from their counterparts, which makes for an interesting batch of stories.

The real heartbreaker involves Wolverine’s meeting with a newly manifested mutant who’s drawn the short straw and developed toxic powers, but we’re also introduced to Angel and Dazzler. Along with the new characters Bendis ramps up the US administration’s unease with a now very public X-Men. A none too bright President is fed the argument that just because someone’s not revealed as doing something doesn’t mean they’re not doing it. So, via that logic, no trace of Professor X having mentally manipulated the President only means he could have done without any traces. The result of that prime military paranoia is the introduction of many more new mutants.

As has been the case for the previous two volumes, artist David Finch presents the spectacular as everyday. Because there’s less action to New Mutants he’s reined in slightly, but proves to be just as good at breaking down long conversations in an interesting way. When the action comes he really lets loose.

Blockbuster was a dark story, and so is this, Bendis’ legacy on two volumes of Ultimate X-Men before turning the franchise over to Brian K. Vaughan with The Tempest. Bendis shakes up the status quo, but has little interest in the group dynamics of Ultimate X-Men, and most of his attempts to address them form the weaker moments. Overall, though, if readers accept a change of tone, this is a very readable outing with some long-term consequences. It’s combined in hardback with the previous collection as Ultimate X-Men Vol. 4. This was subsequently reissued as a bulky paperback titled Ultimate X-Men Ultimate Collection Vol. 4.