Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Mark Buckingham (inker), Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Buccellato & Electric Crayon (coloring)
Synch and Jubilee go to the roof of the school during a thunderstorm to talk to Gateway. As usual, he doesn’t speak, which frustrates Jubilee. M uses the school’s advanced computer system to create a model of Emplate. She notes that Emplate takes on the physical appearance of the mutants he feeds off of, which would explain why Emplate and Penance have similar spiky hair. Based on this, Emma figures out that the straps over Penance’s body are actually restraints. An alarm goes off in the medical center, indicating that Penance has escaped. The team’s shocked to discover that she used her claws to rip her way out of the building. The team splits up to find her, but Skin chooses to stay behind. As Banshee and Husk trail Penance, they don’t realize that she’s actually following them. Penance reaches out of the wet ground and drags Husk down with her. When Banshee goes after her, Penance slashes him in the back. When he’s on the ground, she puts her razor-sharp fingers in his mouth to block his sonic scream. Meanwhile, in Monaco, the Orphan Maker targets the eccentric Carter St. Croix. He’s saved when the Orphan Maker’s armor begins to fall apart.
This is the first full appearance of Penance, who will become a regular in the title. She has diamond-hard skin and razor-sharp claws. When Emma tries to read her mind, she says that she can’t access any thought patterns.
Adding to her list of abilities, M says that she can see in the dark. Her conversation with Emma also reveals that the team is unaware of M’s psychic powers.
Like the first issue, this is another simple plot, which mainly serves as a vehicle for character interaction and the development of a few mysteries. While the last issue led to an anti-climatic fight scene, this issue’s chase scene works a little better. Splitting the characters up on a chase gives them more space to interact than a simple fight scene does, and it helps to build suspense towards the issue’s climax. At least one mystery gets resolved, as it’s confirmed that the mutant who escaped from Emplate last issue is Penance. It’s too bad so many of the other mysteries are either never resolved, or just resolved poorly years later. Lobdell creates some entertaining dynamics between the characters, especially during M’s scene with Emma Frost. Emma doesn’t know how to deal with someone she can’t manipulate, which is a nice reversal for the character. Husk’s eagerness to prove herself and Banshee’s enthusiasm to play the role of teacher also work together well. Bachalo’s art is great at setting the mood and conveying the characterizations, so the book never looks dull even during the conversation scenes.