Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Mark Buckingham (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colors)
Husk comes to Banshee’s aid, but is cut by Penance’s razor-sharp fingers. Penance runs away and is confronted by Synch and Jubilee. Synch’s aura creates a force field based on Penance’s diamond-hard skin. After failing to cut through the aura, Penance runs away again. Banshee sends Husk, who has gone into shock, back to the school with Synch. M and Emma Frost confront Penance. After M punches her out, Emma tries another psi-probe. The psychic backlash knocks her down, but she still finds nothing. M tries to grab Penance when she runs away, but Banshee stops her because he doesn’t want her to get cut. Jubilee follows Penance who meets Chamber in the woods. Penance apparently senses a kindred spirit in Chamber and finally stops running. Later, Skin and Husk have another Scrabble match while she recuperates. Husk asks Skin if he stayed behind because he was afraid of Penance tearing his skin, but he denies it. Meanwhile, a girl named Cordella tries to convince her mutant friend Mondo to come to America and become a superhero.
The pacing on this series has certainly been leisurely. An entire issue dedicated to the team tracking one of its own members through the woods is pretty excessive, especially when you consider that a good portion of the last issue covered a lot of the same ground. The character work isn’t as strong in this issue, as the majority of the story is dedicated to short, choppy fight scenes with Penance. The resolution is a bit of a copout, which even Jubilee acknowledges at the end. The art saves a lot of this, as Bachalo creates an appropriate mood for a story set on a stormy night, while finding a nice balance between his unique style and a traditional superhero look.
When I first read this series, I remember being confused by some of the characters’ powers, which is a feeling that hasn’t gone away. In this issue, Husk says that she doesn’t know what happens to her original body if her altered form is damaged. The end of the issue shows her recovering in her original body after going into shock in her altered form. Didn’t the first issue already cover this? Emplate nearly killed Husk, but Jubilee pulled away that layer of skin to reveal a healthy body inside. If she unveils a new body every time she peels her skin off, how could the damage to the old body still affect her? Synch also has a strange moment, where the rainbow aura that surrounds his body turns into a forcefield after he’s exposed to Penance’s dense skin. What exactly is that rainbow thing? In his original appearances, Synch’s body “synched” with the mutants around him, taking on their powers. That’s simple enough, and it should be a workable superpower for the character. So if Synch were synching with Penance’s power, wouldn’t his skin become diamond-hard like hers? How exactly could just being around someone with hard skin give him a forcefield of all things? I guess we’re not supposed to think about this stuff too much, but these weird leaps of logic only serve to take me out of the story.