This held up much better in collected format than it did with all those delays when it first came out. I lost interest in Warren Ellis' take on the team back when those delays were killing the title. The pricey 3.99 tag wasn't helping, especially when the story was split up by the unnecessary Ghost Boxes mini-series. When read in one sitting, the entire narrative holds together as a much tighter sci-fi story. I'm even over some of my annoyance over the surprise villain of the piece.
The story has that same smug tone that a lot of Warren Ellis' writing has, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it's perfect for Emma Frost and now that Cyclops has become a jerk, it works for him too. Armor is sassier and more fun than I remember, and Beast still comes across a gentle soul, admittedly a bit of a pervy one due to his relationship with Abigail Brand. Storm fits in pretty well, but she's sort of a straight arrow for the team to play against. While they get dirty, she tries to adhere to the old X-rules of fair play. I don't mind, combining that attitude with her great power set makes her a more interesting character.
I'm not in love with the pseudo-science of artificial mutants, but I love the whole Ghost Box concept. The idea that these devices are fairly common on alternate worlds, and that SWORD just deals with them, is fun. I'm a little more in Forge's corner than on my first read; he really did know about the danger before anyone else and he is trying to save the world. He might be doing it is a totally crazy and debatably evil way, but he's trying! I don't think the character is unsalvageable in any case. It's not like I'm the world's biggest Forge fan, I just never like seeing characters killed off or ruined. I don't think Ellis did either here; the character could come back any time.
Ellis does great bleeding edge sci-fi. The idea that the Ghost Box homeworld has such instutionalized cruelty as to just wipe out parallel Earths is logical, if sad. I really loved the breathing gun platform in Forge's HQ. The dialogue is snappy too. The banter between Wolverine and his current under-age sidekick (Armor) is amusing throughout.
Simone Bianchi's artwork is breathtaking. Most of the time it works perfectly, but I think he got a tad carried away on the monsters. If Forge created such insane looking creatures out of normal humans, I think he's probably a bad guy, or at least in a bad place. I mean, those artificial mutants are horrifying!