[This post is part of series of posts looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue; click on the "New X-Men" label at the bottom of this post to read all the entries.]
The Wolverine cover is great.
Like the first, and the next few covers, Morrison and Quitely are after a magazine look, and if Wolverine were on the cover of GQ this is what it would look like. We get one more glamor shot of everyone's outfits with the first two page spread, as Quitely gives us the whole team lineup in a single static image with labels -- this book really is all about the clothes, which I love.
Morrison, in an effort to rehabilitate the character, even gives Cyclops the eternal boyscout some cool (as well as nodding to continuity): as the plane is going down he says "Relax, I've survived more jet aircraft crashes than any other mutant. Insurance takes care of everything." Wolverine says to him "You know what I admire most about you Summers? Your icy calm lunacy under pressure." "Call me Cyclops" he replies. Quitely's images of the character support this aim: even when his visor shatters, it is a thing of beauty in suspension.
Cassandra Nova's bony hand pushing though Trask's face as if it were a mask is a terrifying image, especially because her other hand and her body language suggest seduction. "Do you want to know the real message of evolution?" she says "All life ends up as manure" -- which is true and a great point to make in a book where evolution is the central concept. No more of Apocalypse with his giant "A" belt crying about making everyone strong or dead.
I know Cyclops's ruby quarts contact lenses bothered people but why the hell not have them -- it's not like they were a major part of the plot and that image of his visor shattering makes it worth it. As for his mercy killing of Ugly John being out of character -- it is a fair point from longtime fans but the payoff is an X-Men book that is genuinely surprising, which is a good trade, I think.
In the comments to my discussion of the previous issue Ping makes the important point that Morrison and Quitely have made sentinels genuinely scary; they are disturbing and weird even though they seem to derive from the Jamie Lee Curtis movie Virus. Morrison brings the classic design back in his final arc (and calls it a classic) but for now giant bugs are fantastic. The destruction of sixteen million mutants in this issue is breathtaking, though I suspect that this is an editorial decision -- Joe Q said for years he wanted to decrease the mutant population to properly return to the "minority" theme of the book, the X-Men as a metaphor for persecuted outsiders; this just wasn't dramatic enough to stick, so House of M came along years later. If this was what Marvel wanted Morrison turned out to be a very bad choice on a number of levels, since he tried to get the X-Men away from "identity politics" -- rather than reestablish old themes he wants to inject new ones, like what it really means to know you are here to inherit the earth from a dying species. On every level this book is being re-imagined: design (cool clothes, the Beast, the sentinels), characters (Cyclops kills), concept (they are not superheroes), theme (Post-humanism rather than identity politics). Powerful stuff, and flawlessly done two issues in.