A key mutant has returned and Marvel is commemorating the occasion with a brand new X-Men title. With an overstuffed line and tons of competition, will X-Men Red #1 stand out from the Blue, Gold, and countless mutant-led solo titles? We’re also here to get one step closer to Infinity Coutndown with the return of Adam Warlock (again)–it’s time for The Marvel Rundown!
X-Men Red #1
Written by Tom Taylor
Illustrated by Mahmud Asrar
Colored by Ive Svorcina
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Over the past couple years, I have endlessly complained about how the X-Men have lacked a greater sense of purpose or something driving the team forward to a new status quo. I hoped the newest relaunch dubbed ResurrXion would stick but nothing about the line seemed to bridge the quality gap until Generation X and Astonishing X-Men saw publication, introducing new elements laced with familiar characters which X-Men fans are currently reading the books for. There is such a thing as giving people too much of what they want as is the case with the flagship X-Books (Blue/Gold.) Thankfully, X-Men: Red #1 doesn’t fall into the trap in the series’ debut.
It is great to see someone who is able to meld pulse-pounding action with political intrigue and standard superhero fare. I think it is safe to say the installment accomplishes a lot and strikes a few different tones, seemingly giving the team a more humanitarian and grassroots approach. Over the past couple years, we have seen a number of comics try to veer off in this direction. In lots of cases, it has not worked (see Champions or even Justice League of America over at DC). Yet, this title laces some espionage plot-focused ideas (on the villain side) to make everything on the issue come together naturally. Jean Grey is also portrayed as an incredibly radical mutant who may go too far with whatever she is trying to accomplish with her X-Men.
Mahmud Asrar turns in an incredibly vibrant set of pencils, which shocked me with their sense of urgency. The issue is drawn with such care and heart. When the storyline starts to hit a boiling point, Asrar switches gears and shows how versatile an artist he is: he never gets the roster mixed up and crafts each locale with an immense amount of detail. Asrar has become known in the industry to create beautiful work and this entry proves he may be one of, if not the strongest, penciler in the X-Men line. The facial expressions, action scenes, and clarity are all executed with the utmost precision and thanks to a strong team of colors and letters from Ive Svorcina and VC’s Cory Petit, the issue retains a shockingly high production value.
To ensure this ongoing is one of the classiest books in the X-Line, writer Tom Taylor hands in a wonderfully written script, taking the time to flesh out each character on the team. The story also carries some real stakes while also tossing in an interesting villain for Jean at the end. The hero has a solid reason for bringing her group of Earth’s mightiest heroes together as Jean needs to ensure her own protection and the protection of those who cannot help themselves. The opening of the issue strikes just the right tone with a major action sequence with a shocking middle section ending with a fist-pumping moment.
Shockingly, the title takes a break from her heroic aspects to spend time focusing on Jean’s big ideas now that she’s back. Her actions and decisions going forward are interesting and lend the book a sense of energy other X-Men titles have simply not carried up to this point. The chapter can only be praised to a certain degree only because there have been many comics promising a strong political belief or sense of ideas that failed to follow through in the end. So far the debut promises an exciting X-Title that may not be able to carry the substance needed to make for a truly great ongoing series.
I have been wanting a singular, cohesive and dynamic X-Title and I got it with Astonishing X-Men which feels like a sister book to this title with tons of psychic mutants and a thick plot based around an evil psychic villain. Both books also feel like they are off to the side but still very important in the grand scheme of the franchise. I hope both books continue to shake up the status quo and really push the line forward.
Final Verdict: BUY–X-Men: Red #1 is an expertly-drawn and tightly scripted next step for the line.
Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Mike Allred
Colored by Laura Allred
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: AJ! We’re getting closer and closer to Infinity! Based on the latest teaser for the event with Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1, are you interested in what comes next for Marvel’s big event?
AJ Frost: Alex! I am interested in these next mega-Marvel event because of what happens in this issue of Adam Warlock. It reads both a beautifully respectful homage as well as a fresh take on the Marvel universe.
Jones: This comic has a pretty heavy burden to bear: it takes on the responsibility for telling readers everything they need to know about Adam Warlock and it takes time to carve out new plot threads going forward. There are some serious Marvel continuity nods which are essential to the issue, but it really seems like this bundled up everything readers need to know in these pages. AJ, did this particular installment lose you at all?
Frost: Actually, no, I don’t feel it did. While there are a lot of references to the minutia of Marvel’s manufactured mythos, Gerry Duggan, and Mike Allred do a fantastic job of not getting too esoteric for their own good. Allred’s work here, in particular, is in top form. He creates these swirling splash pages with lots of action, yet are still easy for the eye to follow. There’s a calm within the chaos. And even though there is a lot of information on these pages, it’s not particularly difficult to get lost in the smaller aspects of the lore.
Jones: I’ll admit it took me some time for me to decode the genius of Mike Allred but comics like this which bear a solid story and feature his gorgeous art, are truly special. His work on Silver Surfer was awe-inspiring and hit some of the same emotional highs this story did (and then some!). Getting the chance to see his artwork in a context like this is special and watching him draw all the Marvel references and continuity nods were beyond exciting. I get the feeling Allred probably had some fun drawing this issue.
Frost: I can’t say enough good things about Allred’s art here. So much to unpack. Lots of allusions to Jack Kirby’s oeuvre, great panel composition, and a real healthy respect for the actual legacy of the Marvel comic as an objet d’art. Duggan’s writing here is extra solid too, which probably makes creating the action all the more fun and enjoyable.
Jones: This book is a rollercoaster ride. It is happy and exciting to see Adam is coming back, but he’s not here in the way you would expect. The story hit some big moments early on and started shaking the plot up quick. Somehow, even with the vast amount of plot and heavy ambition, there seems to be an impressive sense of focus from each member of the creative team. This is not your typical Kirby pastiche; this is a big and important story bearing a strong tie to the upcoming event. You don’t need to have read what came before understanding a lot of explicit aspects about Infinity or the Warlock, you just have to show up.
Frost: Right, exactly. This is probably one of the benefits and downsides of this being a #1. Regarding the former, from a creative standpoint, there’s the ability to take an idea and make it fresh. This certainly happens here. Not sure how many of the kiddos are clamoring for the existential and quantum exploits of one, Adam Warlock, but the fact in where there is a tangible product for his story is telling about the potential here. On the other hand, it’s a bit of a marketing gimmick for sure. Not saying the point detracts in any way; this issue is strong. But readers should know walking into this book, there is a lot of history at play here, even when presented in a new context.
Jones: The story does not at all feel like a #1 or a debut. I believe it is clear this started somewhere else and is going to continue in other books. The biggest downside here is the confusing marketing and way it is presented to readers. I wish I could just point to this as the latest release of All-New Guardians of the Galaxy just to help newer fans more easily digest the comic. However, I do not interpret art based on marketing and will go out of my way to say this is a particularly great story cleaning up a couple plot threads and opens up the next steps of the huge upcoming Infinity storyline. The Adam Warlock homecoming comic actually set this one-shot up quite nicely and we see some payoff and teases at what is next to come for the issue.
Frost: Good points! There definitely is a lot of love here. As a reader, you can tell when the creative team is operating on a similar same level of excitement versus when it’s just another gig. I think you and I are in agreement here.
Jones: Whatever Marvel does next, I hope it involves Gerry Duggan in some way. I was particularly bummed out when his Guardians book was canceled and feel like this book opens the wound up slightly. This was a huge winner on so many levels and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone even somewhat interested in the character. It was a big win for the House of Ideas this week–what are your final thoughts AJ?
Frost: Just give Mike Allred license to do whatever he wants with any Marvel characters. It’ll be gold!
Jones: I’d love for them to keep pairing him up with Duggan.
Final Verdict: AJ and Alex both say BUY.
Next week: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42!