Marvel is unveiling the other half of Jonathan Hickman‘s prelude to X-Men #1 with Powers of X #1. This time Hickman is joined by acclaimed Marvel artist R.B. Silva to document the secret history of the X-Men. Given the radical changes to the brand in House of X #1 last week, we’re radically excited to get some context for the new story elements.
Next up, the Star Wars line is expanding into the present with an Age of Resistance special introducing the new trilogy continuity to the stories. Finally, Avengers #22 features the exorcism of a car… we aren’t even joking. It’s time for The Marvel Rundown!
Powers of X #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by R.B. Silva and Adriano Di Benedetto
Colored by Marte Gracia
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Design Work by Tom Muller
Cover by R.B. Silva and Marte Gracia
Alexander Jones: Samantha, the world of X-Men changed last week in House of X #1. The sister series, Powers of X #1 debuts this week! The title appears to have a focus on recapping the secret history of the franchise, even teasing the future of the property. What were some of your thoughts on this unconventional, non-linear story told by Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto and Marte Gracia?
Samantha Puc: There’s a LOT to unpack in Powers of X #1, not just because of the format but because of how much information is provided — or alluded to — in the panels and in the supplemental documentation of the story. I have more questions this week than I did after reading HOX, but I also feel confident in the assumption that whatever is happening in HOX, it’s not how it appears on the surface. At least, not entirely. What were your thoughts, Alex?
Jones: I know I said this last week about House of X #1, but I am really excited to see someone get this ambitious with a Marvel property. The Green Lantern is one my favorite title published at DC and half the fun of that book is attempting to figure out what the actual plot of any given issue is. Powers of X #1 gave me a similar feeling with how much content is doled out at such a quick pace. I can’t help but appreciate just how dense the opening page of the issue is. That one page alone establishes the focus of the issue and illustrates just how big the scope of the title is. While I think the issue can be a little obtuse at times, how many books published by Marvel and DC carry this level of intrigue?
Puc: That’s a good point. I’m definitely enjoying both of these titles so far, even just one issue into each. I love a challenge, which this definitely presents. I think my favorite element of POX #1 is the art — especially the repeating imagery in the tarot cards that are laid out during the conversation between Moira and Charles. There’s a sense that we’ve been here before, even if we don’t realize it, and that circulatory kind of storytelling can be really beautiful if it’s done well. Tarot itself is all about cycles, so that seems particularly pointed.
Jones: This title is definitely a challenging read. I’m curious to learn how exactly the structure of both books are going to tie-into each other. Powers of X #1 doesn’t quite show how the two books will intersect aside from slight teases. I really did enjoy the peek at what is going on with the present-day Mutants with the long-awaited tease of X. This issue is not a title that can be casually enjoyed and readers still haven’t gotten to the pay-off for what is coming next, but the sheer audacity of the last couple pages has me interested. Just when readers think they know what is coming next, Hickman introduces another timeline and switches up the flow of the narrative.
Puc: My prediction right now — which I’m sure will be Hickman’ed — is that we’ll see the conclusion of HOX through POX, then see the lead-up in the former. I’m also intrigued by the last few pages of this week’s issue and its implications for the current timeline. Who else is in the library? How long have they been there? If they’ve been preserved all this time, can they be brought back?
Jones: I could very well see that happening especially with the idea of the non-linear timeline introduced here. I’m also curious to see how the upcoming X-Men #1 is going to break away from the premise of these two mini-series. Do you think the structure and pacing of Powers of X #1 will carry over into the main title? Also, do you think the challenging script for Powers of X #1 could deter any new readers interested in starting with X-Men comics?
Puc: I have to imagine Hickman has a long game in mind since he’s also writing that flagship title, so for now, I think we may just have to trust him. In regards to the structure and pacing, I think the structure might shift away from being so heavily reliant on documentation, but I hope the pacing stays consistent. There are plenty of reasons to be turned off by the HOX/POX relaunch, from the script that poses more questions than it provides answers to the prohibitive cost of buying a weekly book at $5-$6 a pop. I’ve seen a number of people say that even though they’re intrigued by this rehaul of the line, they’re not likely to get into it because of these and other factors, which is a shame because I think this is going to become a unique, oft-referenced story for the X-Men.
Jones: I agree with what you are saying and also wanted to highlight some of Hickman’s past work. The dual Avengers titles leading up to Secret Wars were sometimes frustrating by just how obtuse they could be at times. I think it can be difficult to judge an issue like this outside of the context of the greater narrative. The X-Men comics are undoubtedly in the setup phase right now, introducing all the important players on the board before Hickman and his co-creators can knock them down in future issues. I hope readers don’t feel discouraged because I honestly feel that the opening page and final sequences show that there is a plan in place here.
Puc: I agree that talking about this issue individually almost feels futile. I appreciate that there is continuity present between HOX and POX, even if it isn’t exactly what I expected, and I think that as we move forward with both series, the exposition will fall away so more story can take place, as you mentioned. I don’t blame anyone for feeling discouraged; I also think Marvel would do well to make the new X-line more accessible, price-wise, but that may be an argument for another time and place. Is there anything about this issue that you didn’t like, or that left you feeling cold?
Jones: I glazed right over what you said about the issue’s price-point. If Marvel is shipping this book on a weekly basis and wants to retain readers, why go any higher than the $3.99 premium price? I believe that is an argument worth having and I also worry that the expense will alienate lots of readers who would likely enjoy this story. I am frustrated that despite my deep knowledge of X-Men I still don’t know all of the previous continuity elements. I am unfamiliar with Nimrod for instance and wish I had more previous exposure to that character. I think the book almost lost me when we flashed into the extended year one-hundred sequence but was won over by the conclusion of that segment.
Puc: As a newer reader of the X-Men who started reading mutant books within the last year, this relaunch makes me feel as if I don’t need to know all the continuity, which I like. It puts me on an even footing with people who do have a deeper, longer knowledge of the X-line, which has had so many reboots and retcons and all that jazz.
Chris Arrant from Newsarama was talking about the price point for POX #1 on Twitter today, and he makes a good point — this issue is $5.99. That’s a lot for any single issue comic (or any latte, which I saw someone mention in his replies. Capitalism sucks). The first collection of the material is also the hardcover combining HOX and POX, which hits stores Dec. 24 for a price point of $50, which is really steep. Digital issues are cheaper, of course, but not everyone likes or can access digital comics.
Just looked it up. The first collection of this material will be a hardcover of all 12 HOX + POX for $50, the day before Christmas.
— Chris Arrant (@chrisarrant) July 30, 2019
Jones: This is a revolutionary X-Men title and important book for the franchise. This is not a prestige, limited series catering to a limited fanbase. I want to be more mad about the price but it’s hard for me to feel that way about the issue when I look over the stunning art from R.B. Silva. I love that the title retains a cohesive color scheme and design from Marte Gracia and Tom Muller respectively. Silva is a great companion artist to Pepe Larraz and brings out some of the best elements of the issue to the limelight. I found the characters to be very expressive and think that the lush color palette humanizes the dense script.
Puc: I think it’s awesome that Gracia and Muller are on for both books, because it unifies the aesthetics so beautifully. I also like Silva’s rendering of facial expressions, and although I’m not familiar with Adriano Di Benedetto, the inks in this issue are super bold, which lends weight both literally and figuratively. Frankly, I found myself pausing to stare at a few panels throughout POX #1; if I were judging solely on art, it would get the highest possible rating from me.
Jones: There were a couple of panels where I did a double-take because I was struck by the art as well. I think Silva has polished his pencils even stronger from some of his titles from a few years ago. Hickman gives Silva a lot of opportunities in the script to tell a sequence in visually instead of deferring to exposition alone. I hope Hickman will be able to continue that trend and I found Silva to complement his script really nicely. I don’t think I liked some of the text sequences quite as much as House of X #1, but there was still some much-needed additional context and worldbuilding in those pages.
Puc: I like that the documentation breaks things up a bit and provides context, as you said — I dislike when panels are just overwhelmed with text. This is a good format for the story being told and I appreciate that. I think my final verdict on this one is BORROW, primarily because of the price point. If people are into it, they can purchase after they check it out!
Jones: After thinking it over and looking through the issue a second time, I think this installment is a BORROW. Hickman and Silva have plenty of time to establish these concepts further and eventually merit the series worthy of a buy verdict!
Final Verdict: Powers of X #1 unites The Marvel Rundown with a BORROW verdict!
Star Wars: Age Of Resistance Special #1
Written by Tom Taylor, G. Willow Wilson and Chris Eliopoulos
Illustrated by Elsa Charretier, Matteo Buffagni and Javier Pina
Colored by Chris O’Halloran, Nick Filardi and GURU-eFX
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by Phil Noto
Reviewed by AJ Frost
The expanding library of the “Age of…” line of Star Wars comics have been some of the strongest self-contained stories from Marvel of the venerable franchise. There’s been a cohesion and even a bit of swagger that separates these one-off tales from the larger continuity. It’s certainly been exciting—as a reader and a fan—to see the Star Wars universe presented in a way that is familiar but also adventurous. Certainly, it’s a delight to see fresh takes, but it’s also, in a way, a sigh of relief. The “Age of…” stories are akin to a prestige maxi-series, where that extra amount of love and care is felt with every turn of the page. But has that feeling of quality extended to the latest “Age of…” release?
It is with a great relief that, yes, the Star Wars: Age of Resistance Special maintains the high quality of other books in the line while also treading into delicate territory: the Sequel Trilogy. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, the Sequel Trilogy feels so overwhelmingly foreign. While the worlds look like Star Wars, and there are concepts found in all the other films, there’s a newness (strangeness?) that has created a distance that keeps me from truly connecting to the franchise’s latest heroes. With this in mind, it opened the Age of Resistance Special with some mild trepidation.
Luckily, there was nothing to worry about. The three unrelated stories contained within the book are some of the best snippets featuring Sequel Trilogy characters to date. Each story, told by a different creative team, looks at a single moment of heroism. The mini-escapades here don’t expand the Star Wars Universe as much as they do to deepen the characters’ place within it.
So what do we have here? The stories follow the exploits of Maz Kanata (The Force Awakens), Admiral Holdo (played by Laura Dern in The Last Jedi), and BB-8, probably the most recognized figure of the Sequel Trilogy hands down. In each tale, the central character gets a chance to shine in a way that is often lost in the larger saga taking place in the films. Maz’s story from Tom Taylor and Matteo Buffagni features the diminutive and ancient smuggler on a mission to retrieve a lost object (with the assistance of two other scoundrels, Han Solo, and the Wookie Chewbacca); G. Willow Wilson and Elsa Charretier provide the story and art, respectively, for the Holdo section; and Chris Eliopoulos and Javier Pina close out the book with a fun, if ridiculous, little jaunt featuring ace X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron and his spunky sidekick BB-8 standing up for a group of his fellow droids who are being tortured by an insidious New Order stormtrooper.
The art throughout is fantastic, and much praise should be heaped on Charretier’s rendering of the Star Wars universe. Her retro, contemporary style is so perfectly matched to the Star Wars aesthetic. And though she has worked on many Star Wars-related projects, it is always a thrill to see her name attached to a project.
It’s hard to pinpoint a single highlight from the book, as there are many high points found throughout. The Maz story feels like classic Star Wars: dirty deeds performed with high flying action. The Holdo story was the weakest of the three, but that may be because of my own mixed feeling about Holdo, whose role in The Last Jedi had a single high moment but was mostly quite bland. The BB-8 story is the most affable and will surely bring a chuckle or two (though seeing BB-8’s name written out is a jarring creative choice).
Overall, the Age of Resistance Special accomplishes two things extremely well: it bridges the gap in the Star Wars timeline so that fans feel more connected to the Sequel Trilogy while also allowing readers to appreciate the Sequel Trilogy’s new characters. This comic allows these new heroes to shine while also allowing them to take their place within the broader and ever-expanding galaxy. It’s a worthwhile journey.
Final Verdict: BUY
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Stefano Caselli
Colored by Jason Keith
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by Stefano Caselli
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
With the most recent Free Comic Book Day Avengers installment, scribe Jason Aaron introduced the intriguing concept of performing an exorcism on Robbie Reyes’ possessed muscle car. I have been waiting with bated breath for the creator to follow-up on the plot point since the release date of the issue in May. The latest installment of Avengers loses the Vampire and Squadron Supreme focus to circle back and touch base with Robbie Reyes and his demonic car. While the concept Aaron brings to the script is pure gold, he now has the complicated task of establishing the status quo and the ensuing battle between the duo. Artist Stefano Caselli joins Aaron for the Ghost Rider-centric story with pencils fit for the vessel of the Spirit of Vengeance.
The initial Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider concept first established by creators Tradd Moore and Felipe Smith clearly influences the direction of the story. Robbie’s brother Gabe is reintroduced in the pages of Avengers and the issue brings in Ghost Rider supporting cast members. While the story is teasing an exciting new story-arc, readers are only at the beginning of the narrative. Avengers #22 is incredibly briskly paced and the story is doling out information to readers in a gradual pace.
Caselli’s sharp facial expressions and beautifully depicted pencils automatically bolster Avengers #22 towards a higher rating. I love the way the creator can make any scene feel interesting and realistic no matter how many insane characters are on-panel. The final splash page in the story melds a wonderful recontextualization of something readers have already seen. The beautiful aesthetic of the issue is punctuated by the gritty characters and subject matter of the story. The issue strikes an interesting balance between the pristine Avengers aesthetics and the dark addition of characters like Blade, Swamp Thing, and a few surprise guests.
Avengers #22 lays the groundwork for an entertaining story but doesn’t deliver any payoff for the past year of Avengers-centric Ghost Rider stories.
Final Verdict: BROWSE, Avengers #22 could be the start of an entertaining new arc for the series.
Next week Cletus Kasady begins his quest to slay all past and present human symbiote bonders in Absolute Carnage #1!