Things are giant-sized in this week’s Marvel Rundown! First up, the Jonathan Hickman-curated X-Men line continues to expand with the first of a series of character-focused one-shots illustrated by superstar artists. Does Hickman and the art team of Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson‘s team-up of Jean Grey & Emma Frost justify the story’s special format?

Then, Ben Grimm, the ever-loving blue-eyed Thing, stars in a unique mystery-infused tale in Fantastic Four: Grimm Noir #1! Can Ben decipher the clues in his dreams before it’s too late?

We’ve got discussion and reviews of those titles, plus a Rapid Rundown of other new releases from Marvel Comics, all ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!

Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey & Emma Frost #1
Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey & Emma Frost #1

Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey & Emma Frost #1

Story by Jonathan Hickman & Russell Dauterman
Scripted by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Russell Dauterman
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Design Work by Tom Muller
Cover by Russell Dauterman

Joe Grunenwald: The first of the new Giant-Size X-Men one-shots is here, and the focus is on the telepathic team-up of Jean Grey and Emma Frost! Hussein, what did you think of this largely-silent psychic adventure?

Hussein Wasiti: I really enjoyed this. I’ve always thought that Russell Dauterman would be a good fit for the X-Men, and this was the grandest entrance any artist could have made into this franchise. The storytelling was strong and crystal-clear, and of course I’m excited by the ending and whatever story may come out of it. Also, there’s another tease of the Cyclops/Jean/Wolverine relationship for those salivating at the thought.

Grunenwald: I became a big fan of Dauterman during War of the Realms, and I agree that he’s a great fit for the X-Men here. I did not expect that this was going to be a silent issue, so that was a very welcome surprise. Even without words, as you said, the storytelling is crystal-clear, and the volume of new ideas Dauterman and Jonathan Hickman present is really impressive. And if you didn’t follow what was going on, there’s a one-sentence summary at the end, so it works for everyone!

Wasiti: Ultimately this issue represents the kind of X-Men story I’ve been wanting to read since Hickman came on board. Focused, contained stories within this new status-quo. That’s not to say I don’t like the ongoing series, I guess I just want to see more X-Men as written by Hickman.

Grunenwald: I’ve been wanting to see more of Hickman’s Emma Frost. We haven’t seen him write her much since HoX/PoX ended, with Emma primarily appearing over in Marauders. She’s fantastic there, don’t get me wrong, but I really love how Hickman wrote her, and it’s nice to get some more of that here. And Dauterman nails her body language and personality beautifully.

Wasiti: Without meaning to sound hyperbolic, this is simply the best Emma Frost I’ve ever seen. Hands down. I’d love to hear more about the decision to make this a mostly silent issue but Hickman letting Dauterman loose upon our innocent eyes might be one of the best things to come out of this new Krakoa. I’ve always understood people’s fascination with the character but things finally clicked for me after reading this issue, in a way that I can’t exactly articulate. Maybe that’s what makes her such a powerful character.

Grunenwald: It’s also impressive, though the focus of the issue is on Jean and Emma, how big a factor Storm and what we know about her plays in this issue. Her mind is in a way the antagonist of the story, and it’s great to see the different ways Jean and Emma interact with what they encounter in there. I also have to call out Matthew Wilson‘s incredible color work throughout those telepathic sequences.

Wasiti: Wilson really brings this whole thing to life. I think this is the first X-Men thing he’s done since the whole line relaunched? The way he captures the beauty of Krakoa is unlike anything we’ve seen before; just pure, unapologetic brightness with gorgeous renderings. And then, as you said, it gets even better when the pair enter Storm’s mind. Just a master at work.

I like how the lack of dialogue has us looking at the art more closely than I think we’re used to. It’s clear that Hickman respects artists and if this Giant-Size X-Men series of one-shots has anything in common, it’s unique and brilliant artists. I really can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

Grunenwald: Agreed. There is some exceptional artistic talent lined up for these one-shots, and I don’t expect them all to be silent like this one was, but at least we know the future issues will likely be a great showcase for their work. Is there anything else you wanted to say about this book, or are we ready to deliver verdicts?

Wasiti: This is a DUH, BUY IT. You’ve got one of the best artistic teams in comics portraying two of the most beloved characters in all of X-Men history, and it’s a silent issue. That’s really all I need to say.

Grunenwald: It kind of is a no-brainer. If you’re following along with the X-titles at all, this is an easy BUY. If you haven’t been and you just want to read an exceptionally-crafted comic by an incredibly talented creative team, you should absolutely pick this up.

Final Verdict: It’s a unanimous BUY verdict from Hussein and Joe!

From Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey & Emma Frost #1

Fantastic Four: Grimm Noir #1
Fantastic Four: Grimm Noir #1

Fantastic Four: Grimm Noir #1

Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Ron Garney
Colored by Matt Milla
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Ron Garney & Matt Milla
Reviewed by Hussein Wasiti

Ben Grimm is one of my favourite characters of all time. Firstly, I can’t help but see a lot of Jack Kirby in the character which instantly propels him to more personal heights in my eyes. This one-shot by Gerry Duggan and Ron Garney explores the tragedy of Ben while also displaying what makes the character endear and persevere through all the obstacles he’s faced in recent years, and I loved it.

Duggan and Garney’s work on last year’s launch of Savage Sword of Conan highlighted the strengths of both of these creators, and I think their collaboration has reached a new high with this one-shot. There’s a lot of fun, inventive stuff that Garney pulls off, taking advantage of lots of black negative space to create depth and claustrophobia simultaneously. Colourist Matt Milla brings a lot of dimension and personality to Garney’s pages as well, fully delivering on the noir feel that the title promises.

With each issue of Duggan’s that I read, the more he blows me away. I really do think he’s one of Marvel’s best writers and he’s proven time and time again that no matter what corner of the Marvel universe you throw him in, he’ll find that hook that makes the story work. I truly haven’t disliked anything he’s done that I’ve read. He captures Ben’s voice perfectly, too.

Final Verdict: I’m giving this a BUY. This is another great Fantastic Four story by Duggan, and Garney’s artwork is worth more than the price of admission.

Fantastic Four: Grimm Noir #1
From Fantastic Four: Grimm Noir #1

Rapid Rundown!

  • Avengers #31
    • Jason Aaron can tell one hell of a contained story, and this is one of them. Joined by a whole slew of artists, Aaron delves into the mind of one Tony Stark as he has been trapped one million years in the past. Instead of tying it directly into the One Million BC Avengers story he’s been telling, this comes across as more of a standalone tale that anyone can pick up. The Gerardo Zaffino artwork is stunning and sets just the right tone for Tony’s current predicament. Pick this up for a brand-new, explorative take on Iron Man. — HW
  • Falcon & The Winter Soldier #1
    • The team-up of two former Captain Americas gets off to an action-packed start. The creative team of writer Derek Landy and artists Federico Vicentini and Matt Milla pace this issue perfectly, picking up Bucky’s story where the most recent Winter Soldier miniseries left him and quickly dismantling that status quo in spectacular fashion before joining Sam Wilson mid-investigation. The intersection of their paths leads for some really fun dialogue, and the new threat they face is both interesting and entertaining. This one’s a good time. — JG
  • X-Force #8
    • With each issue, this book has been winning me over more and more. The X-line of books is exceptionally strong, and this is near the top of the crop. It’s real and dark and examines the lives of some of these characters in a way that honestly comes across as uncomfortable in the right ways. There’s a scene between Colossus and Domino that is truly an emotional gut-punch in all the ways people wouldn’t expect, but that’s the truth that Ben Percy and guest artist Oscar Bazaldua bring to this story. Paired with Percy’s Wolverine series, this makes for some interesting reading. — HW
  • X-Men/Fantastic Four #2
    • Well, that escalated quickly. Things go from bad to worse as Doctor Doom’s arrival makes the already-high tension between the FF and the X-Men even worse, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. The scope of this book is relatively small, but the stakes feel impossibly high, which goes to the strength of the work Chip ZdarskyTerry DodsonRachel Dodson (with an assist from Karl Story and Ransom Getty), and Laura Martin are putting forth. This series is a must-read. — JG

Next week, uncover Marvel’s wizarding world in Strange Academy #1!