Following this weekend’s SDCC news of Marvel’s upcoming relaunch of Uncanny X-Men, we’ve still got the continuing adventures of newlyweds Gambit and Rogue to look forward to in Mr. and Mrs. X #1. Plus, we’re gearing up for event time over at The House of Ideas! Hopefully, this week’s Infinity Wars: Prime #1 will give us a good idea on what to expect next on the title. Last but not least, Ed Piskor’s Grand Design has not yet been fully realized! Find out what we have to say about the debut of X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #1 and more this week on The Marvel Rundown!
Mr. and Mrs. X #1
Written by Kelly Thompson
Illustrated by Oscar Bazaldua
Colored by Frank D’Armata
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Joe Grunenwald
X-Men Gold #30 shocked X-fans when the mutant wedding of the century took place not, as planned, between Kitty Pryde and Colossus, but instead between a different pair: Rogue and Gambit. The couple’s long-simmering romance has recently been brought front and center thanks to a five-issue miniseries starring the pair, and now the newlyweds are headlining their own ongoing series. Mr. & Mrs. X #1 looks back at the duo’s wedding day before following them out into space and headlong into a new mission.
Writer Kelly Thompson, she of the Kate Bishop Hawkeye series, newly-relaunched Jessica Jones, and upcoming West Coast Avengers, has quickly become one of my favorite writers at Marvel. Having written the aforementioned Rogue & Gambit miniseries, Thompson was the natural choice to take the helm for this new series, and she picks up not quite where X-Men Gold #30 left off. The wedding of Rogue & Gambit in that comic took place very quickly, in the course of just a few pages. Mr. & Mrs. X #1 fills in some of the gaps during that issue, with the X-Men still reeling from Kitty & Colossus’s called-off wedding and hurriedly preparing for Rogue & Gambit’s nuptials. It’s a sequence filled with a lot of great character work from Thompson, who injects the proceedings with a perfect blend of emotion and humor. She also does a great job of making the issue accessible for readers who are coming in cold without having read either the Rogue & Gambit miniseries or X-Men Gold #30. References to Rogue & Gambit serve to pique interest in the series without being essential to the issue’s story, and even though Mr. & Mrs. X #1 doesn’t replay the characters’ vows, there’s enough emotional weight in the scenes surrounding the actual ceremony that seeing the couple’s ‘I Dos’ isn’t really missed.
Oscar Bazaldua is a great fit for the art on this series. His work has a lightness to it that lends itself well to the tone Thompson’s writing sets. His characters are expressive, and his storytelling is solid. Frank D’Armata’s colors add depth to Bazaldua’s linework, enhancing the artist’s strengths and, when needed, giving the images the extra push they need to pop. The page on which Rogue first appears in her wedding dress is particularly striking, mainly using the dominant colors for both Rogue and Gambit to drive home the importance of the scene to these two characters and their relationship. The issue is filled with similar smart choices throughout, and while none of the art is particularly flashy it’s still very skillfully done.
It may be a little disappointing for some readers to find this issue not immediately picking up after the wedding, but the scenes set before and around the wedding are done well enough that it didn’t bother me at all. A lot of it is light and fun interactions between the various X-characters, but there’s also at least one pretty important moment for one of our two leads that I think justified taking the time to see all on its own. That said, once the festivities are over and the honeymoon begins, the banter between Rogue and Gambit is so charming that I couldn’t help but be a little sad when the issue just as it felt like it was starting to get to the really good stuff. Really, if that’s not the mark of a good comic, I don’t know what is.
In all, Mr. & Mrs. X #1 is a really enjoyable read. The character work is entertaining and the art fits the story well. The issue’s cliffhanger, which adds another fan-favorite character to the mix, is enough of a head-scratcher that I’m very curious to see where things go. I confess that I’ve never been particularly interested in either Rogue or Gambit – in fact I’ve often found Gambit to be really annoying – but Thompson’s writing sold me on them. They may be married, but they’re far from settling down, and I’m excited to see where they go.
Final Verdict: BUY if you’re into romance, comedy, or interstellar X-action.
Infinity Wars: Prime #1
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Mike Deodato
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
This week the pieces of Infinity Wars have all started to come together in the series’ Infinity Wars: Prime #1 one-shot.
While readers still don’t have the best grasp on the nature of the event storyline, as a whole, the new installment is still an incredibly enjoyable next step into the epic space-faring saga. Author Gerry Duggan continues to use the Infinity concept as a window dressing to launch tons of great characterization complemented with high-stakes action. Duggan wisely takes the stage front-and-center in this tale to prove Infinity Wars is not going to be a simple retread of stories from the past. The finale of this one-shot proves there is a lingering threat different from what we have seen before. If Marvel and Duggan made the mistake of telling the same story as Infinity Gauntlet, jaded readers would have definitely earned a reason to complain or be cynical about the event.
If Infinity Wars isn’t a retread of a past story, then what exactly is it?
Unfortunately, this issue isn’t able to give the series a mission statement, but the characterization throughout is endearing enough to brush the criticism aside. Throughout Duggan’s work on the title stretching back to All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, the story has retained an extremely whimsical personality that is on display here parsed with violent action sequences. Loki has a great interaction highlighting his sneaky personality and plentiful character flaws. Adam Warlock visits a rock concert before going about his official business. Little touches like these round out the pacing of Infinity Wars very nicely.
Mike Deodato is a talented Marvel artist who does not work in every context the publisher has placed him in. Thankfully, this is a great platform for his work. Getting to see Deodato’s oddly grim and dour work dress up with a bleak humor scene via Loki worked tremendously well. the action sequences towards the back half of the installment are thrilling and interesting to look at. Duggan does a good job writing to Deodato as well. Moments with Adam Warlock venturing into supernatural worlds are appropriate applications of the artists’ sensibilities. Certain scenes can look muddled and the strange layouts can obscure important details within the work. Sometimes, the figures are modeled in a strange matter and facial details and anatomy can be off as well. Deodato’s work in the issue is far from perfect but above average.
This is another solid one-shot from Duggan and Deodato setting the stage for their upcoming event. The scope of this story still feels huge and Duggan does a great job placing the stakes of the story high even though there is no big threat to contend with yet. The important one-shot is full of pulse-pounding action and a wonderfully, self-reflexive sequence with Loki. The creative team is redefining what Infinity is and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!
Final Verdict: BUY! Infinity Wars: Prime #1 is the most fun you can have with a Marvel event.
X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #1
Written, Illustrated, Colored, and Lettered by Ed Piskor
Reviewed by AJ Frost
Decades from now, when American society will have hopefully recovered from the quotidian horrors of our toxic political culture, there will be a comprehensive retrospective about the work of cartoonist Ed Piskor. Besides being one of the finest minds in the game right now, in every endeavor he’s pursued, Piskor pushes himself and pushes the limits of what comics are and what comics can be. He rejects the obsolete notion that superhero yarns are only grist for mega-media conglomerates to scrape off IP for quick bucks and little else. Through his independent work and up through this week’s release of X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #1, Piskor has proven himself to be on top of his game as one of the most exciting and visually dynamic creators on the scene.
While the first two issues of the Grand Design project were energetic explorations into the early mythos of the X-Men, readers will be able to tell that its Second Genesis where Piskor was truly ready to unleash his creative chops. After bypassing all the origins and setting up the larger construct of the various Mutant factions and their powers, Piskor delves into the nitty-gritty of the Bronze Age X-Men. This is prime Claremont territory: the saga of the Dark Phoenix, the introduction of Wolverine as a major player, and the continuing battle of mutants seeking their rights versus those who would rather see mutants relegated to the dregs of human civilization. All of this inherently confusing material is torn about, re-contextualized, and reconstructed into a flowing cohesive narrative.
As usual, Piskor’s distinctive visual style continues to shine and evolve. As the story grows more complex with each turn of the page, the art has to not only reflect these levels of intricacy and depth but also be clear enough to understand each beat. Piskor transcends the ordinary and creates these vistas of zest and vitality. Every line is imbued with some sort of meaning; no area of space is wasted. The variety of art contained here is a delight, with layouts never repeated, panels of all shapes and sizes dispersed over ersatz newsprint, with a grittiness that perfectly embodies the brooding spirit of the original stories.
If there are any faults in this issue, it’s that the structural density of the X-Men source material makes them nigh impossible to summarize in any way that doesn’t have to take liberties with the source material. Because of the project’s mission to condense hundreds of issues into a single story, for the sake of clarity, some of the meandering has to be whittled down. For those who know this material inside and out, these instances may seem a little rushed. On the other hand, for those coming into the X-Men lore green, the leaps in time and space might seem confusing. But this is the perfect comic to read and re-read to gather up every minute detail.
Yet, again, Piskor proves that the auteur’s voice is a tantalizing look into the comic industry’s future. By handling all aspects of the books design, text, and feel, Piskor smashes the assembly line model of comic book-making and seeks a new path for creators everywhere. With X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis #1, readers are treated to an X-Men story like no other. This is a quality book that leaves others gasping for breath.
Final Verdict: This is an unqualified BUY! Do yourself a favor and pick up this book. It will be the best decision you will make all week.
Next week: Infinity Wars #1!
The Beat Staff is an elite group of trained ninjas.