REVIEW: X-Men Red #1

X-MEN RED #1 / Writer: Tom Taylor / Artist: Mahmud Asrar & Ive Svorcina / Letterer : Cory Petit / Feb 7, 2018

X-Men Red #1 drops this week and bursts onto the scene making a statement about the future of mutants in the Marvel Universe. This book is fresh on the heels of Phoenix Resurrection #5, which brought Jean Grey back in a spectacular fashion, and the expectations for it were pretty high. Tom Taylor delivers a compelling tale that speaks to the heart of what the X-Men mean to the world. If all X-Men creators follow the trend set in this issue we could see a new golden age of X-Men comics.

The story opens up with Jean and her team rescuing what seems to be a young mutant from the members of her community who were looking to kill her. We then cut to two months earlier to two criminals who highjacked a car with a baby in it. Unfortunately for them, the baby turns out to be a mutant with a super-powerful scream. This leads to Jean and her team to step in to defuse the situation informing the mother that the X-Men will help her, but her baby’s power will cause public backlash.

Later that night Jean is watching the news and is exposed to the hate that still plagues the mutants after all these years; this leads her to group up the smartest people on the planet to find an idea to help mutants and humans alike. Following this, she meets with Nightcrawler to show him her idea; she does the same later to Namor because she needs political backing to showcase her idea to the United Nations. It’s during her speech that Jean reveals that the only way to achieve Xavier’s dream is to create a mutant state, but this time one where mutants aren’t isolated, like Genosha or Utopia; she wants them to be part of the world.

After the assembly Jean is approached by the ambassador of the United Kingdoms who starts rambling about Jean upsetting the status quo and ruining the ambassador. This leads to Jean realize that someone is messing with the ambassador’s mind, but before she can do anything about it the ambassador’s head explodes, making it seem like Jean did it. This, in turn, makes the UN security forces attempt to arrest Jean Grey, but with the help of Nightcrawler the mutants she escapes. This gives us the big reveal that Cassandra Nova is back and was the one altering the ambassador’s mind.

This first issue starts off beautifully by paying homage to an older X-Men story: God Loves, Man Kills. It mimics the opening scene of the classic X-Men tale with a mutant child being chased by bigots, but this time around the child is saved. This foreshadows a glimmer of hope that wasn’t present in Chris Claremont’s story. The opening sequence plays on a classic X-Men theme that will be the driving theme of this issue: oppression of mutants. We continue viewing this theme with the TV reporters with one suggesting targeting the X-gene in the womb to terminate the baby’s birth. Jean realizes that the world is more fractured than ever before which is true for the Marvel universe. With the Civil War II, X-Men vs Inhumans and Secret Empire events, the world is in disarray.

It’s also a great parallel to our own world.

Tom Taylor is weaving these themes in his narrative that makes us reflect on our own situation. Like the Marvel Universe’s, our world is divided and tense. The page below speaks volumes to what X-Men Red means for the future of our mutant friends, and it also embodies the themes I previously mentioned.

One thing I appreciated a lot about this book is it give us a direction right from the get-go. We know the direction this book is going into: create a state where mutants and human can exist peacefully as part of the bigger world. This is something that was not only lacking with the X-Men titles but also at Marvel overall; there seemed to be a lack of direction. Knowing Jean’s overall goal makes me root for her even harder because for the first time in a while the X-Men aren’t on the defensive; they are working towards something instead of just surviving. This is a nice change of pace for our mutant friends who have been mistreated pretty badly in the past few years.

Despite very little big action moments, this comic is amazing because it sets up a lot for this future team. It starts bringing these characters together and raises many questions to which I can’t wait to have answers to. Not having everything thrown at us right off the bat is very refreshing to me. Tom Taylor is clearly taking his time to answer our questions and tell a compelling story. We still don’t know several things: exactly why Wolverine and Honey Badger joined with Jean; what (if any) deeper motivations Namor has; who Trinary really is; and what purpose Gentle will serve. The only thing we truly know is why Kurt is on the team. This is a perfectly crafted scene, like Jean said he’s the soul of the X-Men. Nightcrawler truly embodies the X-Men, and if Jean idea is to work she need the soul of the team by her side.

I have always appreciated Jean’s character, both the regular and time-displaced versions, but I always felt like she was little bit lacking. If this book continues in this direction Jean will join the ranks of Cyclops and Rogue as my favorite X-Men. Tom dives into the character and gives us the lovable and selfless Jean we are used to, but he also gives her conflict and purpose. Her stepping into the leadership position and attempting to further Xavier’s dream is the right progression for the character it feels organic and genuine.

Another character I’d like to highlight just because she is simply delightful is Honey Badger. Gabby stole my heart in All-New Wolverine and, clearly, she doesn’t want to give it back. Nothing can make me not adore this character. She might not have a lot of moments in the book, but the few she had felt right and made me laugh and smile, like a child.

Finally, Cassandra Nova is back. This makes me happy because it harkens back to Jean’s last adventures, with Grant Morrison’s run, where Cassandra was the first foe Jean encountered. It’s a nice throwback and, despite the bizarre nature of the character, I think she’s one of the few villains who can stand up to Jean power-wise. It also makes sense that the woman who murdered billions of mutants on Genosha would be the same woman who stands against another mutant state. Overall, the main elements of this book are handled with perfection.

Let’s move on to the art. The cover looks amazing. it’s simple, which makes sure we focus on Jean and nothing else. I think it’s a really smart way to introduce the reader right away by saying: this comic is about Jean and not about these other characters. Mahmud Asrar’s art was hit or miss throughout the book. He displayed good instances of talent especially while drawing the character-focused moments which were mostly Jean, but there was some Nightcrawler in there that was beautiful. My biggest gripe comes with certain instances when the art seemed rushed a bit, especially with backgrounds and bystanders. We also had a few instances where I would have liked a little bit more details because it felt kind of bland. In a few panels, Gabby’s scars weren’t drawn. This isn’t a huge problem, but it still felt a little annoying—and avoidable. The art switched a lot from amazing to bland; inconsistencies in art tend to take me out of a book and with the quality in writing here it did the storytelling a disservice.

This book is going to be important for X-Men fans. I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future, and I think we can expect a lot of great things coming out of it. X-Men Red has the potential to take the X-Men in an era of prosperity we haven’t seen in a long time. This book is setting up a lot and giving us an amazing look at Jean Grey while establishing some important character moments. The themes explored are both important to the X-Men and the real world they give us an insight into Jean’s mission and conflict. Despite some art inconsistencies this book is solid. I was close to giving it a perfect score, but the art needed to be a little better. That being said, thank you all for reading and welcome back Jean!

Verdict: 4.5 out 5

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Vincent is Canadian and a raving Cyclops apologist and a lover of all things geek Marvel and Star Wars are his specialty. He is well versed in DC, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. He's always wanted to be a writer and Do You Even Comic Book? is his first foray into that adventure.

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