If you look at my X-Men team book reviews over the last couple of years, you’ll notice that they all have something in common. It’s been a while since I’ve consistently enjoyed any one X-Men team book. Some of them have their moments, like Dennis Hopeless’s All-New X-Men (as uneven as it was). X-Men Blue has consistently shown potential, but it hasn’t yet lived up to that potential, held back by too many unfinished plots and lame characters like Jimmy Hudson. And that’s to say nothing of the bore fests that both recent flagship titles have been (although from what I’ve read, Extraordinary X-Men’s joyless direction wasn’t the fault of its writer, Jeff Lemire, but an editorial mandate). So when Marvel announced X-Men Red, written by Tom Taylor of All-New Wolverine, I got excited fast.
X-Men Red 1 doesn’t disappoint. This first issue establishes a lot without feeling rushed. It establishes a clear direction for Jean Grey’s team – to right the injustices towards mutants in the world. It gives us several quick yet satisfying action scenes involving one young mutant, and a girl who might just be suspected of being one. It gives us a dangerous villain the group will need to face – one of the few who could actually pose a challenge for Jean Grey from both a power and a moral standpoint. And like Taylor’s All-new Wolverine, there’s a strong feeling of family among the X-Men and there’s a great balance between drama and fun.
Probably the best moment in this comic is Jean Grey’s UN speech. It’s an inspirational speech that includes direct allegories for some of the backwards human rights records in some countries that somehow gain seats in the UN. There’s a very dark moment that happens shortly after that could very well effect how the world sees Jean Grey. This moment could make the next issue very interesting. Dark moments like these are balanced out with a brilliantly written conversation between Jean and Nightcrawler, showing how much they mean to each other. And of course there are a handful of amusing Gabby one-liners to lighten the mood. Put it all together and you have a very well-balanced comic. And it’s the first X-Men team book I’ve read in years where the X-Men actually feel like a family, something this franchise used to be known for.
Mahmud Asrar’s art works very well. It’s a simple look at first glance, but there’s a fair amount of detail in the backgrounds. The opening scene takes place in a suburb at night during the rain, complete with splashes on the ground and rooftops. There’s a variety of people chasing the suspected mutant. Her facial expressions perfectly showcase her fear, while her mother’s look of fury showcases how extreme their hatred has become. The action scenes flow well between panels, like another mutant’s new powers progressively destroying more of his surroundings. Ive Svorcina’s colouring is great. It matches the simple style of the art well, with good use of reflections off of cars, brilliant use of Jean Grey’s telekinetic energy glowing, and a perfect balance of brighter and darker environments.
This is a great start to what could be a fantastic series. It strikes a great balance between dramatic, inspirational and fun. It gives simple yet effective reasons for this team to come together. And of course it gives us a dangerous villain that could easily ruin Jean’s goals. It’s been too long since we’ve had an X-Men team where the members feel like a family, and we’re off to a good start on that front. Fans of Jean Grey will most likely enjoy this issue. It’s definitely worth picking up for those who have enjoyed Taylor’s All-New Wolverine series as well, and worth checking out for fans of the X-Men franchise in general.