In Review: X-Men: Red #1

The story goes in an interesting direction, though the visuals are disappointing.

The covers: A big ten variations for this first issue’s cover. The Regular cover by Travis Charest has Jean on a white background, shown only from the knees up. Flame surrounds her lower half, with orange colored energy writhing upwards. She stands out in some wonderful blue armor. Her face shows her worried about something to her left. Beautiful, powerful imagery. The Trading Card Variant cover is by John Tyler Christopher and features Namor underwater, pulling back a fist to hit the reader. He looks great and the coloring is tops. I like the bubbles escaping his yelling mouth and the red border on the card makes the art pop. The Baby cover is by Skottie Young and though I’m normally not a fan of these variants, this one works for me because it’s a black cover with Nightcrawler’s tail at the bottom of the illustration, caught in a blast of purple smoke, while the torso of the character is emerging in the top left in a similar puff of smoke. The title is in the lower center of the book. This is unquestionably delightful. The Variant Blank cover has the book’s title at the top along with the publisher and issue number. The rest of the front and the back is white, allowing someone to get their favorite artist to create an original cover or get the book’s creators to sign it. A terrific idea, but on its own, not impressive. The Headshot Variant cover by Travis Charest is the cover I picked up because I’m font of these throwback covers that have images of characters that used to adorn Marvel Comics of the 1980s. Jean looks great and she’s on a tan background covered in red Xs. I love this. Next up, a mustard colored background allows the team to stand out with Jean in the front, holding up a hand that’s powering up. Behind her is, going clockwise, Wolverine, Honey Badger, Gentle, Namor, Nightcrawler, and Trinary. This Incentive Variant by Mahmud Asrar looks okay, but the characters’ faces seem really wide. Namor runs forward, followed by Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Gentle, with Jean flying up high on the Incentive Rob Liefeld cover. If one likes Liefeld’s work, and I do, this is one to chase. Jean Grey has gone full Phoenix on the Incentive Phil Jimenez Remastered Color Variant. Standing in the center of the cover, Jean’s hair is aflame as a giant flaming phoenix dominates the background. Before her a woman has fallen backwards and cowers before the display of power. What this is from, I don’t know, but it looks great. The Incentive Phil Jimenez Remastered Sketch Variant cover is the same as the color variant, sans color. Nice, but I prefer the colored version. The Young Guns Incentive Variant cover by Pepe Larraz is a great image of Wolverine hunched over against some flaming debris. She has several bullet wounds, all of which are smoking. Her claws are out and she is going to make the shooters pay. Anything by Larraz is worth picking up. Overall grades: Regular A, Trading Card Variant A, Baby Variant A, Blank Sketch Variant C, Headshot Variant A+, Asrar Incentive Variant B-, Liefeld Incentive Variant A, Jimenez Incentive Remastered Color Variant A-, Jimenez Incentive Remastered Sketch Variant B, Young Guns Incentive Variant A

The story: Tom Taylor’s story opens with a young teen named Heather hearing a voice in her head that wakes her up as the rain falls outside. It’s tells her they’re coming and she needs to get out of the house through the second story window. She does so, just as a torch carrying mob kicks in the front door. She scrambles to the ground as one person yells out “Mutant!” She runs as fast as she can, but trips and falls. Holding her head as they shine their flashlights on her, she begs, “Please. Don’t. I’m not a mutant. I’m not–” One woman raises a gun and says, “Abomination.” Heather looks up shocked. “Mom…?” Her mother fires as do several others. Their bullets are stopped in the air by Jean Grey who stands between the people and the child. Wolverine and Nightcrawler soon arrive, with the elf taking the child’s hand and bamfing away. Where they take the girl is interesting, but this is familiar territory for an X-Men book: saving young mutants from the hate of humans. Thankfully Taylor then turns back the clock to two months earlier with a younger mutant in need of the group. This is followed by the expected hate on a news network, which has Jean make a decision. I really like what she intended to do and how she went about doing it, involving two famous characters of the Marvel Universe. What I didn’t see coming was the turnabout on 27, leading into one of the most shocking scenes I’ve encountered in an X-book on 28. The two pages that follow show the ramifications of the character’s actions and they leave me intrigued to see where this is going. Overall grade: A

The art: Mahmud Asrar’s visuals are why I may not be returning to this book. His layout is fine, but they are just too simplistic for an X-book. The action is fine, but the details are lacking. The blacks used to shade the mob’s faces in the fourth panel on the first page is too much. Besides, they’re holding torches, shouldn’t they be seen? Heather’s escape on the top three panels of 2 and 3 is good, but the reveal of the mob in the fourth has them very sketchy: look at the fingers holding the rifle on the character in the foreground, while those in the back are merely suggestions of characters. The full-paged splash of Jean on 4 has her muscles oddly constructed, especially on her legs. The shield she’s constructed would have been more easily understood with a change of colors. Jean’s pupils surprisingly disappear atop Page 5, though she had them on 4 when she was using the same ability. The mob is really sketchy on 5. When all the X-Men are shown on 7 Jean becomes stocky and Wolverine has magically lost her mask. In this panel Jean is right behind Heather, but in the following panel she’s at least ten feet away. The scenes in New York City have backgrounds that are suggestions. They stand out negatively for being so simplistic. Jean improves significantly after NYC, with her looking consistent and terrific on the next few pages. Though once she’s at the iconic setting that hosts the climax, she’s lost about 20 pounds and become gaunt. Plus, her hair has a noticeable point appear out of nowhere on 27. She’s become Sophie Turner. Why didn’t she look like the actress from the start of the issue? Namor’s neck on these pages is wider than his head. When did this occur in the Marvel Universe? The art is too inconsistent and the backgrounds are lacking. Overall grade: D+

The colors: Ive Svorcina also doesn’t deliver in this issue. Jean’s first appearance could have been helped with coloring to show a shield before her, plus her left arm is colored violet, the only piece of her armor to be so. The background in the fourth panel on 6 is a deep crimson. This could be due to make the reveal more shocking, but instead comes off as a miscoloring of Nightcrawler’s signature transportation smoke. Jean’s hair has her standing out superbly in NYC, but the backgrounds are bland (which could be due to the lack of details from Asrar). The rural setting that Jean and another X-Men go to contains broad stripes of color that just horizontally color it. Again, this could be due to it being simply constructed. Namor’s reveal, however, is resplendent in emeralds. The colors are not helping the visuals. Overall grade: C-

The letters: This issue’s text includes dialogue, Jean’s mental messages, sounds, character identification and scene settings (the same font), an impressive wail, the crawl below two people on a broadcast, and yells, all crafted by VC’s Cory Petit. I like the dialogue, both audible and mental. The sounds are really impressive, starting with the gunshots directed at poor Heather. I do wish the character indicators and scene settings were different fonts, as they are two very different forms of identification. Overall grade: A-

The final line: The story goes in an interesting direction, though the visuals are disappointing. I’ll check out the next issue, but if the visuals are the same, this will probably be the only issue I purchase. Overall grade: C+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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