To celebrate the release of Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost, AIPT proudly presents JEAN GREY + EMMA FROST WEEK – seven days of original articles and interviews about two X-Women so eXtraordinary, they don’t need codenames!
When it was announced Jonathan Hickman was starting up a new series of one-shot stories created in “Marvel Style,” I was immediately on board. Artists aren’t given enough credit these days, and this is a series aimed at putting the artists at the forefront of our attention. That made the reveal of which artists Hickman would work with all the more intriguing, and to start things off, Russell Dauterman takes the stage. I warn you, reader–this book, and possibly the series (it’s too early to tell) is a different cup of comic book tea.
On the credits page, Hickman is given credit for “Story & Words” and after you read this book you’ll realize Dauterman, along with color artists Matthew Wilson, should be credited with 80% of this project’s success. Dauterman is given a story credit as well, and it’s obvious from the first page onward he’s putting a spin on this book like you’ve never seen. Maybe it’s because I understand the circumstances of the book’s creation, but I found myself marveling at the visual choices throughout the book.
Conventional panel work is seen here and there, but overall, Dauterman seems to be playing with the space in new and exciting ways. Gutters, for instance, are used in interesting ways and at one point the white gutters even explode only to be replaced with black gutters. The characters at one point endure a drop and we can see the white gutter break apart and meld into darkness. It’s a cool visual idea throughout the book. You’ll also notice panels don’t get too complex, with many pages containing only three or four panels. It’s worth noting every page is beautiful in its own right, framed in varying ways but always capturing your imagination or awe.
The story outside of the art, if that’s even possible, is interesting. I wouldn’t say we learn a lot about these characters save for plenty of facial expressions readers can attempt to translate later on, as it’s more about a single mission. The telepaths must team up to save Storm. The lack of words actually makes some sense given they’re using their psychic powers in a unique way and the hushed tone of the book certainly adds another layer of dramatic tension.
Readers who haven’t read New X-Men #121–or haven’t flipped through it in the years since it was released–will want to reread it. In Hickman’s recent X-Men Monday appearance, he mentioned Giant-Size is his and Dauterman’s version of this Emma/Jean team-up with very few words, and it’s actually framed similarly too. I gave #121 a read-through after finishing this comic and you can see the homage and callbacks. That’s a fun element you don’t see everyday in comics.
At the end of the day, this is a fascinating interpretation of Emma and Jean’s telepathic abilities that takes place over a brief period so as to set up a new conflict. The characters shine through, but I ended up wanting a bit more plot. It’s really not about character development or plot progression, but about giving the artists the opportunity to tell an emotionally satisfying tale. They’ve done that and more.
There are likely a lot of expectations placed on this book. Many readers may be surprised by what they find, but as a piece of art, this is an excellent example of how the comics medium can still be pushed to new heights. What you hold in your hands is one of the most vividly rich and rewarding visual experiences you’ll read this year. Don’t pass on it!