We here at AIPT are big fans of what Jonathan Hickman is doing at Marvel Comics, and that extends to Giant-Size X-Men. This series of one-shot stories allowed casual readers to jump into the X-Men pool while experiencing stories with artists more in control than ever. Collecting five stories (Jean Grey and Emma Frost (2020) #1, Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler (2020) #1, Giant-Size X-Men: Magneto (2020) #1, Giant-Size X-Men: Fantomex (2020) #1, Giant-Size X-Men: Storm (2020) #1), this collection as an ever-so-slight story arc, but remains accessible in each chapter. How does it read as a collection, though? More or less, it’s great.
This book collects its stories as they were released, starting with Jean Grey and Emma Frost on an adventure with no dialogue whatsoever. On the credits page, Hickman is given credit as a storyteller with each artist listed alongside him, but after you read this book you’ll realize its artists are driving the ship. The first story is drawn by Dauterman, along with color artist Matthew Wilson. 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. There’s some really interesting use of gutters, for instance, 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.
This extends to his Storm issue, which closes out the book. Dauterman and color artist Matthew Wilson are doing showstopping work, with a wholesome and rounded feel to each panel and page. Dauterman is clearly interested in symmetry and an appealing art style you can’t look away from because it feels just right. Layout design continues to be pushed in new directions, like the “X” that is formed by the gutters in the images below, further enhancing the reading experience. Gutters are also filled with the techno-virus as if the book itself is infected as Storm is creating another layer of symmetry. The colors help convey the wild places these characters go as well as depth using shadow and light. We’ve seen it on Thor before this, but Dauterman and Wilson only seem to get better as they continue their illustrious careers. Featuring Dauterman and Wilson in the opening and closing chapters is a great way to bookend a story like this.
In between, Alan Davis takes on Nightcrawler, Ramón K. Pérez draws the Magneto issue, and Ros Reis’ art is featured in the Fantomex story. Each of these stories either contain intriguing ideas as far as Krakoa and the X-Men universe as a whole or go all-in with crazy sci-fi concepts. These are some of the best artists in the industry and all of these creators bring their A-game. The through-line for all of these stories is how creativity can make just about any kind of X-Men story work. In Magneto’s he’s teaming up with Namor, Nightcrawler’s shows how abstract these stories can get, and Fantomex’s story reveals worlds within worlds and how some heroes have their own priorities.
Pulling it all together is great design by Tom Muller. There are some fun X symbols stamped willy nilly before you get to the first story with red being the main theme throughout. Each chapter starts with the cover with a red filter opposite a page with a large number designating which story you’re on along with the story name.
Giant-Size X-Men by Jonathan Hickman is an excellent example of how the comics medium can forever 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.
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