Last year, Marvel announced an updated version of its old Young Guns program for spotlighting the work of emerging artists in the comics industry: Marvel’s Stormbreakers. This naturally raised the question of what we would get to see from these artists, and in the case of Peach Momoko, the answer is quite interesting. Tasked with both the writing and art, Momoko is the driving force between the new miniseries Demon Days: X-Men. The first issue drops this week, and it features new takes on beloved characters like Psylocke, Jubilee, and Venom, all while incorporating elements of Japanese mythology to boot. It’s the sort of premise that instantly stands out, but is the debut issue good?
Given that Marvel chose to spotlight Momoko for her artistic talents, it should come as no surprise that the visuals in this issue are gorgeous. The coloration is consistently dynamic, with beautiful gradients of saturation that instantly call to mind classic paintings. This is nowhere more true than in the case of the nature imagery, where green fronds, twisted tree branches, mountains, and skylines all delight. The understanding and utilization of light sources is also superb, resulting in great shots like this one of an oni being caught stealing food to survive:
Of course, a large part of the draw of any comic like this one is how it reinterprets classic characters while taking stylistic cues from influences beyond those seen in your average American comic. By and large, Momoko excels on this front. Psylocke (referred to here as Sai) is instantly recognizable, while Wolverine gets an unexpected but charming role in the form of her wolf companion Logan. There’s also a Jubilee analogue who makes fun use of non-mutant fireworks. The cream of the crop of Momoko’s recreations, however, isn’t an X-character at all. It’s Venom, who’s merged with Yamata no Orochi in a way that effectively utilizes elements from both figures’ classic designs. It’s a natural match, as the fluidity of black symbiote goo melds with the terrifying fluidity of a giant snake.
Besides Momoko, the rest of the creative team also deserves acknowledgement. Zach Davisson provides English adaptation while VC’s Ariana Maher does the lettering, and both deliver strong work as always. The sound effects are particularly notable for the attention paid to making sure they meld effectively with the aesthetics of the art around them.
Lastly, the the issue’s story is solid. It’s very much a one-off tale of traveling adventurers (Sai and Logan) coming across people in crisis and stepping up to do what must be done. Given the brevity of the issue and the protagonists’ status as travelers passing through, it’s unsurprising that Momoko doesn’t delve too deeply into them as characters. While there are hints of what’s still to come at the issue’s end, there aren’t actually any major thematic or character concerns that feel unresolved or beg for more page-time. Momoko inspires interest in future issues with her standout visuals, but the actual plot feels a bit too crammed within its page constraints to be as engrossing as it could be.
It’s also worth noting that some readers might find the X-Men aspect of the issue’s title to be a bit misleading. While there are certainly X-Men characters present, they only make up about half of the obvious Marvel recreations. The use of Venom in particular makes the issue read more like a reenvisioning of the Marvel universe in general rather than specifically the X-Men.
All in all, Demon Days: X-Men #1 is an enjoyable, fresh take on some classic characters, both from Marvel and mythology. The visuals stun, with Logan and Venom being the biggest standouts. The main cons to the issue are just that its title may be a bit misleading about its scope, and that more could have been done to successfully build narrative momentum for future installments. Nonetheless, it’s a fun ride worth taking and pleasantly different from other the X-comics being released right now.
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