The newest volume of the X-Men collected editions drops its previous Dawn of X title in favor of Reign of X and starts the numbering over at 1. This is an understandable move from a publishing standpoint (we were up to volume 16 last month, which may seem like a formidable process to read through each to fully grasp the current era), but it also makes sense from a narrative perspective, chiefly since this collection brings the new iteration of S.W.O.R.D. into the Krakoan era.
In this trade, we have the aforementioned S.W.O.R.D. #1, Hickman’s X-Men #16, Williams’ X-Factor #5 and two issues from Zeb Wells’ Hellions (#7-8). It is an interesting combination of issues, with S.W.O.R.D. and X-Men being excellent context for the newly mutant planet, with X-Factor and Hellions delving into some of the moral questions embedded the current direction mutant society has embraced.
I must have missed the original cast of S.W.O.R.D. in my lapsed comic days, but Al Ewing’s script does an admirable job bringing new readers up to speed on the key character fundamentals of its cast. With the X-Men now terraforming Mars, it makes narrative sense that the likes of Magneto were instituting a space station to protect its interplanetary interests. The fact that this book was launched months before Planet-Size X-Men demonstrates how thoughtful and forward-thinking this current era of planning has been in the X-offices. The art from Valerio Schiti, complemented by the brusque colors of Marte Garcia, gives the book a prestige appearance. When this series was initially announced, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be my cup of tea, but the artistic talent driving this title forward is on full display here in issue #1.
The X-Men issue deals with the aftermath of the X of Swords crossover, with the Krakoan Council coming to terms with the vast expansion of the mutant civilization with the acquisition of Arakko. Hickman has been criticized for focusing on the larger metanarrative in his X-Men run, often eschewing the more personal elements of the book, but this issue flies in the face of that critique, with wonderful little character moments helping move the story forward in an effective manner. The banter between the Summers clan as they witness the attempted joining of the two mutant islands is one of my favorite contemporary flashes in the current X-Men run. Phil Noto steps in to do some fill-in pencils and produces expressive character visuals, fitting in an issue focused predominantly on dialogue.
X-Factor #5’s opening scene involving Wind Dancer of the New Mutants team from the mid-2000s is a striking (and disturbing example) of how Leah Williams plays with the current era of social media in the context of the Resurrection Protocols for mutant kind. David Baldeon’s cartoony designs stand in stark contrast to the subject matter, but his work is distinct and communicative, giving this book a vibrant pictorial appeal. That this issue gives space to some sadly forgotten characters from that teen team’s run, while moving the larger murder mystery forward, is commendable.
The Hellions issues by Zeb Wells and Stephen Segovia also add texture to the current X-Books, asking moral questions about the morality behind resurrecting mutants in ways that changes their original configuration. This book, with Sinister, Psylocke and Havok given center stage, has only continued to deal with these questions in recent issues, but having both post-X of Swords issues together feels appropriate for the first volume of Reign of X. Segovia’s art is as strong as ever, and gives this book a murkier graphic tenor than some of its counterparts.
There are a few bonus additions, with the ubiquitous variant covers and S.W.O.R.D. character designs to pad out the last few pages. Even though it may be light on supplementals, this is still a fine collection of X-issues. If the previous Dawn of X collections felt daunting to jump into once they passed volume 3, see this trade as a great moment to jump in to the current direction of the Krakoan civilization.
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