By this point, you are likely on board for this type of comic publishing (single issues from across the X-line that don’t directly tell a single story), so I won’t dwell much on this facet. Rather, let’s see how this collection of issues stands up as a group and gives narrative context for readers interested in jumping into this new era of X-Men. Fortunately, there are some pronounced pieces of the present X-line on display in this trade, with fine table-setting issues for unacquainted readers.
X-Force #15-16 continues to explore the shadowy path Beast appears to be headed for the last year. These issues don’t resolve the larger question of his ethics, visibly setting up future chronicles to come. What continues to be the standout aspect of this series is the pencil work from Joshua Cassara, impeccably seizing the tenor of the series and providing numerous moments of indisputable fear and shock. He’s simply one of the best artists working for Marvel and brings this book to life with every panel he crafts.
X-Men #17 is an interesting issue in Hickman’s run. Like most of the issues in this series, it is a self-contained story that focuses on setting up future story arcs to come, specifically the new space-age continuity and the continued reveal of Storm’s importance in this era. Even though there wasn’t a defined X-Men team during this book, this issue provides ample action with some of mutant-kinds most notable heroes at its center. Brett Booth stepped up to fill in the pencils for this issue and delivers some great work; it looks and feels like the early 90s X-Men. It was unclear why Cyclops and Jean Grey were wearing their old X-Factor costumes, but since the last few years seemed to allow artists to incorporate any era of the X-Men they wish into their designs, it may have been just an artistic choice. It’s still uncertain if any of these tweaks are subtle narrative clues.
Duggan’s Marauders #16 brings to a satisfying conclusion the simmering battle between Kitty Pryde and Sebastian Shaw. The love Duggan has shown for Pryde and Emma Frost in this run has been enjoyable, and the satisfying revenge they execute on their ostensive colleague is surely a fan-favorite moment.
It took some time, but New Mutants #14 scripted by Vita Ayala, finally gives the main cast a mentoring role on Krakoa, while revealing sinister elements of teenage culture on the island with a classic villain at its center. This series, while good during the first Hickman year, really finds its footing with this issue and its new bearing; it’s a perfect place to begin with this book and see how younger mutants are dealing with this new society. The pencils by Rod Reis continue to impress, giving nods to the classic run of the series from the ’80s while breathing new life and bravura into these definitive characters.
Tini Howard’s Excalibur #16 is a place-setting issue, wrapping up the events of X of Swords and setting a new status-quo for Betsy Braddock and her Captain Britain persona. Much like the New Mutants issue, this is a fine place to start fresh with this title as we enter the next phase of this contemporary era of X-books.
Unfortunately, this collection doesn’t include any variant covers as supplemental material, but does end with a few sketch pages from Booth’s X-Men issue. Thankfully, they have continued the same design theme with the covers of these collections, having it sit seamlessly next to any previous trades on your shelf. With all that in mind, this is still a fine collection of issues that begins to set up the events we are currently experiencing in the current monthly book.
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