The tone of X-Men has shifted drastically since Gerry Duggan took over four issues ago, leaning heavily into the traditional “superhero” angle. Two major potentially game-changing arcs in this run, however, are the ideas that humans are catching on to the mutants’ resurrection protocols and the Arakko stuff heating up. This issue kind of crams both those reveals in at the end, giving us the juiciest bits of the actual plot for last.
For most of the issue, it’s just…kind of filler. Scott and Jean’s nightmares open up the issue, courtesy of Nightmare himself. It’s an interesting trip into Scott’s psyche — and as most fans are well aware of by now, he’s a pretty guilt-ridden dude. Nothing in these panels is new information, but it does feel like genuine Scott content. We see him afraid to disappoint those closest to him/ashamed of how he has disappointed those closest to him — both his girlfriends (Jean and Emma), Krakoa’s leaders (seen with Charles and Erik), his son, and his own students. It’s actually some good stuff for him that feels true to his character.
Jean’s is a bit…funnier. It makes sense for Jean’s first nightmare to be about Phoenix-related incidents that were traumatic to her. But the other sequence that Duggan deems important enough to highlight as something that gives Jean genuine nightmares is Emma casually calling her outfit ugly? I mean, she’s right — the Marvel Girl dress is genuinely hideous and fitting for a 14-year-old instead of a grown adult woman — but it’s so hard to read that without laughing because in comparison to Scott and Laura’s nightmares this is mind-bogglingly hilarious. You’d think Jean would have other nightmares considering all the trauma she’s been through: dying, missing so many important parts of her loved ones’ lives because she was dead, her husband cheating on her…but no, it’s “Scott’s other girlfriend called my dress ugly.” It’s very juvenile for any grown woman, let alone for Jean Grey.
It’s just one of those things that was very obviously written by a man because I sit here reading this scene of Jean’s big nightmare being Emma calling her dress ugly and I think, “well, this is how men just actually think we are, huh.”
Aside from this one very laughable scene, Jean actually gets a lot to do in this issue that is really kinda fun. The Krakoa era has not been kind to Jean thus far, to say the least: she got taken off X-Force quite early, had her previously-canon omega level telekinesis stripped from her in HOX/POX, and has since then only really appeared to show up in panels of her cooking dinner in the Summer Home kitchen. To have Jean be the one to square off against Nightmare and put him in his place is actually good stuff.
She has some great moments with Nightmare here — I love my Jean Grey as someone who takes crap from no one and will put them in their place (it kind of reminds me of ’90s Jean vs. Sabretooth in a good way). These scenes show me the Jean I hope to continue to see in this series.
Though, when Javier Pina drew that panel of Jean vs Nightmare and we see all her other costumes, I couldn’t help but wish they let us see her in literally any of those other suits this era. Like New X-Men Jean…or even Phoenix Jean. Not that the Marvel Girl costume’s unfortunate return is Duggan or Pina’s fault, but I still need to get my hits in on that dress.
Laura Kinney actually gets some fascinating character work done here. The Nightmare sequences provide Duggan the perfect opportunity to delve into his cast’s psyche and perhaps no one’s is more interesting than Laura’s right now. Laura being afraid of things she doesn’t know (which does include loving Synch) is actually some really juicy stuff. Giving Laura some focus this issue is another one of its stronger parts, and it makes me eager to see what else this series has planned for her in the future. It’s clear the Vault is another one of those plots that’s getting some slow build-up but it’s fun to explore every step of the way.
These night terror sequences take up a majority of the comic, making it a lighter issue (again, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). But the last few pages give us some good sequences, particularly where Ben Urich is involved. The bit of him finding Nathan Summers’ grave empty as he continues to unravel the secrets of mutant resurrection is some really interesting stuff. It’s clear this is a plot Duggan will continue to build on until it finally reaches its peak in some explosive way, and that’s exciting.
This sentiment also rings true for the space plot, which continues to be built upon in the issues’ final pages. In a way, this feels like set up for the new stage of Krakoa’s storytelling — the first was heading towards Inferno, but this feels like it’s building to a new climax point. It’s intriguing to see where it will go.
X-Men #4 is another mostly-light installment in the new series. When the title wants to pack a punch, it really does and when it is silly, it’s really, really silly. Javier Pina flexes his art talent and proves himself a worthy successor to the likes of Larraz who did the last three issues.
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