With just a month left of Jonathan Hickman at the helm of the X-books, it’s fascinating to see major story arcs being woven into the X-line even as he plans his exit. The newest collection of issues from across the X-line demonstrates just how effective and exciting Hickman can be as a writer, while also exhibiting the ingenuity and distinctiveness brought to the line by those working under him in the Krakoan sandbox.
The collection kick-starts with issue #4 of Al Ewing’s S.W.O.R.D., a series I had little interest initially in, yet it continues to be one of standout books in the X-line. While this issue is a King in Black tie-in (yes, we had many of those in the last collection), it functions perfectly as a space to explore the title’s cast. Manifold, a bit player from Hickman’s Secret Warriors title, is given the care and space to develop into a multi-dimensional figure under Ewing’s scripting. Valerio Schiti is in top form with his pencils, masterfully colored by Marte Gracia. It’s a great single issue and exhibits why this title is adored by fans.
My favorite issues of the lot must be X-Men #18-19, where Hickman takes Synch, Darwin and X-23 into the vault in an attempt to undermine the threat its civilization faces to mutant kind. Much like Ewing’s exploration of Manifold in S.W.O.R.D., Hickman gives ample space to explore Synch while pushing major plot features forward. These two issues are Hickman at his best, and one only hopes the plot elements surveyed in these issues gets the necessary follow-through. Muhmud Asrar does an admirable job with the fill-in pencils, and thankfully, he was given the opportunity to do these adjoined issues, as it gives this narrative a clear graphical character.
Gerry Duggan’s Marauders title (represented by issues #18-19 here), continues the super heroics of Kitty Pryde’s team of swashbuckling mutants, finding the team embroiled in Madripoor’s inner workings. Stefano Caselli continues his great work on the book, making this the colorful, less-heady version of the X-Men to compeiment the larger world-building done in Hickman’s book. It’s fun, engaging and provides a superb pacing for a monthly comic, something Duggan has conquered in recent years.
Finally, we get a single issue of Benjamin Percy’s X-Force focusing on Quintin Quire. Over the last two years, X-Force seemed to be doing a lot of heavy lifting by giving a distinct team of A-list mutants a team track and concentration. It’s unclear if the behind-the-scenes shakeups in the X-office were responsible, but the book did seem to be biding its time in recent months until larger events off-page were revealed. Thankfully, this issue does a fine job of giving a single character space to be surveyed without it feeling superfluous. Joshua Cassara’s contributions to this title cannot be ignored; his detailed, surreal linework gives this title a sharp distinctiveness, perfectly in keeping with Percy’s plot.
This is one of the best Reign of X collections to date, with ample examples of what the current X-Men line does well. The trade is light on supplementals, with only a few variant covers reprinted in the back, but the quality of the writing and art in the issues collected is a textbook illustration of what the Hickman era of X-books have achieved.
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