With Hickman’s retooling of the X-Men, sizeable world-building played a prominent role in the line’s core series. Following House of X/Powers of X, the X-Men series acted more as an ensemble title, planting the seeds to Hickman’s assorted narratives, with no discernible cast as the book’s center. This worked well enough; there were so many plot threads established in the wake of HoX/PoX, Hickman clearly needed a title to let these story filaments ferment. Even though we had cast-centric superhero titles like X-Force and Marauders, the initial Krakoan era lacked the prestige of an official X-Men team to stand at its helm. While I loved the previous X-Men title that preceded this, reading this subsequent collection of issues (#1-6) reminds one how much fun the title can be in the hands to competent creators with a love for the characters and lore.
It’s not surprising that Gerry Duggan was tapped to write this title; his previous work on Marauders was a fan favorite, giving his small team of pirates led by Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost the focused superheroics missing from other books in the line. The title effortlessly sauntered the line between the larger Krakoan statecraft and character-fixated team dynamics. Duggan brings that same approach to his X-Men team, made up of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Rogue, Sunfire, Polaris, Wolverine, and Synch. He writes each of these characters like they are celebrating the fact that they have been chosen to represent Krakoa as their premier team, and the exuberance of their engagement in battles is refreshing.
This run has celebrated the monthly format, with each issue having enough self-contained elements to satisfy casual readers. But reading these issues in a combined trade demonstrates just how much effort Duggan put into reconnecting the X-Men to the larger Marvel Universe. There are little nods to various corners of the larger continuity that felt appropriate for a mutant society now overlords of their own nation (and planet for that matter).
One cannot overstate the incredible contribution Pepe Larraz has made to this era of the X-Men, as every inch of this title featuring his work (issues #1-3 and #6) are stunning. His linework is clear and detailed, with ample expressive quality given to each character’s visual design and movement. Additionally, Larraz was given room to go hog-wild in scheming creatures, villains, and monsters for the X-Men to encounter. We are treated to an X-Men Kaiju in issue #1, the unsettling Cordyceps Jones in issue #2, and the High Evolutionary’s crew in issue #3. In each case, Larraz does marvelous work and plants his flag as the best X-artist since Jim Lee. To his credit, Javier Pina does very good work on issues #4-5, keeping with the same stylistic approach established by Larraz, and allows the trade to feel coherent and focused.
At its core, this trade sees the X-Men as a fun team of superheroes, going beyond the borders of Krakoa and aiding the world beyond their rim. These are not mutants living in seclusion, but the greatest champions of their people, willing to venture out into the world for the good of all. It’s a necessary rejoinder to the first phase of Hickman’s X-Men run, giving mutant and human society a company of protagonists to aspire to. Gerry Duggan’s playful characterization, coupled with incredible art from Pepe Larraz, make this one of the brightest spots in the recent X-canon, and a perfect pickup for anyone who felt left out by recent X-books.
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