The excellent X-Men Red finally gets its second issue this week, but the month-and-two-weeks wait was worth it. X-Men Red #2 continues to play with the surprise cliffhanger as the Arakko people of Mars get their bonafide X-Men team! Problem is, what if they don’t want imperialist Earthers picking a team for them?
If it wasn’t apparent in the first issue how big a role Vulcan is going to have in the series, it’s obvious in how X-Men Red #2 starts. As the preview shows, we open “some time ago” with aliens from another dimension messing with Vulcan’s “twisted” nature. For those unaware, Vulcan was a very bad man at one time, with a fire inside him literally and figuratively that was very dangerous. Since his recent apparent peaceful return to the mutant haven of Krakoa though, Cyclops and Xavier were made aware he’s not okay. Thankfully, killing a mutant can be reversed as we see in a scene where Xavier confronts Vulcan.
Much of this issue continues to develop the two teams the series will focus on. Brand is a manufacturer of peace and control as we’ve seen in the past. Fans will dig her version of the Arakko X-Men and Ewing doesn’t skimp on showing us how certain members feel about the idea of a team policing the Arakko people. It’s an interesting bit of showing how different characters feel around potentially explosive politics. Brand is certain, though, and she comes off as quite strong and a good leader even if her ideas aren’t very progressive.
The magic of this issue is Ewing’s ability to add nuance to characters we know well or even bystanders watching a great attack on the issue. Rather quickly you get a sense of the Arakko people who despise a foreign police force on Arakko, or how Mentallo reacts to terrible death and shows his true colors.
Drawn by Stefano Caselli with colors by Federico Blee, this book looks great from cover to cover. The interior of S.W.O.R.D. for instance looks hyper-realistic in all its metallic interior and the costumes look great too. There’s a great moment where we see the reaction of a bunch of mutants and Cable steals the show with a cock of his gun that’s both funny and reflective of the character.
When it comes to action, this issue has plenty of it. The enemies the X-Men have to fight are pretty weird, capturing the bizarre nature of this Celestial-looking threat, but also creating a question mark on what the heroes are facing. They feel menacing because they look so odd. Caselli also does an exceptional job on Storm, with Blee doing great work with the energy effects. Vulcan’s powers are also quite cool looking, making him far more powerful than just some fire thrower.
If this issue had a singular agenda it’s setting up Vulcan’s erratic nature, but also his rather complicated history being top dog. He’s not only put in his place, but we see it’s not really his fault he’s so messed up either. There’s a fine line here where he’s a bit of an ass and you want to see him fail, but you also want him to figure things out and get better. Given the cliffhanger, it appears he has farther to fall before he can get better.
Characters like Storm and Magneto also get their moments, but they’re taking a step back in this issue to allow Vulcan a bit more focus. Storm fans should also be plenty pleased with this issue, as she’s totally badass and gets the respect she deserves.
X-Men Red is my favorite X-Men comic currently being produced. It has a throwback feel in how it utilizes teams while developing modern X-Men elements like Arakko politics and its people. X-Men Red #2 continues to blend nuanced character work with all the elements that make mutants and X-Men so great.
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