X-Men: Red is one of the most compelling X-Men comics being produced by the X-Office right now, especially since it seems to understand the characters so well. It’s why it was one of my picks for best comics of the year so far, and why it has scored high marks with every issue. X-Men: Red #4 is out this week and it has major implications for Magneto to develop while continuing to add important subplots X-Men fans care about.
Once again, it’s impressive how much writer Al Ewing gets into each issue. Opening on Planet Arakko in the Great Ring — basically, the equivalent to the Quiet Council of Krakoa — the mutants are discussing death. Magneto has joined their leadership and must contemplate death and the concept of loss. This scene plays into a data page and then is cut back to throughout the issue. It’s quite good at capturing the mindset of the Arakko people and how they differ from Earth mutants. This helps define the Arakko people, but also the core concept of this series as well.
There are other plots to be had with this issue as well, like Sunspot’s resurrection and a check-in with Rockslide. One of the more compelling elements that spun out of X of Swords was how Rockslide died in Otherworld and could not be fully resurrected. Ewing contemplates death and life through Rockslide in his scene, further tethering this series to the very idea of living and dying with purpose.
Further, there’s a third major plot that involves Storm. This scene allows Ewing to play around with a few familiar characters as well as a major plot point in Marauders. Seriously, if you haven’t read Marauders yet, you might want to pause and read that series up till its latest issue first. This scene not only continues to show Storm is smarter than most in the room, but she’s also as bold and as confident as ever.
This issue is drawn by Juann Cabal, Andrés Genolet, and Michael Sta. Maria. Different artists are used for different scenes to make the art changes less jarring, which helps because each artist’s styles do look different. It appears Cabal gets the Storm scene, but I’m not as familiar with the other artists to pinpoint who drew what. All in all, the art is good, with Cabal’s clean lines giving intensity to the body language and situation that works very well. The Magneto scene uses a few eight-panel pages to control the pace and allow the art to zone in on specific facial expressions. That works too given the weight of the conversation.
Finally, the Rockslide scene is simpler in style than the others, but it’s also more contemplative. Save for a scene in the Hatchery, it’s mostly on an angelic beach of Krakoa and doesn’t require hyper-realistic art.
Color artists and letterers don’t get enough credit for pulling a comic together, especially when there are multiple artists. Ariana Maher and Federico Blee do that in spades with this issue. The color choices are a bit subdued and not as bright as one might expect in a comic book. It helps add a morose feel to the narrative. Letters are clean with well-timed back and forth between characters–a simple “no” talking over Ora Serrrata is a good example of that–and a consistent flow. The books pace can be attributed to how well the letters display in each panel and across each page.
X-Men: Red #4 finds its strength in cutting between three different scenes yet each one discusses death in its own way. In this way, Ewing and the art team make death a beautiful thing in three different ways, further cementing the fact that this series is deeply meaningful and contemplative.
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