With its 14th volume, the Reign of X trades collecting the sequential issues across various X-books come to an end (it appears the next volume will be Trials of X and restart with #1). It’s fitting that the final volume in the Reign era, a period that saw the mutants ascend to virtually godlike beings in the Marvel Universe, features some of the lowest points in X history from a narrative perspective. That isn’t to say there aren’t standout issues worth celebrating (specially Duggan’s X-Men #1), but many of these issues end up as bookends to runs that were rushed to an unsatisfying finish line.
Collected in this volume, we have X-Factor #10, Way of X #3, Children of the Atom #22, and X-Men #1. I’ve already gone on record as loving the current X-Men run headed by Gerry Duggan with art from Pepe Larraz; that book perfectly captures the superheroics and team dynamic that was sorely missing from the X-Men during Hickman’s tenure on the book. Everything about this first issue, from its bombastic, outrageous fight scene to the way its characters devotedly work in tandem hits the mark. It’s not huge in its narrative scope, but X-Men #1 does everything right in introducing this new team of X-Men to readers, enticing even jaded fans to come aboard. It doesn’t hurt that nearly every page of Pepe Larraz’s art is pinup worthy.
Marauders #22, also written by Duggan, is a transitional issue focusing on Emma Frost, the Stepford Cuckoos, and Wilhelmina Kensington following the events of the Hellfire Gala. It’s perfectly serviceable, and Duggan does a fine job developing the character dynamics between these characters, but the art is conflictingly dispensed by Matteo Lollo and Klaus Janson. It looks like two different books all within the 22 pages of story. It comes across as a rush job, even though the conflict between its core cast makes for an interesting read.
Si Spurrier’s Way of X #3 is an enjoyable romp through Nightcrawler’s investigation into the reemergence of Onslaught on Krakoa, and a rather interesting discussion on reproduction on the island. Some of Spurrier’s personal favorites all find a place in the plot, with Doctor Nemesis, Legion, and Stacy X all making appearances. In fact, the title feels a lot like a who’s-who of previous Spurrier works injected into Krakoa and their odd cultural-religious landscape. It’s a fine issue, even if the promise of the series was never fully realized. Bob Quinn does an admirable job with the art, complemented well by Java Tartaglia’s vibrant colors.
Finally, we get to the concluding issues to two short-lived X-runs. When the initial art was promoted for Vita Ayala’s Children of the Atom, showcasing a group of teen superheroes fashioned after classic X-Men, it was met with some skepticism that unfortunately, tainted the book from the offset (the fact that it was prepped to release as Covid hit, delaying it significantly, didn’t help either). That’s all unfortunate, as the book was far more than a Jr superhero team; rather, it was an exploration into fan culture and belonging. There were many ripe storylines at this title’s core, but with issue #6, it came to its end. If you didn’t read the previous entries in the book, it’s a perfectly fine Hellfire Gala tie-in that hurriedly brings some finality to the cast’s journey.
Lastly, we have the jumbled mess that is X-Factor #10 by Leah Williams, the final issue in her X-Factor run. Well, that’s only partly true, as the series was set to include the subsequent Trial of Magento story-arc within its pages and end with issue #15. Understandably, this meant every loose plot element emerging had to come to an abrupt conclusion. The mystery of Prodigy’s murder is “revealed,” but comes across as an arc that skipped huge chunks of its rising action. The fact that it is also a tie-in to the larger Hellfire Gala crossover and stage setting for the Trial of Magneto does not help; it reads like jumbled mess of editorial incongruities. Pencil work is covered by three separate artists, which does not help its narrative direction or tone, even though each individual contribution is competent. It’s a shame that this book, with such a distinct identity and style, was so quickly brought to an unsatisfying conclusion.
Someone at Marvel must be reading these reviews, because they have done a better job including variant covers in recent editions, providing several full-page reproductions at the end of the issue. We can keep dreaming about the possibility of full-page versions of these covers in these books, as it would make them ideal collections even for those of us who pick up physical copies on the weekly.
With this collection, the Reign era of the X-Men ends with a whimper, but plenty of strong creative talent is on display, promising a bright future for the X-books to come.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!