The X-Men line, following the Inferno crossover completing Hickman’s run, has benefited from each of its titles having a clear purpose and tone. We have Duggan’s classic super-heroics in X-Men and the political machinations of the Quiet Council in Gillen’s Immortal X-Men, leaving Al Ewing’s X-Men: Red as the title to feature Arrokan society now inhabiting Mars. Leading the war-like mutants are Storm, Magneto, Cable, and Sunsport, an interesting assortment of ringers that clearly have a place in Ewing’s heart based on the care given to each. Complemented effectively by Stefano Caselli’s clear pencilwork, this first collection of issues works well at balancing action and table setting for future arcs resulting in it being one of the best current X-books.
This collection includes the first five issues of X-Men: Red, documenting Storm’s attempt to piece together a fractured Arrokan society as larger intergalactic conflicts simmer around the Mars inhabitants. A broken Magneto sits in Ororo’s corner, while Vulcan, Cable and Abigail Brand all pursue their own clandestine interests on the red planet. The major conflict in Arroka is the inclusion of Tarn the Uncaring on the planet’s Quiet Council, forcing Storm and Magneto to make a series of bold moves to minimize his influence and control over the mutant society.
X-Men Red, is for all intents and purposes, a continuation of Ewing’s previous X-title S.W.O.R.D., with the book acting as connective tissue to the larger Marvel galaxy while still building on the lore established during Jonathan Hickman’s run. With an entire new civilization of mutants created in the last few years, it was high time that their society got sustained attention in a monthly title. Thankfully, even though X-Men: Red gives plenty of space to develop the Arroka plotline, it focuses on the beloved X-Men characters who are working to aid and support this new mutant planet. Magneto and Storm, two individuals that have been elevated to almost Godlike status among mutants in the last few decades, now must exercise their influence and credibility within a cultural community far different than that on earth. Frankly, putting these two figureheads in this role is an excellent plot point that forces Storm and Magneto to adapt and improve.
Where Jonathan Hickman often throws a bathtub full of worldbuilding at the reader, Al Ewing stitches larger concepts through a narrative focus on its main cast. It’s hard to imagine that there hasn’t already been a title with Storm and Magneto collaborating at its narrative center, but Ewing was wise to tap the two to help explore the Arrokan society. The interplay between these two powerhouses is one of the best elements of X-Men Red, and ripe for future plot lines.
Stefano Caselli’s art is a perfect match for this title, with his expressive character designs that give true scale and importance to the cast’s actions. Additionally, Caselli is no slouch when it comes to animating the battle scenes, providing clear and exciting panel structure to the combat. Caselli’s visuals painlessly communicate the awe characters must experience when in the presence of these mutant titans, perfectly transmitting the books tone and intention.
The book looks and reads great, effectively capturing the massive scale of Hickman’s run with a character-focused approach to comic storytelling. X-Men: Red By Al Ewing is simply one of the best X-titles currently published and being able to read the first five issues back-to-back only reconfirmed my erstwhile judgement.
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