Kieron Gillen took on quite a task when he signed up to write Immortal X-Men. Jonathan Hickman had just left his position as ‘Head of X’ and main architect of the Krakoan-Era he invented. And so the X-office needed someone creative, talented and popular to guide the further development of the mutant paradise. But, Hickman left big shoes to fill. Luckily, if the first six issues collected in Immortal X-Men Vol. 1 are any indication, Gillen is the perfect writer to shape the next phase of Krakoa’s story.
Now, Gerry Duggan is writing the main X-Men title, but that focuses much more on the superhero adventures of Jean Grey and Cyclops’ X-Men team. And Benjamin Percy continues to write both X-Force and Wolverine. But those follow more of the black-op missions against Krakoa’s more dangerous enemies.
Gillen’s task in Immortal X-Men is to explore the political inner workings of Krakoa’s Quiet Council at a time of great upheaval. The revelations and twists that came out of Hickman’s final X-Men series, Inferno, certainly threw the power dynamic of the Quiet Council into a tailspin. Accordingly, in Immortal X-Men everyone has secrets. Everyone has an agenda. And everyone is scheming in some way, trying to drive the mutant paradise toward their own desired goals.
Gillen chose an ambitious and very difficult approach to Immortal X-Men. Each issue features a different member of the Quiet Council as the point of view character. It’s hard enough for a writer to get two different narrative voices correct. Trying to nail down six different voices in six consecutive issues – and potentially 12 voices in 12 issues, if this continues – is incredibly difficult.
For the most part, Gillen is successful. Each character’s narration sounds at least a little different from the others, and the different perspectives give the reader a direct view into the desires and motivations of each Quiet Council member. Gillen also gives each member at least one dominant character trait to remember them by, for example, Exodus as a religious zealot who basically worships Hope Summers as the mutant Messiah.
Fortunately, Gillen starts the series with none other than Mister Sinister. We have already seen what a fun and entertaining character Sinister can be in Zeb Wells’ Hellions series; a flamboyantly arrogant and morally corrupt person who you just love to hate. Gillen was actually the writer who originally gave Sinister this flamboyant personality back in his Uncanny X-Men run. It’s now the go to choice for Sinister’s character.
And Gillen obviously loves to write Sinister, giving him the most important plotline and the most shocking secrets. In fact, Immortal X-Men is best when it’s about Sinister and his plans.
But, as I said, each issue focusses on a different member of the Quiet Council. So, Sinister’s storyline really only appears in three of the six issues. The exploration of different Council members makes for interesting character studies. However, it also makes it difficult to follow one definite plot-line.
After six issues, I think I counted two and a half or three major storylines that have been set-up. In this way, Gillen is definitely writing in the long-term style of Hickman. These are interesting plots that I want to follow, but it’s a bit disappointing to get to the end of Vol. 1 and not really have much concluded. I assume that at least Sinister’s plot-line is leading up to the upcoming Sins of Sinister crossover, making the release of this collection on December 6th well timed.
Another slight problem with the focus on different Council members, each issue must give the reader at least a basic idea of who the highlighted character is before getting back to anything else. Accordingly, each issue feels a bit like a retelling of at least a portion of that characters origin. Sometimes this is really interesting, like the issue on Destiny. At other times it slows down the narrative progress. It bogs down Exodus’s issue particularly.
On top of that, the series gets caught up in the Marvel line-wide Judgment Day crossover – also written by Gillen – in issues #5 and #6. Unfortunately, most of the action must have happened in the main series of the crossover, because we end up only seeing side-stories or after effects in the two Immortal X-Men issues.
In fact, Immortal X-Men also includes considerable connections to events taking place in many other books – X-Men, Legion of X and the aforementioned Judgment Day crossover. Since I haven’t read those series, yet, at least once or twice I felt like I was missing something.
Main artist Lucas Werneck definitely deserves praise for his highly detailed work. The world of the X-Men on Krakoa comes alive and the colors by David Curiel and Dijjo Lima make everything bright and popping. I especially liked how Werneck depicted the way Destiny sees possible futures, more as intangible clouds than solid lines, with the size of clouds representing the likelihood of that particular future.
The only thing that bothered me in Werneck’s style was his use of very thick lines. It makes many images look like the characters and backgrounds were drawn separately and then everything was cut and pasted together digitally. Sometimes this makes the character look very flat or somewhat out of place.
I actually might have been more impressed with Michele Bandini’s work as the fill-in artist on issue #5, Exodus’ issue. Although some faces have eyes that are way too big, his splash pages were awesome.
In conclusion, if you were worried about the further development of the X-Men’s Krakoa-Era after Hickman’s departure – as I was – in Immortal X-Men Vol. 1, Kieron Gillen gives you reason to put those worries aside. He seems to have come into the prime of his superhero writing career, so it’s no wonder that Marvel has given him two important event crossovers in the span of six months. Werneck’s art might not take your breath away, but it’s very good and very detailed.
My biggest complaint is, after six issues, it still feels like everything is being set up, but not much is concluded. If you are the patient type, you might just be better off waiting for a collection of the first 12 issues, which is bound to be released at some point. Otherwise, Immortal X-Men Vol. 1 is essential reading for anyone following the Krakoan-Era of X-Men.
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