Welcome back to another installment of Mutantversity! Mutantversity is your home for all things X-Men. In Mutantversity, I, your loyal X-Men tutor, will look at all the things happening in the mutant universe. Each month, I’ll look at a handful of titles and rotate around each month. I’ll keep focus on the most important books or what I consider the most noteworthy. That’ll include crossovers, events, new creative teams and first issues. February is the shortest month of the year so this month, I’ll be looking at just five titles. Obviously, spoilers are everywhere in this.
Starting Again In A New World
“X-Men: Red #1” by Tom Taylor, Mahmud Asrar, Ive Svorcina and Cory Petit
“X-Men: Red” is the Jean Grey book. This is her team and for the most part, the story focuses on her. “X-Men: Red” #1 introduces us to her new mission very in a very straightforward sense. The issue opens with Jean and her new team helping out a young girl named Heather. Her family has found out she’s a mutant and wants to kill her. Jean takes her back to her new base called Searebro. We then flashback to two months before this at Roosevelt Island. Jean helps out a baby who is showing very early signs of mutant powers. The baby cries and unleashes this huge burst of power and so, when everything quiets down, Jean helps the baby with a mental block so that he can have a normal upbringing. Jean’s whole thing here is helping any and all mutants. She wants to do what Charles Xavier tried to do but without the delusions. Jean travels the world trying to make connections with world leaders to try and make a more positive world for fellow mutants. She gathers all kinds of brilliant minds to try and get an idea of what she should do next. With the support of Black Panther and Wakanda, she addresses the United Nations. It goes fine until the very end when she speaks to an ambassador from the United Kingdom. The ambassador is fine until she suddenly starts talking about how Jean will fail and she suddenly dies, framing Jean for this murder given her powers. Who was behind this? Cassandra Nova. YUP.
“X-Men: Red” #1 is really good and that shouldn’t be surprising but it kind of is. Yes, this another X-Men story that focuses on someone deciding they want to do good but it’s very different that “X-Men: Gold” and that’s because of Jean Grey. Taylor has someone new to play with but she’s very different from everyone else because she’s back from the dead and has been to the darkest places you can imagine. She comes in with what she feels is a clean slate but things are far worse than when she was last here. She’s in a position where she can do anything she wants but she’s choosing to help people because it’s what’s right and it’s what she wants to do. This issue mixes a lot of different things the X-Men are known for and it isn’t doing anything entirely new but it’s Taylor’s writing and the art team that make it feel so special. There’s political awareness, there’s fun, there’s teamwork and there’s a clearly visible history between these characters. It’s a superhero comic book that feels fresh without reinventing the wheel. It’s so many things and not just one thing and that’s why it works. “X-Men: Red” #1 is a really good jumping on point for any reader who heard about Jean’s return and want to know what happens next. This is what’s next and it can be read without any of the other series.
The Further Adventures of Honey Badger & Deadpool
“All-New Wolverine” #31 by Tom Taylor, Marco Failla, Nolan Woodard and Cory Petit
One of the best things to happen to the X-Men books in years has been Gabby Kinney, clone of Laura Kinney. She’s become such an integral part of Laura’s tenure as Wolverine and she’s even starting to show up in other books. “All-New Wolverine” #31 is all about Gabby/Honey Badger. Jonathan the actual wolverine is restless. We know this because he has a collar that allows humans to know what he’s saying. So, Laura tells Gabby to take him for a walk. When they go out, Jonathan takes Gabby to a lab of some sort where animal testing is going on and he says that’s where his family was. Gabby suits up as Honey Badger and puts a call in to her new best pal Deadpool. This is her first solo mission and he’s totally down to help her. They infiltrate the lab and discover that the animals are all zombies so they slice and dice their way though the building, putting the animals out of misery. Wolverine joins them later on because she’s worried about where Gabby went. They end up finding Jonathan’s family and the doctor responsible for turning them into zombies and they throw the doctor to the zombified wolverines and set fire to the building. The issue ends with Jonathan acknowledging that this is now his new family.Continued below
“All-New Wolverine” #31 is the most fun issue of the entire run but it’s not without emotional weight and that’s really what the series has done so well throughout its whole run. This issue is a perfect one off that gives Honey Badger the center stage and also highlights the really funny friendship she has with Deadpool. Tom Taylor has made Deadpool the weird but supportive uncle Gabby has never had and I absolutely love it. One of the things that’s made Gabby so special is that she hasn’t become a Hit Girl type of character. She’s not about mindless violence, murder for the fun of it and being just disturbing all around. She’s allowed to be young and with the guidance of Laura, she’s been helped in how to be a hero and not just a killing machine. This is a changing statement of the legacy of Wolverine and it’s such a big component of why this series has worked. This issue is probably not the best place to jump in as a brand new reader but if you’ve lapsed, start here. It’s fantastic.
“Rogue & Gambit” #2 by Kelly Thompson, Pere Perez, Frank D’Armata and Joe Caramagna
At the end of “Rogue & Gambit” #1, we saw our two heroes strapped to tables, looking at something very scary coming their way. Turns out, that was a brain mapping thing that they require of all of the people who stay at this resort. Rogue and Gambit are still undercover and Rogue is waiting for the other shoe to drop. She knows something is going on but like Gambit, has also allowed herself to be on vacation and in couples counseling. While they aren’t actually together, there’s an undeniable attraction between these two and they embrace this therapy session. What follows is a hilarious back and forth about their first memory of each other when they were under the control of the Shadow King. Gambit considers this their first meeting, Rogue doesn’t because of the mind control and they have very different versions of it that completely match their personalities perfectly. They end up doing more of their investigation and they end up finding what Rogue was worried about. There’s something going on. They find a lot of bodies hooked up to something and then they come face to face with their therapist and a hooded woman that I don’t recognize. That’s where the issue ends.
“Rogue & Gambit” is the exact book that the X-Men universe needs right now. It completely embraces the past and the future in not only the story but in the tone as well. It’s romantic, it feels like a soap opera but it’s also action packed and feels like a fantastic Marvel book. Thompson’s writing is so sharp and funny. She’s the perfect person to have on this title because it’s so clear that she not only knows these two inside and out but absolutely loves them. All their flaws, all their positives – it’s all here and it makes for the most fun book of the entire X-Men lineup. I know a lot of people trade wait on miniseries and that’s totally fine, just remember when you can, preorder this. You’ll love it.
A Man Called X
“Astonishing X-Men” #8 by Charles Soule, Paulo Siqueira, Walden Wong, Roberto Poggi, Edgar Delgado and Clayton Cowles
Proteus, like Charles Xavier, is back from the dead. There is also a green sun in the sky, which according to Bishop, is a sign of the end times. Proteus starts this issue feeding off of Bishop’s gunshots because the it gives him strength. Proteus, now strengthened a bit, he goes on a tear. The team all connect with each other a bit now that they’re out of the Astral Plane and then it’s on to the fight. Old Man Logan realizes that he can kill him with his claws with a little help from Archangel. Xavier tells them that this is what may need to happen but he comes up with something different. He takes Psylocke and they go into Proteus’s mind. When there, they meet Kevin and he talks a lot about how he was killed after one bad thing and never actually got a chance to live and if the X-Men try to hurt him again, he will fight back. Xavier takes this as a threat and whips out two psychic guns, shoots them and the issue ends with Xavier and Psylocke deformed and somehow together writhing on the ground. It’s super gross.Continued below
“Astonishing X-Men” is an okay comic book but it feels like it takes place in a completely different universe than the rest of the X-Men books and that kind of makes me feel weird about it. I’m not a stickler for continuity but Charles Xavier coming back should be a big thing for everyone else and it just isn’t. It’s been a couple of months in publishing and there’s really been no mention of it in any other books. The writing and the art are both consistently good but it just feels so elseworldy that it’s hard for me to connect with it as much as I probably should. It reminds me a lot of what DC does with Harley Quinn. In her book, she’s great. Her reinvention has really worked for me but she’s very different when she shows up in other books and it doesn’t always feel like the same person. When is this happening? Why hasn’t anyone else in the X-Men universe talked about this? Why haven’t they called in back up for a situation that could end the world? That’s the kind of stuff event books are made of. It’s all very weird despite the quality of the book.
Into The Mindscape
“Legion” #2 by Peter Milligan, Wilfredo Torres, Dan Brown and Travis Lanham
“Legion” #2 picks up immediately where the first issue left off. David and Dr. Hannah Jones meet and he tells her about himself. He decides to take her deep into his mind, which might take a while. When she enters his mind, Hannah is greeted by Tami, one of his personalities. They go through a journey into the further reaches of David’s psyche, reliving some of his most personal memories. One of the alters, Lord Trauma, is trying to take over and is doing damage to David’s psyche and the other alters. If Lord Trauma takes over, David ceases to exist and so it’s up to Dr. Jones to stop this from happening. And….that’s about it.
I’ll say this about “Legion,” it’s doing something different. This is a story about David Haller but it’s not from his point of view. It’s a strange, hallucinogenic story told through another character. Dr. Jones is like the audience’s view point. She provides the vessel needed to explain all these different things to us and because of that the series has really fallen flat so far. It’s so much about David’s origin and how his mind actually works that the story is kind of basic and not at all what I had hoped. It’s even worse when you consider how good Milligan actually is and how he could be telling us a really wild and trippy story but has settled for something very simple. I’m a little confused too by what the point of the series is. It’s an announced miniseries so it will have a finite ending but based on the story we’ve gotten so far, it feels like this is just the start of something ongoing instead of the start of a miniseries. If this were going 12 issues minimum, this would be great groundwork but for something that’ll be done in 6 issues, it’s not enough. It’s also a missed opportunity to capitalize on doing something close to what the show is doing. It’d be really easy to sell this to those people if this were even close to what that is. These Davids are very different and to be fair, comic David and what the show did were already different but with Marvel constantly rebooting and retooling things, this would have been a great chance to do that without losing much.
What were some of your favorite X-Men titles this month? Let me know in the comments!