The ‘Dawn of X’ era has been a landmark highlight of Marvel publishing as of late, and of the X-Men in general. With this one-shot, the creative team has created another crown jewel of the line.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Russel Dauterman
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
HICKMAN & DAUTERMAN TAKE ON GREY & FROST! The first of five essential X-tales specially designed to showcase some of Marvel’s best artists! First up, Russell Dauterman, superstar artist of THOR and WAR OF THE REALMS! When Storm is in danger, it’s going to take two of the most powerful telepaths on Earth working together to make things right. Jean Grey and Emma Frost, together again for the good of Krakoa!
Before going into the proper review, a bit of history. Back in February 2002, Marvel devised a challenge for the creative teams of the time, to tell stories within their regular series completely devoid of words (balloons, captions, etc). Under the ‘Nuff Said’ banner, those issues were often used as introspective moments, usually without affecting the main plot of the line’s stories. In enter Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly with “New X-Men” #121, with probably the best of the concept (even if they cheated a little bit on the no-word policy). It was a provocative issue, with plenty of consequences, and beautifully executed.
Nearly 20 years later, Hickman, Dauterman, and Wilson pay a homage to that issue, both thematically and visually, and manage to achieve another great example of visual narrative.
The plot swirls around a psychic rescue that Jean Grey and Emma Frost need to conduct for their fallen ally and friend (at least for Jean), Storm. This concept is the same as the one utilised for “New X-Men” #121, where the same pairing of Jean and Emma set out to rescue a comatose Professor X, after being attacked by Cassandra Nova. This is an important highlight, as it bring the issue’s differentiated approach to the story itself. On multiple occasions, Jean and Emma need to be creative on how to communicate within Storm’s minds cape, without relying on direct conversations.
In terms of story, and without going into spoiler territory, there is not a lot more to go on. Yes, there is a powerful reveal at the very end of it, but it is on script and art execution that this issue shines the most.
First, there is a consistent approach on how Jean and Emma are treated as characters individually, and on how their often rivalrous relationship is depicted. It is by small gestures, and nuanced situations, that readers understand how each mutant is a sharp contrast of the other, and where they share similar grounds and objectives. Two particular moments illustrated that well: the offering of an alcoholic beverage initially, and later during what can be describe as a mental explanation of each heroine’s history with Storm.
That said, the second, most important aspect of this issue, is the powerhouse effort of what Dauterman and Wilson are able to do with pure visual storytelling. This reviewer finds it almost a spoiler to comment on it, as this issue is best appreciated for the visual surprises it provides, on every single page. Some examples stand out.
The moment where Jean and Emma first enter Storm’s mind, and are greeted by a totemic guardian, is brilliant. In order to explain who they are, Jean utilizes smoke particles to remind Storm of their reencounter during the ‘Inferno’ saga. It is with suave strokes, and twirling smokes, that Dauterman denotes friendship. By opposition, Emma’s displays is far more angular, displaying a combat, with her own body language being much more dismissive.
Another strong highlight occurs shortly after, when Jean and Emma enter a giant African tree, the stronghold of Storm’s mind. It is a turbulent entrance, one that Dauterman reveals by the page and panel layout dissolving itself, being further reassembled into a giant, iconic imagery of Storm.
There are several other moments to note but, again, mentioning too many of them would ruin the surprise. Suffice to say that Dauterman reveals a masterful level of using dreamscape iconography to create innovative, trippy designs. All of that without losing the key details of body and facial expressions, reinforcing Jean and Emma’s personality, and how both of them relate to Storm.Continued below
Finally, Wilson’s colors are just as important to infuse the issue with the right tone and atmosphere. The dreamscape is elusive, using pastel tones, but without failing to apply different colors to mark distinct story beats and situations.
All in all, “Giant Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost” is a great example of script and illustration being so cohesive, so beautifully executed, that it becomes another landmark of this run. A must have.
Final Verdict: 8.9 – A beautiful homage to “New X-Men” #121, that takes the best of that issue and adds on top of it, “Giant Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost” is a visual narrative treat.