In 1998 Marvel launched a new imprint known as Marvel Knights. Overseen by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, the line focused on underused characters at the time like “Black Panther,” “The Punisher,” “Daredevil,” and “The Inhumans.” While focusing on realistic and darker tones, the line also sought more independent talent to tell these stories. Creators like Kevin Smith, David W. Mack, Mike Oeming, Brian Michael Bendis, Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Bernie Wrightson, Jae Lee, Paul Jenkins, Amanda Conner, and more were able to tell Marvel stories that allowed for experimentation. After 2010, the line laid dormant and unused by Marvel. That was until 2013 when Marvel announced three new limited series Marvel Knights titles; Spider-Man, Hulk, and X-Men.
Written & Illustrated by Brahm Revel
Colored by Cris Peter
Wolverine, Kitty, and Rogue set out on the road to rescue new mutants from being murdered. But their help may not be welcome in this backwoods town–and the murderer may be closer to them than they think.
Much like the previous incarnations, these new titles highlighted more independent creators than readers might normally see from Marvel Comics. Matt Kindt and Marco Rudy took on Spider-Man, Joe Keatinge and Piotr Kowalski Hulk, and Brahm Revel on X-Men. Brahm had been working on his creator owned series “Guerillas” before the release of his “Marvel Knights: X-Men” title.
The series focuses on one mission that takes place over the course of one evening. It is an X-Men set up as Kitty and the team become aware of a mutant murder in a small town. They set out to figure out who is behind it and rescue other mutants who may be in danger. This premise allows for Brahm to take three classic X-Men characters in Kitty Pryde, Rouge, and Wolverine and place them in a setting outside of the normal world and ongoing events. Brahm is able to then focus on a story which explores the past of these characters but also ground it in a small town murder mystery.
For only a five-issue series, Brahm makes the most out of every issue. At the heart of the story is a very typical small town mystery. Unwelcoming residents, a corrupt sheriff, drug running, abuse, and ignorance. This narrative that focuses on the two mutants, Krystal and Darla, that the X-Men are trying to save who are wrapped up in this drama. There is a good mystery early on as to what is actually going on in the town. A dark almost creature of the week X-Files vibe is set in the first two issues. The two young girls through the course of the story experience the trials and tribulations many young X-Men has faced throughout the teams long history. Brahm is able to still keep these two girls at the center of the story, one that features three main X-Men heroes and decades’ worth of villains.
Forcing the story and the X-Men into a small town on one night, Brahm is able to keep the story moving on a great pace. Its focused and driven throughout all five issues. Just like his ability to make the most of the setting Brahm is also able to use the two powers of Krystal and Darla in a thoughtful way that drives the narrative and pushes characters to explore themselves in ways I would of not expected. I won’t spoil the girl’s powers as they are important to how the story unfolds but I will say they allow almost every character in the story to have their own smaller personal narrative arcs as the larger story progresses. In the short sample size of five issues, Brahm seems to understand the history and motivations of Kitty, Rouge, and Wolverine and puts it to use in the story and dialog between them. In addition like I mentioned previously Brahm also understands the history of what being a mutant in the Marvel Universe is like and works it in the story of these two young female mutants.
Brahm is also the artist on this series. Maybe at this point it sounds like I’m strictly talking about the “writing”duties but all of the narrative moments only work as well as they do because of his visual story telling accompanying the dialogue. Brahm’s heavy lines and boxier character help to sell the darker tone of the story early on. It feels like it could easily be a horror comic at any point and that helps to keep the reader on edge as the mystery unfolds. He is able to break characters down to simple forms and gestures to convey the emotions at a more base level. This all happens in a story where he also draws an all out mutant street brawl. He is able to ramp up the action at any moment to then cut to a panel containing crushing emotional imagery. Cris Peter’s colors fuel a nice blend of tones as well. The colors skew in dark tones early on and as it progresses Cris mixes in much brighter colors in addition to the blacks. At some points the pages are filled with neon greens and pinks cut with Brahms heavy ink lines. It all works to highlight important moments and panels in the story.Continued below
Brahm is able to explore the past of the X-Men in both the broadest and most literal sense in just five issues. He is able to probe their darkest fears and nightmares but also is able to bring forth the best in them as well. From beginning to end the story and visuals work on every level for me. Each issue is its own adventure. This series is a perfect example of what a Marvel Knights story and line can be for Marvel Comics. The two other series launched along side Brahm’s X-Men had the same innovative and unique story telling and look that his had. However, following the completion of the three series the Marvel Knights line has laid dormant. Brahm also only worked on this series for Marvel at this point in time as well. This leaves me wondering what readers could be enjoying right now if the Marvel Knights line would have been allowed to continue and Brahm Revel was allowed to tell more interesting stories like “Marvel Knights: X-Men” for Marvel Comics.