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411’s Comic Reviews: Giant Sized X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost #1, New Mutants #8, More 

February 27, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Giant Size X-Men Jean Grey and Emma Frost

Hello and welcome to 411mania’s weekly Comic Book Review! Each week we’ll be serving up a warm dish of reviews (and previews) from Marvel, DC, and anything else that captures our interest. What did you pick up this week? Let us know in the comments.Want to write a review? If you can write at least one review a week, consistently, email me at [email protected]!  

Before we jump into things I wanted to give the great Mark McKenna’s Kickstarter some shine. While it doesn’t go live till March 1st, find him on social media and stay tuned for his Banana Tails project. As he says…

I created Banana Tail back in the late 1990s with my dear old departed dad and he’s never gotten to see that his son, me, developed his idea into a beloved children’s book series for those familiar with it. I started out submitting Banana Tail to staples in the children’s book market like Little Golden Books, Little, Brown, and Simon & Schuster and got very close to getting a contract with a few of them. It was eye-opening to say the least, but these “near misses” helped me realize I had something worthy.

This is one project you won’t want to miss. 

Giant Sized X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost #1

Review By Jeremy Thomas

Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run is one of the hallowed benchmarks of modern X-Men history.  Many put the 2001 through 2004 series in a category with the likes of Claremont’s 1980s work, Jim Lee and Fabian Nicieza’s ’90s runs and the Joss Whedon Astonishing X-Men series that eventually followed it.  Among the more beloved issues is New X-Men #121, “Silence: Psychic Rescue in Progress.”  That issue saw Jean Grey and Emma Frost — deep in the throes of their animosity over Emma’s psychic affair with Cyclops — going jointly into Xavier’s mind to rescue him after Cassandra Nova took his body and left him in her own comatose one.

That issue was undoubtedly the best example of Marvel’s “Nuff Said” experiment, where no comics released during that month had dialogue. Morrison and artist Frank Quitely were able to tell so much strictly through art that it transcended the need for words, particularly about Jean and Emma.  And as they’re professed lovers of that issue, it’s no surprise that to kick off their Giant Sized X-Men specials, Jonathan Hickman and Russell Dauterman decided to use an homage to it in order to explore how the relationship between Jean and Emma stands now. The two are needed to join forces in order to venture into Storm’s mind after the latter is found unconscious and bleeding on Krakoa.  And much as they did with Xavier before, the two team up to enter Storm’s mind and determine what has happened and where to go next.

Direct homages are a tricky proposition, especially in regard to something so gimmicky as a no-dialogue comic book issue.  The fact that New X-Men #121 is actually quite good — a rarity among the “Nuff Said” books — makes it even trickier. Hickman and Dauterman are working against a very high bar of expectations, something they obviously knew going in.  To their credit, the two are audacious enough not to try and lean away from the homage.  Rather, they lean as far in as possible. There are many direct correlations to “Silence” in “Into the Storm,” and they work because the team nimbly put the books in direct contrast in order to show how Jean and Emma’s relationship has changed.

It’s been a long road for these two characters, to say the least. That said, due to the chaos of Morrison’s run and then Jean being dead for so long, it’s not one that has ever really given writers a proper chance to explore what they mean to each other.  There were always moments here and there, but they were just that: moments.  Dawn of X is arguably the first time Marvel been in a position to touch on it in any real capacity.  Hickman sets the story here, and he’s able to find moments where the comparison works while delving into some trippy imagery.

In truth though, as you might expect from a silent issue this is the artist’s place to truly take center stage.  And Dauterman shines brightly.  He’s able to get so much emotion out of simple variations in posture and expression, truly capturing not only Emma and Jean are, but what they are to each other now and what they mean to Storm.  There’s even time to explore the current dynamic between Scott and Logan, who make brief appearances as they wait on the outside.

It’s not just about the character dynamics here though. Dauterman’s artwork, while less psychedelically wild than Quitely’s was, nonetheless stays consistently breath-taking throughout.  He and Hickman capture a couple little nods here and there to who Storm is in the greater MCU — a Black Panther reference is unmissable and appreciated, for example.  And the imagery of Storm’s mindscape speaks volumes that words would fail to capture.

The story that Giant Sized X-Men seems to be kicking off is interesting enough, if far more within the lines than the stylistic choices.  It’s certainly not bad by any means, though there’s a sense that it’s there just to facilitate this story and perhaps the Giant Sized X-Men: Storm issue arriving in a few months.  But plot servicing art isn’t a bad thing, as long as they both properly create the narrative. That’s exactly what happens in here, resulting in a nicely executed exploration of all three of its leads in Emma, Jean and Storm.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

New Mutants #8

Review by Jeremy Thomas

Last week saw Jonathan Hickman’s time on New Mutants finish up, putting an end to the book’s oddly alternating story structure.  While the whole dual story structure had its ups and downs, it had largely outlived its benefits and it’s nice to see Ed Brisson get a chance to take sole ownership of the book.  That said, New Mutants #8 may not be the best start.  With the whole of the New Mutants in his sandbox, Brisson decides to start off with “A-Hunting We Will Go,” a tale that hints at starting a new arc but might work better as a one-off buffer between the previous two storylines and what he has planned next.

To be fair, this issue actually seems more like a coda to Brisson’s story with Armor, Beak and company than its own bit or a new storyline. Following the tragic events of that run, Armor and Boom-Boom are feeling somewhat like they need a win.  That leads them to Nova Roma, the faux-Classical Roman community hidden within Brazil that Magma calls home.  Magma has brought them to Nova Roma to deal with the fact that Brazil — a nation hostile to Krakoa — is also seemingly home to creatures that hunt down mutants attempting to escape to their new homeland-to-be.  That leads them on a mission to make the Krakoan gateway safe, which means combat with some dangerous monsters in the jungle.

To Brisson’s credit, he does his best to make “A-Hunting We Will Go” more overtly a “fun read” style of book than an issue capturing the weightier concerns that titles like X-Men and X-Force are doing.  And he’s at least somewhat successful at that.  A team-up consisting of Boom-Boom, Armor and Magma isn’t one I would have pictures as working, but it’s nice to see Amara interacting with someone who isn’t one of the original New Mutants for once. Boom-Boom adds her usual snark and Armor is mostly there to provide some more competence.  They mesh well enough and the dialogue between them flows easily.  Brisson mostly has the characters down solidly; though Amara’s voice does feel slightly generic, that’s more a case of the character suffering for
years from being underwritten than anything else.

The biggest problem that the issue has is that the story is not only slight, it’s brushing up against people and places that are hard to care about.  Nova Roma was never a good idea, nor has it ever been executed particularly well.  Here, it’s just used as a launching point for a fight that feels more perfunctory than anything else.  The lack of attention paid Magma over the years has made her the least interesting original New Mutant by a country mile.  Perhaps if she’d been in Brisson or Hickman’s previous arcs of this volume we’d have found more reason to care, but it’s just not here.

Even with those complaints, it’s hard to argue that this is a particularly bad issue.  The action is well-executed and Marco Failla’s animated style fits well with the feel of the story.  I can’t say enough good things about Carlos Lopez’s color work either; Lopez makes the action pop and lends the appropriate tone to a Sebastian Shaw scene which gives that character some more nuance after his straight-up villainous actions in Marauders.  Coming to this issue for a fascinating story will leave you disappointed, but it’s at least pretty to look at and carries the status quo of Brisson’s New Mutants work so far.  I just hope he picks things up here soon before “passable” becomes the norm for a title that deserves much more than that.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

X-Men /Fantastic Four #2

Review by Jeremy Thomas

The first issue of X-Men/Fantastic Four saw Chip Zdarsky do a lot of work setting up the conflict for the series, as Franklin Richards finds himself caught between his parents and the nation that has been labeled as mutantkind’s birthright.  That book did a deft job of engaging the dynamics of blood family vs. community, a topic that Dawn of X is well-positioned to handle.  While there were certainly some major mistakes and questionable intentions on both sides, Zdarsky smartly positioned Franklin as the centerpiece and not a side character in what is essentially his story.

That positioning shifts in the second issue, “Broken Borders.” While Franklin is certainly present in the issue, he is essentially a walking, sometimes-talking MacGuffin.  Whereas Kate Pryde empowered Franklin to make his own choices last issue, this issue is all about the adults and how they’re dealing with the situation.  That includes both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, but also Doom who showed up at the end of last issue.  Even Kate and Franklin’s younger sister Valeria – who often acts like an adult due to her genius intellect – do it.  Everyone is talking about Franklin, but no one’s really talking to him in this issue.

That decision feels like it’s done by design.  It’s certainly not that Kate or Val are ignoring Franklin’s wishes, but the Doom’s appearance on the scene escalates the situation and that means the adults need to handle some things.  Zdarsky captures the essence of what it’s like to be in the middle of a situation like this.  A lot of people can relate to family and/or friends situations when everyone else is arguing about you, but no one is actually looking to you to see what you feel about the situation.  This is a big part of what kind of story Zdarsky seems to be telling and it’s well laid-out.

That said, with Franklin largely out of the active participation it means that there’s plenty of room for conflict.  Mostly, of course, that’s on the part of the X-Men and FF.  Zdarsky knows his characters well, and Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson’s art (along with Rachel’s fellow inkers Karl Story and Ransom Getty) nails the punching and powers aspects of the issue.  Dodson’s renditions of Doom are a delight, although the less masked characters have some expressions that come off a bit less lively than they should be.

Much like the first issue set up the conflict, this second issue is mostly there to build complications in.  The thematic debate is still there, but it takes a bit of a backseat to plot development and action. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, although it does make this more of a table-setting issue than it is one with satisfying emotional payoff.  As with any good miniseries, there’s still plenty of twists to go even with only two issues left and we’re left with an intriguing and potentially dangerous complication that provides more than sufficient reason to continue reading on.  Whether you’re an X-Men fan or Fantastic Four fan, “Broken Borders” won’t have the immediate draw of the first issue but does tell the next step quite solidly.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

X-Men #7

Review by Jeremy Thomas
There’s a lot to be said about what the Dawn of X line is trying to accomplish.  The Jonathan Hickman-led initiative has not been shy about its ambitions, what with the self-separating mutant nation and all the themes, political and otherwise, that go along with such a tale.  These have been big, world-shaking topics that in many cases have touched on themes, allegorically or otherwise, with real-world relevance.  Not every X-Book is delving into deep waters at this time, but they’re all admirably using the new status quo to explore new storyline ground.

Of course, as the architect of the whole thing Hickman is most likely to reach into the weighty topics.  And X-Men #7, “Lifedeath,” does just that.  It’s interesting that Hickman chose that title, as Lifedeath has previously referred to Storm-centric issues from years past. Storm is barely in this issue, but the title is still apt as we learn how Krakoa is handling the mutants who were depowered during the infamous Decimation (aka the Scarlet Witch “No More Mutants” arc) and how to restore them, if they wish to be restored.  The answer is The Crucible, an event that everyone on Krakoa appears to have a lot of thoughts about – and not all of them positive.

While “Lifedeath” is not a Storm story – in truth, she only appears in one panel – the issue is thematically resonant with the other stories with that name in a big way.  The “Lifedeath” stories served as a test of Storm’s character, resolve and faith which is very much what The Crucible represents both within the narrative and thematically.  Many of the Dawn of X books have dealt with the fact that in a world where mutants have conquered death, the stakes have changed.  That development also means a lot in terms of faith, and we see that through the lens of a selection of characters who are strongly associated with faith in different ways.

Hickman raises a lot of very thorny questions here, and it’s to his credit that he acknowledges the thorns without trying to pluck them out.  These are obviously not easily answered questions, and in this case it’s more about what the questions reveal about the characters. There’s been a noticeable lack of dissent among the characters on Krakoa to date (certain characters like Mystique excepted), and the ritual here marks a change in some key characters.  This is the first stage in the discussion of what faith means in this status quo; if there’s no follow-up, then that will be a huge problem.  But assuming that there will be, this sets up some very interesting questions moving forward.

“Lifedeath” is perhaps the story best suited to Leinil Francis Yu’s art to date on this series.  Yu’s line work is stark and severe, which makes characters like Apocalypse loom heavy in their roles while others appear as conflicted as they should be. Hickman has had some very lofty ambitions in this series and his success in achieving them has not been 100%, but for all of its discomfort (and it is clearly supposed to be very uncomfortable), “Lifedeath” is perhaps the best example of him hitting his mark.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10  

X-Force #8 Review
By Jeremy Thomas

Benjamin Percy has proven thus far on X-Force to know his way around a sticky situation. Krakoa’s black ops/intelligence division isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty, whether it’s in a literal fashion with the field team or morally dubious matters from Beast, Jean Grey and Sage. This has helped X-Force stand out as a top-tier Dawn of X book so far.

That said, we haven’t seen a whole lot of focus on deeper character development in the series yet and the threats have been largely episodic in nature. That’s not an absolute, nor is it to say that the characters don’t feel fully actualized. It’s simply that this hasn’t been the primary focus of the book, which has seen Percy and his artist collaborators of Joshua Cassara and Oscar Bazaldua busy establishing the book’s tone and mood. The first real steps into a character’s psyche were seen in last issue’s Domino-focused story.

Issue #8, the aptly-titled “Game of Dominoes,” continues that journey as she uncovers their mysterious enemy’s schemes involving her captured DNA and sets out to deal with it – and hopefully get her luck back in the process. This brings Colossus back into her orbit. The former lovebirds find themselves grappling with the topic of their resurrections and what it means for them as they head out to take out a major arrow in their adversary’s quiver.

As I said before, Percy hasn’t jumped too deeply into character introspection up until this point. But “Game of Dominoes” makes the case for those unfamiliar with his non-Dawn of X work that he’s just as adept with this as he is with visceral violence. Percy draws on the connection between Neena and Piotr in a way that feels thoroughly natural; their connection here and emotional ties feel real, and not just gbecause they’ve been through similar things. Colossus provides a different viewpoint that Neena, with their emotional disagreements speaking to the value of holding onto pain versus trying to divest yourself of it. These are heavy issues to tackle in a book where previous highlights include half a Wolverine continuing to be a killing machine and a group of masked shadowy villains plotting nefarious deeds, and Percy – aided by Bazaldua’s stellar art work – pulls it off well.

It’s curious to guess at where X-Force goes from here. The main villainous organization has been going on for eight issues now and feels a little undercooked, so much that their developments in this issue don’t play quite as well as they should. But that’s an absolute nitpick when the character work is so good. All in all, this is another fine issue that keeps X-Force near the top of the Dawn of X line where it belongs.

Rating: 8.0


Preview by Steve Gustafson
At the height of World War II, the world’s most ingenious minds began a race to create a super-weapon capable of ending the war with the push of a button. One of those projects gave us the atom bomb…and another produced the world’s first supercomputer: ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) – an immeasurably complex mathematical model that targeted the Axis war machine by calculating missile trajectories and troop deployments.

Everybody knows that. It’s real-life American history.

Or so we were told.

On August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.

Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki… Only President Truman wasn’t the one who gave order.

It was ENIAC.

In the Allies’ determination to end the war, they had accidentally created the world’s first autonomous machine intelligence…which had quickly deduced that one bomb wouldn’t be enough.

But ENIAC’s real plan was only just beginning…

Now, 75 years later, an encrypted countdown has just been detected in Earth’s satellite network and mankind only has three days left before ENIAC launches every weapon in the planet’s nuclear arsenal simultaneously. With few options and even less time, the Secretary of Defense has just given two covert operatives the most important mission in human history: kill ENIAC.

From the minds of New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt and incendiary artist Doug Braithwaite comes ENIAC #1, the debut series from BAD IDEA – the disruptive and experimental new comic publisher pushing the bounds of the medium (and your patience) one issue a time. This is no ordinary comic book… This is the long-classified history of an unspoken superpower more formidable than all of Earth’s nations combined…and now its story can finally be told.

The Heroes Union Binge Book #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson 
The Blue Baron, Windfall, Raider, Honcho, Protégé, Bull and Startup — together they form The Heroes Union, an all-new team of costumed heroes from legendary creators Roger Stern (The Avengers), Ron Frenz (Spider-Man) & Sal Buscema (Captain America).  In this action-packed premiere, a call for help leads The Heroes Union to another galaxy where they must confront a cosmic foe who destroys entire planets not for conquest or for vengeance but for (SPOILER)!  The Binge Age of Comics arrives in this 64-page, self-contained epic for only $3.99!  That’s like getting a three-issue story arc for the price of a single issue!  

Sounds pretty cool, right?  And if you like that, you’ll LOVE the actual comic!

The Avant-Guards: Down to the Wire

Preview by Steve Gustafson
BOOM! Studios is proud to reveal a first look at THE AVANT-GUARDS: DOWN TO THE WIRE, an original graphic novel concluding the story of the beloved group of misfit art students who banded together to create their school’s first ever basketball team. This new original graphic novel, picking up after issue eight and available in stores September 2020, reunites the acclaimed team of filmmaker and writer Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl) and artist Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer), with colorist Eleonora Bruni and letterer Ed Dukeshire, for a brand-new adventure with their team of unlikely athletes brought together by friendship and sports shenanigans.

School, romance, friends, and family collide in this epic conclusion to THE AVANT-GUARDS series as the team struggles to save their league! The final game of the season is here, the team has got to plan the perfect fundraiser, and everyone’s parents decided to show up to cheer them on during the most stressful time they could ever imagine. In the middle of it all, Liv & Charlie are figuring out just what it means to be “Liv & Charlie.”

 It’s Just A Lot For Everyone To Deal With. Luckily the entire existence of the league doesn’t depend on this one game or the Avant-Guards winning, right? Oh, wait . . .

THE AVANT-GUARDS is the latest release from BOOM! Studios’ award-winning BOOM! Box imprint, home to groundbreaking original series such as Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooklyn Allen, and Noelle Stevenson; Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Max Sarin; Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin and Nina Vakueva; Misfit City by Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith, Kurt Lustgarten, and Naomi Franquiz; Fence by C.S. Pacat and Johanna The Mad; and Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams.

That’s all the time we have. Tell us what you’re reading below and see you back here next week! You can now find our reviews on!