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411’s Comic Reviews: New Mutants #2, X-Force #2, More  

November 28, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
New Mutants 2

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]!  

X-Force #2

Review by Jeremy Thomas
At this point, it’s fair to say that X-Force is the book most central to the Dawn of X line.  That comes down to Xavier’s assassination that closed out the first issue, a moment that has been felt in every other title since.  Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara got off to a bang (pun intended) in an uneven start and nicely expand upon their premise with this issue, “The Sword of Damocles.”

The idea around the current X-Force run is essentially that of a Krakoan CIA.  We saw hints of that last month, but it’s here that this concept really starts to gel. Percy splits the cast two ways here; Jean, Beast, Sage, Black Tom, and Cecilia Reyes work on finding information, while Logan goes out hunting for leads in his own fashion.

Both parts of this issue are both fun and horrifying in parts, reveling in a Cronenbergian level of body horror.  Wolverine’s quest is arguably the most enjoyable, as Percy brings Quentin Quire in.  Quire is a character who inspires strong feelings one way or the other, to say the least.  It’s really hard though not to enjoy the banter between him and Logan, though.  The two are tailor made to play off each other, and it gives us a good insight into exactly how Wolverine feels about this new status quo.

Meanwhile, on Krakoa we get the weight of exactly what Xavier’s murder means for the mutant nation.  We already know that there’s contingencies in place for this, but Percy makes it clear that this has never been tested out.  That adds doubt into some of the characters, which makes for a good way to test them.  We can see how this side of the team are fitting together, and in some ways they’re more terrifying to ponder than the side with adamantium claws, psychic shotguns and an overdose of attitude.

The biggest improvement in this issue is the art. X-Force #1 was plagued with some issues of indistinct visual comparison, which is not a concern here. Cassara is also clearly having a blast portraying the way Krakoa works; Sage and Reyes’ autopsy room is all roots and flora and blood, both gruesome and gorgeous in equal measures.  The Logan/Quire side has some disturbing scenes in their own right, as well as a wonderful panel in which Quentin panics to great effect.  Dean White’s coloring adds remarkable texture to everything as well.

In a lot of ways, this issue feels like the true start of X-Force as a book.  The previous issue had to do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of set-up, and here we can see what Percy and Cassara want to do in the title.  It’s an exciting chapter with a few jaw-dropping moments, and one that has kickstarted my excitement for this series in a major way.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

New Mutants #2

Review by Jeremy Thomas
It almost goes without saying that Jonathan Hickman’s work with House of X, Powers of X and the Dawn of X thus far has been tectonic in how it’s shifted the status quo of mutants in the Marvel Universe.  If there’s a criticism to be had in it though, it would be that Hickman’s characterization tends to the clinical side.  His X-Men are undoubtedly great characters, but there are times they don’t necessarily feel quite like authentic people.

Thus far, New Mutants is the Hickman book that’s bucking that trend, with issue #2 continuing that trend. There’s a real sense of life to this book.  Hickman’s portrayal of the original New Mutants team in particular captures everything that this long-time reader and lover of these characters finds essential to them.

Hickman largely focuses on Sunspot in this issue and his relationship with Cannonball, the reason that the team is out in space.  Last issue ended up with them in Shi’ar custody after their ill-advised team up with the Starjammers, and “Space Jail” sees them trying to avoid punishment within the empire’s justice system.  The way Hickman lets the story play out, it feels largely like the team falling into a new episodic adventure after the first issue’s, and that fits firmly with the old-school X-Men vibes here.

While Sunspot’s foibles are at the center of these pages, most of the rest of the OG New Mutants have chances to shine as well. Artist Rod Reis’ work captures the warmth of the characters and their familial dynamic.  There is a bit of unfortunate sidelining of the two characters who aren’t part of the original team in Chamber and Mondo; both of whom mostly play background here.  One expects they’ll have more to do as the series progresses though, and since we’re mostly about getting the team together here it isn’t egregious.

The last time we saw the Shi’ar in X-Men books was in Kelly Thompson’s Mr. & Mrs. X, and fans of that book will appreciate some of the elements brought into this story.  Shi’ar royal politics is an inextricable element of X-Men lore, and it’s always fertile ground for space stories.  Hickman and Reis are making good use of it here, with a final page that is sure to excite some folks.

New Mutants is making a play for being one of the most light-hearted of the Dawn of X titles, and it’s easy to achieve that when you have such a strong group of close friends at its core.  Not every joke lands (the court sequence wants to be funnier than it is), but enough do that it’s a breeze to read. The next couple of issues will be returning back to Earth and Krakoa for a different group of young mutants.  While I’m looking forward to that it will be a day-counting couple of months until issue #5 comes out, because this story has been an incredibly fun ride thus far and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Fallen Angels #2

Review by Jeremy Thomas

The first issue of Bryan Edward Hill’s Fallen Angels set the book up as a character study into Psylocke, aka Kwannon/Revanche, as she tries to discover her own identity now that she’s alive and herself again in a world where the Krakoan nation exists.  It wasn’t incredibly successful, but it did show some potential even as it stumbled on its portrayal of supporting characters X-23 and Kid Cable.

The second issue, “Shoto,” sees Hill continue the exploration of Psylocke’s past as she tries to learn more about the dangerous Apoth and his virtual narcotic Overclock.  Hill and artist Szymon Kudranski are clearly setting out to explore the unclaimed territory that is Kwannon as a character, which is an admirable goal and one I’ve been wanting to see for a long time.  She’s been little more than a cypher and a plot device for far too long. This issue sees Psylocke continue to take Laura and Cable under her wing, trying to provide them some sort of guidance. 

There are moments where this works, notably with Kid Cable, but Laura’s case in particular there still seems to be something off about how Hill is portraying her.  Retcons and ignoring history are nothing new to comics, but Laura in particular had a strong direction in the past few years and Hill’s dialogue is still struggling to come to terms with that.  She’s on better footing here than the first issue, and its understandable to some degree that we’re not going too in depth yet. Psylocke is the center of the book right now, now X-23 or Cable.

And to Hill’s credit, he’s doing interesting things with Kwannon, delving into her past as an agent of the Hand via flashbacks.  The Hand as an adversarial organization in Marvel has been vastly watered down over the years to generic undead ninjas.  Hill adds some shading and depth to them here, and by doing so he gets toward the core of who Psylocke is.  He doesn’t follow up on the big revelation last issue of Psylocke’s child, but then much of the Apoth/Overclock plot is sidelined here in order for both good content (the flashbacks) and bad (a maddening conversation with Sinister that seems like treading water).

The visual aesthetic of the book is the biggest sticking point here. Kudranski is going for a shadowy vibe in his artwork; there are literally no scenes that take place during the day, and he makes the most of the night to drape the book in mood.  That’s offset though by his frustrating reliance on extreme close-ups. For every strong panel like in the opening action sequence, there are at least a couple of shots of someone’s eye or a set of teeth.  The intent seems to be making this an intimate study, and some of the close-ups capture emotion effectively.  Others, like a panel of Kid Cable’s teeth, take you right out of the story.

Hill and Kudranski are taking things slow here, and the final panel promises some excitement next week.  I’m all for character studies, and this is definitely a step up from the first issue’s missteps.  There’s still a lot of work to go before this becomes a title worthy of its characters or its creators, but the small steps are appreciated.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Angel #8

Preview by Steve Gustafson

BOOM! Studios, in partnership with 20th Century Fox, revealed a first look at ANGEL #8. Acclaimed filmmaker and writer Bryan Edward Hill (American Carnage, Batman & The Outsiders) and artist Gleb Melnikov, along with series creator and story consultant Joss Whedon (the visionary writer/director behind Firefly, Marvel’s The Avengers, and more) reimagine the groundbreaking pop culture phenomenon as the world deals with the consequences of the open HELLMOUTH, available in stores December 2019.

Back in Los Angeles, TEAM SPIKE—Spike, Fred, and Gunn—are doing their best to stem the tide of evil that Hellmouth has unleashed, but the city is being overwhelmed. In order to save their city, Fred must decide whether to fight off the darkness inside her…or embrace it.

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