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411’s Comic Reviews: X-Force #1, New Mutants #1, More  

November 7, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
X-Force 1

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 #1

Review by Jeremy Thomas

The Dawn of X relaunch has been a new beginning for Marvel’s mutants, heralding an age where those with the X-gene are finding themselves in a position they’ve never had: a position of power against the world that hates and fears them.  From House of X and Powers of X forward through the first three new titles in the line — X-Men, Marauders, and Excalibur — mutants are operating from a position where they no longer have to be in constant fear of their lives.

That’s refreshing, of course, and it’s been an exciting new status quo. But even as necessary as it’s been to recontextualize the X-Men in order to find new stories to tell, the idea that there are those out there who will do anything to destroy mutantkind is an essential one to the X-books.  The new X-Force, written by Benjamin Percy, is intended to tell the stories of the mutants who work in the shadows so that these threats can’t threaten everything Xavier, Magneto and Moira have built.

Before we get to that team though, we have to build up a credible threat.  That’s the goal of Percy and artist Joshua Cassara’s first issue.  While Jonathan Hickman has spent plenty of time setting the foundation of the new mutant utopia, Percy and Cassara have to tear it down a little bit so that we see the enemy as something to be fear.

It’s fair to say that in this first issue, that goal is accomplished. Percy devotes less time to the team than he does on the threat closing in on Krakoa.  It’s a smart little conspiracy action-thriller, as Percy plots out several different pieces which don’t immediately seem to come together until the end when it all becomes horrifyingly clear.

As might be expected in an espionage-style thriller, there’s a lot of metaphorical (and some literal) moving in the shadows here. That’s both a benefit and a detriment to the book.  We’re supposed to start taking this group seriously, but we don’t know who they are.  It feels more like we’re supposed to treat the organization seriously and the individual members depicted don’t matter, as none of them get names. And that works; the pieces coming together speaks to something that we can see as significant, though it is a little hard to feel any connection here.

That’s made worse by the fact that some of the art makes character detail confusing.  For example, one panel early on of a man sitting at an airport features a face that looks identical to an X-Man we see later, but they are different people.  It’s hard to tell if this was an intentional midirect or an unfortunate happenstance of character design and art perspective, but the end result is that this and some other similar moments make it hard to follow narratively.

Fortunately, the rest of the art really hits home.  Cassara gives his take on the character models a visceral, veiny, dirty look that speaks to the darker themes of the book.  The visual tone is much darker and less clean than most of the other books, and that’s a great fit with Percy’s thematic tones.  Black Tom Cassidy in particular gets a wonderful character look that fits in with his new unearthly demeanor, as befitting an interface with Krakoa itself.  Percy also gets voices down very well, Wolverine’s in particular.

The biggest flaw in X-Force #1 is simply that it feels like a preamble to what’s actually going to be the book. We barely spend time with the people who will be on this team, and those we do are mostly reacting.  It speaks to the need of a team like X-Force, but most of us probably already expected that Krakoa would need people who get their
hands dirty.

There’s a huge cliffhanger at the end of this book, and the dialogue and art sells the moment as legitimately shocking.  But at the same time, given what we know of Krakoa as a nation, the real impact is ambiguous at best.  There is a ton of potential in this book, and all the individual parts work.  We’re just going to have to wait for at least the next issue to see if those parts can come together into a satisfying whole.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

New Mutants #1

Review by Jeremy Thomas
Everyone has “their” team when it comes to the X-Men line.  It’s that group of mutants who you immediately latched onto as the team that you followed religiously and lived or died by.  Personally, I had two: Generation X and the New Mutants.  As great as the Blue and Gold teams were, or the Giant-Sized X-Men lineup was, as iconic as the O5 were, I found myself in love with the return to the school dynamic that Chris Claremont brought to New Mutants and Scott Lobdell, for all his faults, did with Generation X.

It almost goes without saying then that New Mutants was the book I was most looking forward to out of the Dawn of X relaunch.  Jonathan Hickman and Ed Brisson have taken the original New Mutants team and supplemented them with members of the Gen X era in Chamber and Mondo, which is an exciting proposition to say the least.  And if the that wasn’t enough, he sends them into space to retrieve a core member of the old New Mutants team in Cannonball, now living in Shi’ar space with his wife and kid and show him the wonders of Krakoa.

That’s the kind of formula that seems tailor-made for a throwback-style classic X-Men space adventure, and that’s what we get from the go. Hickman and Brisson have a wonderful sense of the characterizations here whether it’s the banter between Dani and Roberto early on, the youthful joy of Rahne or the slightly murderous but distinctly teen spark behind Ilyana’s eyes.  Much of the joy in this issue is seeing the old team interact in a way that we haven’t been able to see from them in years, coupled with their new dynamics with Mondo and Chamber who fit perfectly well into the team.

Rod Reis is the man behind the art on this issue, and he makes a strong impression early on when he captures the essence of Rahne just stopping and taking in her new life (for that moment) on Krakoa.  Reis’ art has something of Bill Sienkiewicz, the artist who made New Mutants such an influential book in the 1980s.  But Reis isn’t just aping Sienkiewicz; he’s letting the other artist’s influences peek out in his own work to great effect.  He’s great at depicting both the quiet moments like the aforementioned Rahne one, as well as action scenes. When things get into space thanks to a lift from the Starjammers (also depicted as a sheer delight in the writing), we get to see Ilyana have a sparring session that is delightfully portrayed and depicts a ton of character.  It’s slightly non-traditional comic book art and that’s just what a book like this requires.

For the most part, New Mutants #1 is about set-up; it literally gets the protagonists from point A to point B and drops them into the thick of a situation.  But along the way Brisson, Hickman and Reis do a lot of fine work re-establishing character dynamics.  The charts from Tom Muller are as delightful as any in the Dawn of X books, including a fantastic Wanted poster for the Starjammers.  While space adventures are more of the main X-Men team’s bailiwick and there’s less weight here in terms of theme than the other Dawn of X titles, nothing comes off as particularly wrong or out of place.  I had some lofty expectations for this book and first issue of the title is anything to go by, it’s well on its way to delivering

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

All My Friends Are Ghosts #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson

BOOM! Studios revealed a first look at  brand new original graphic novel, ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GHOSTS from acclaimed writer S.M. Vidaurri (Iron, Steven Universe) and artist Hannah Krieger (Psychic Mansion), about discovering what makes you special and believing in yourself, available in stores March 2020.

Effie feels a bit lost in her own life. Her mom’s always working, school sucks, and her teacher doesn’t get her fantastical fiction about werewolves and vampires. One day, when she realizes that no one will notice, she escapes from her every day life… and discovers a school for ghosts in the nearby woods! With the help of her new ghostly friends, she enrolls in Minourghast Middle School for Wandering Spirits, but just as she’s beginning to learn all about the amazing things that ghosts can do – like possession, poltergeist-ing, demon magic and more – Effie and her new spirited friends take on the challenge of tracking down and freeing a lost soul. But it’ll take more than ghostly powers to succeed. If Effie’s going to help, she’ll have to look deep within herself and trust the support of her friends.

Ghosted in LA #6

Preview by Steve Gustafson

BOOM! Studios revealed a first look at GHOSTED IN LA #6, the newest issue in the new original comic book series from GLAAD Media Award-nominated writer Sina Grace (Jughead’s Time Police) and artist Siobhan Keenan (Jem and the Holograms) about figuring out your life – and your afterlife – in Los Angeles, available in stores December 2019.

It’s awkward enough that Daphne’s roommates are all ghosts, but that isn’t even the weirdest part as Daphne finds herself falling for the newest ghostly addition to Rycroft, celebrity musician Zola! Daphne is about to learn that personal drama doesn’t stop when your heart does, as Zola starts stirring up trouble just as Daphne’s old BFF pops in for a surprise visit.

Fantastic Four: Grand Design #1

Review by John Pumpernickel 

If you’ve read X-Men: Grand Design you know what you’re getting into. And if you know what you’re getting into, this book is awesome. Everything is familiar with an odd slant and trippy art twist. 

Fantastic Four: Grand Design takes everything we know and love about Marvel’s First Family and presents it in a new way in a book that’s just right for new readers and has enough juice in it that long time fans will feel right at home. 

Tom Scioli is a one-man show, doing art and story, and it works. His vision is true and he’s like a musician laying down a jazz track with some self-made instruments. I dig it. No spoilers because there is really nothing to spoil. It’s a historical trip down memory lane that takes a few detours that you might have forgotten about. 

Pick this up and enjoy. A super easy recommendation. 

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

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