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411’s Comic Reviews: X-Men/Fantastic Four #1, Marauders #7, More 

February 6, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
X-Men Fantastic Four Image Credit: Marvel Comics

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-Men/Fantastic Four #1

Review by Jeremy Thomas

For the first four months of the Dawn of X relaunch (and further back to House of X/Powers of X), the realignment of Marvel’s mutants has been largely self-contained within their own books, without much encroachment into the titles of the rest of Earth-616.  There have certainly been a few mentions here and there about Krakoa in non-X-Books, and the occasional cameo by a non-mutant superhero in a mutant-related title, but for the most part the X-Men books have been focused on establishing themselves before making waves against superhero teams like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

It’s been a smart and necessary strategy, allowing Jonathan Hickman and the X-Men team to firmly establish the grounding for their direction. But it was time for mutants to start spreading their influence, and Chip Zdarsky, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson make that reality with the first issue of X-Men/Fantastic Four.  Delivering on a moment from House of X #1, Zdarsky’s story puts Franklin Richards in the middle of a conflict between the venerable super-teams with promising initial results.

The story of issue #1, “The Impossible Boy,” builds on what’s been going on in the pages of the two individual titles as Franklin’s Omega-level mutants powers seem to be draining from him with each use.  Xavier and Magneto see this as a reason to bring the teen to Krakoa at last, something that Franklin’s parents strongly opposed.  Kate Pryde, who struck up a friendship with Franklin years ago after the Mutant Massacre, becomes stuck in the middle with Franklin as they try to determine what’s best for the boy – and more specifically from Kate’s perspective, what Franklin wants to do.  That decision may be left out of his hands though, as some unpleasant truths come to the surface.

Zdarsky’s script for this issue is, to be succinct, an utter delight here.  He deftly slips in some deep continuity dives for long-time X-Men fans but doesn’t make it essential that you be intimately familiar with these bits of Marvel history to know what’s going on.  In fact, Zdarsky effectively positions this book so that you don’t have to be in deep with either Fantastic Four or the Dawn of X line to be up to speed.  There’s the right balance of expositional dialogue that it doesn’t feel overbearing, yet still effectively tells the story.

The story also feels like the best of all comics bits put together. There’s plenty of the usual action that would be requisite of two superteams facing off in a “Vs” book, but unlike many other such books in recent history it doesn’t sell all both sides short.  Charles and Erik’s motivations seem suspect to be sure, and Reed and Sue make some very sketchy decisions.  But they all come from what appear to be a place of real character motivation as opposed to books like Civil War II, in which the motivations never felt authentic.  The Dodsons do a wonderful job of portraying both the overt conflict and the quieter moments, with their more cartoony style fitting the story quite well.

More impressively, the character’s voices feel authentic.  This is something that always seems sketchy at best; when you’re bringing on a writer to tackle a crossover like this, the side they don’t usually write can feel off.  That’s not the case here, as Kate, Storm, Charles, and Magneto all fit perfectly with where they are in Dawn of X.  In the meantime, Zdarsky explores some real issues here regarding parents and children, particularly in terms of how they interact when the child is seeking a community that the parent might not approve of.

In truth, I was initially only vaguely looking forward to X-Men/FF.  I’ve always been an X-Men fan, but somewhat less one of Marvel’s First Family.  With that in mind, “Impossible Boy” is a wonderful surprise, capturing the essence of both teams in a way that is entirely engaging.  Zdarsky and the Dodsons have gotten this series off to a very strong start and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Marauders #7

Review by Jeremy Thomas

The most recent previous issue of Marauders ended on a serious and fairly shocking cliffhanger, with our heroine Kate Pryde being drowned in the ocean by Sebastian Shaw and her faithful dragon Lockheed sent to the same fate, with no apparent hope of rescue.  It was a final couple of pages that opened the doors to a major escalation in conflict between the various sides of the Hellfire Trading Company, an exciting endeavor.

As such, it might frustrate some that Marauders #7, titled “From Emma, With Love,” doesn’t do much to resolve that issue.  Leaving Kate’s fate unknown for now, Tini Howard and Stefano Caselli jump to a different direction in the Hellfire Trading Company as we look at Emma’s appointment of a White Knight in Callisto.  The leader of the Morlocks is a fantastic thematic fit with the high adventure and strong personalities that Howard and company are building in this book, and she fits right in like a glove.  Callisto’s interactions with Emma are an utter blast to read, and we learn what has become of the Morlocks in the Krakoa era to solid effect.

This kind of plot diversion can drag a book down if done wrong, as it can bring the story momentum to a crashing halt.  Howard avoids that by sprinkling seeds of what’s going on in here.  We learn a little bit more about what Homines Verendi are up to, as do the Marauders.  And the issue of Kate and Lockheed, while in no way resolved, isn’t entirely left aside for the issue.

An issue like this was entirely necessary, as following issue six’s big shocker there was a need to do some rearranging of the furniture in order to set up new elements.  Howard has done such a wonderful job world building here that it’s hard to be too annoyed about leaving that plot thread to dangle.

If there’s a flaw here, it’s that Caselli’s art isn’t quite up to the level of Matteo Lolli and the other members of the art team on previous issues.  Caselli uses a style very reminiscent of the past art for consistency, but with a couple of exceptions the characters lose a touch in their expressiveness.  It’s a minor complaint at best, but worth noting. 

Despite those small issues, “From Emma, With Love” still has plenty to enjoy here.  Howard’s dialogue sparkles with its usual wit and what action we get is a lot of fun.  This is the necessary “further complications” issue of this kind of story arc and while such issues aren’t the most memorable, it’s still a dependably entertaining read.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Big Black: Stand at Attica

Preview by Steve Gustafson

BOOM! Studios revealed a first look at brand new original graphic novel, BIG BLACK: STAND AT ATTICA, written by Frank “Big Black” Smith and Jared Reinmuth and illustrated by Améziane (Muhammad Ali) with letters by AndWorld Design, available in stores February 2020. This is an unflinching look at a true story about the price of standing up to injustice in what remains one of the bloodiest civil rights confrontations in American history, told for the very first time from the man at the center of it all – Frank “Big Black” Smith.

In the summer of 1971, New York’s Attica State Prison was a symbol of everything broken in America – prisoner abuse, rampant racism and a blind eye turned towards the injustices perpetrated on the powerless. But when the guards at Attica overreacted to a minor incident, the prisoners decided they’d had enough – and revolted against their jailers, taking them hostage and making demands for humane conditions.

A natural leader, Frank “Big Black” Smith found himself at the center of this uprising, struggling to protect hostages, prisoners and negotiators alike. But when the only avenue for justice seemed to be negotiating with Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Big Black soon discovered that a peaceful resolution for the prisoners in Attica was unattainable.

BIG BLACK: STAND AT ATTICA is the latest release from BOOM! Studios’ award-winning Archaia imprint, home to inspiring graphic novels such as The Realist by Asaf Hanuka, Girl on Film by Cecil Castellucci and Vicky Leta, Melissa Duffy, V. Gagnon & Jon Berg, New World by David Jesus Vignolli, About Betty’s Boob by Vero Cazot and Julie Rocheleau, Waves by Ingrid Chabbert and Carole Maurel, The Grand Abyss Hotel by Marcos Prior and David Rubín, and more.

King of Nowhere #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson 

BOOM! Studios is proud to reveal a first look at KING OF NOWHERE #1, the premiere issue of an all-new original five-issue series from the acclaimed writer W. Maxwell Prince (Ice Cream Man), artist Tyler Jenkins (Grass Kings, Black Badge), colorist Hilary Jenkins (Black Badge), and letterer AndWorld Design (Martian Manhunter), an unforgettable thriller that explores the miraculous, the mundane, and all the mysteries in between, available in March 2020.

Drunken lowlife Denis awakens on the outskirts of a mysterious village called Nowhere, home to a friendly populace of deformed, mutated, just-left-of-normal citizens-and he has no memory of how he got there. But just when Denis starts to regain his memories, his past catches up to him… literally. What at first seems like merely a bad trip quickly heightens into a drama of mistaken identities, small-town conspiracy, and high-stakes fantasy fulfillment.

KING OF NOWHERE is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora; Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera; Faithless by Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet; Abbott by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä; Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn and Claire Roe; Klaus by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora; Folklords by Matt Kindt and Matt Smith; The Red Mother by Jeremy Haun and Danny Luckert; and the upcoming Alienated by Simon Spurrier and Chris Wildgoose. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties including Joss Whedon’s Firefly from Greg Pak and Dan McDaid; Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Jordie Bellaire and David López; Angel from Bryan Edward Hill and Gleb Melnikov; and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers from Ryan Parrott and Daniele Di Nicuolo.

Sympathy for No Devils #1

Preview by Steve Gustafson

Winston Wallis has a secret. He is all that remains of mankind, and is surrounded on all sides by demons, monsters, and ghouls that picked up where humankind left off – lying, stealing, cheating, and killing.

Years ago, it was Winston’s job to investigate such things. Now his ex-partner needs help solving the brutal murder of the world’s largest Colossal. Because he knows the secret. He knows about the magical curse that gives Winston the ability to survive a world where everything is bigger, stronger, and angrier than he is. But how long can Win’s impossible luck last, and will this new case finally be the death of him?

He certainly hopes so…

From Brandon Thomas (Excellence) and Lee Ferguson (Sam and His Talking Gun), the critically-acclaimed creators of The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury, comes a bold new series filled with murder, mystery, monsters, and magic!   

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1

Review by John Pumpernickel 

I pick up just about every Star Wars comic put out and I know that not all of them will be winners. 

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 isn’t a winner. Taking place right after the big father reveal scene in Empire Strikes Back, the book feels like it’s trying too hard to force moments onto the reader. 

Writer Greg Pak knows his way around the Star Wars galaxy but having Vader return to Tatooine…just didn’t vibe with me. It felt small and rushed. Which might explain the art by Raffaele Ienco. Not horrible by any means but could have been a little cleaner in lots of places.

As far as a first issue, it wasn’t the strongest but has enough meat on the bones to get people talking about the possibilities. 

Rating: 7.0 out of 10

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