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411’s Comic Reviews: X-Men: Marvel Snapshots #1, X-Factor #3, More

September 19, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
X-Men: Marvel Snapshots

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]!
Jeremy Note: With as long as the Comic Reviews have been on hiatus, I’m gonna try to do a tiny bit of catch-up.  This week will be a couple of the new releases along with capsule reviews of a couple of last week’s issues I really want to talk about.  We’ll get the two remaining X-books from this week, X-Men #12 and Excalibur #12, next week.  

X-Men: Marvel Snapshots #1
By Jeremy Thomas

Amidst their big events this year like Empyre, Iron Man 2020, the forthcoming X of Swords and King in Black and the like, Marvel has been quietly making some great little one-shots in their Marvel Snapshots series. The Kurt Busiek-guided set of one-shots has not necessarily received the stronger promotional push that the big events, but they’ve been great single-issue stories that provide a new bit of insight on some of Marvel’s iconic heroes like Namor, Johnny Storm and Captain America.

The latest of the series is no exception.  In X-Men: Marvel Snapshots, Jay Edidin casts our eyes on none other than Cyclops himself, Scott Summers.  As a character, Scott often ends up underrated or overlooked by readers in favor of flashier characters he pairs off with, whether rivals like Wolverine, partners like Jean or Emma, enemies like Sinister and even in his sometimes-fraught surrogate father/son relationship with Charles Xavier.

Edidin, the co-host of the fantastic podcast Jay & Miles Xplain the X-Men, has always been very open about how much he appreciates and even identifies with Scott (Full disclosure: I’m a Patreon supporter of the podcast).  In his Marvel Comics writing debut he puts his extensive knowledge of Cyke’s history to work for an issue that captures a formative moment in Scott’s youth where he takes his first steps into being a hero.

Thanks to the way that superhero comics tend to gravitate most characters’ visual looks in the mid-20s to early-40s, it can sometimes be hard to remember that a character like Scott would have been a kid when heroes like the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and the like came into the public spotlight.  Edidin remembers, and uses it here to show how Scott, dealing with the loss of his family at a young age, finds inspiration in the rise of heroes and takes the first steps toward becoming the leader we know him as today.  His grasp on Scott as a character is immaculate and he channels all the insecurities that a kid of Scott’s age and situation would have, painting a believable portrait of the character.

Edidin’s character work is aided nicely by Tom Reilly’s artwork. Reilly’s art feels well-suited to telling a story that chronologically fits in earlier eras of Marvel’s work, with a muted palette from colorist Chris O’Halloran that adds to the nostalgia factor without making the material look dated.  Reilly is particularly good at capturing Scott’s emotional state, from his panicked awakening from a nightmare to the sense that he’s not who he should be, wonderfully stated by Edidin when Scott says in narration that it’s “like my whole life is someone else’s two-small coat.”  Each panel brings us into Scott’s head and lets us see the world the way he does – which, despite the literal fact that he has to wears ruby quartz sunglasses, is far from rose-colored. X-Men: Marvel Snapshots works as both an exploration into what makes Scott Summers tick, and as a celebration of who he is.  It’s a shining example of what these one-shots are intended to do.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Hellions #4
By Jeremy Thomas

When we were last here reviewing comics, Hellions #1 had just released.  The first issue of Zeb Wells’ series documenting a new team of Krakoans with some serious issues to work through showed a lot of promise, but also had to do some character twisting to get all the pieces on the board. Since then, the Hellions have found themselves on their first mission to destroy Sinister’s defunct cloning lab, a job that quickly went awry because of Madelyne Pryor’s having taken over the facility and unleashed imperfect clones of the Marauders.

Issue #4, “Love Bleeds,” picks up with an end to this first mission that finally sets the series on an even keel.  Wells sells the trauma that the characters are going through as they fight to stay alive and accomplish their mission, facing the ghosts of several of their pasts.

While there were characters I was always interested in here (namely Kwannon, Havok, John Greycrow, and Sinister), I was less certain how invested I would be in most of the others.  Wild Child is a nice hit of nostalgia for the days of the Age of Apocalypse and X-Factor, but he hasn’t stood on his own in a while.  And Nanny and Orphan-Maker, while fun, have never felt like fully realized people.  Wells digs down and gets into the trauma of Nanny this week, and I find myself surprised to say I really felt for her.  There are a couple of quick scenes where you get past her goofy shell (pun intended) and see exactly how damaged she is underneath.

This is also the issue where Alex comes into his own as a member of the team.  It’s been incumbent on some of the more villain-oriented members to move a bit toward hero nature and we see that with Greycrow and Nanny.  Alex, on the other hand, has to move a little in the other direction.  The last couple of issues saw Alex falling under Madelyne’s spell so fully and quickly that it didn’t seem to track.  Wells and artist Stephen Segovia make it believable here, and we get a few more hints of how broken Alex is without the need to play their hand too quickly.  Madelyne herself has been a star of the series to date, and with the conclusion here we get to understand her role in the past few issues that much better.  (She also gets done remarkably dirty by Krakoa’s Quiet Council in a ruling that raises questions for people like X-23 and Honey Badger, and I’m interested to see if that gets addressed later.)

Segovia gets a chance to really shine in the action scenes, in which Psylocke and Greycrow in particular stand out.  This is a team of incredibly kinetic mutants, and Segovia’s energetic line work – bolstered by some beautiful coloring work by David Curiel – adds extra oomph to what is already a pretty impressive set of powers on display. But even more than the powers, it’s the strength of the character work that puts Hellions on the right path to where I’m excited to see what Wells has planned from here.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Marauders #12
By Jeremy Thomas

It’s been a  long wait to see Kate Pryde return from the grave after her murder by Sebastian Shaw in Marauders #6. Too long, really.  But it was worth the wait.  Kate’s return to life in Marauders #11 was glorious, and with now Kate back in action Gerry Duggan takes his opportunity to give our former Shadowcat the rebirth she deserves.  Kate has just come back from being murdered and has revenge on her mind – and Duggan teases a little of that to come.  But before that, Kate needs to catch her bearings and discover her Krakoan self in gorgeous detail by Matteo Lolli and Edgar Delgado.  It’s a joy to see Kate reconnect to her friends, her faith, and her passions, and Duggan ends the issue with a provocative visual of a renewed, focused Kate.  The next few issues of Marauders look to be particularly exciting, and I can’t wait to see how they play out.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

X-Factor #3
By Jeremy Thomas

In the interim between our last column and now, Leah Williams’ intriguing X-Factor series has launched.  There’s a lot of Krakoa hat still merits exploration, and this team-up book – featuring Northstar, Polaris, Eye-Boy, Daken, Prodigy, and Rachel Grey – explores the team put together to verify mutant deaths so that The Five can get to work with their Resurrection Protocol. Williams has done a fine job putting this odd-couple team together and setting them on their first official mission as they head to Mojoworld to look into a Krakoan death there.  Artist David Baldeon’s cartoon-esque style fits the characters perfectly; this is a book that features a clash of personalities and Baldeon’s art captures the essence of each personality.

Issue #3 brings the Mojoworld mission to a point of revelations as the team finds themselves in a world of streaming mortal combat, cross paths with the one and only Spiral, and find out who their mystery dead mutant is.  Williams is savvy in the ways of Mojoworld and she puts a nice little spin on it, complete with an appearance from an X-team veteran. The emotional connections here play out well, and the team comes together nicely to accomplish a vaguely pyrrhic victory.  There’s a lot of promise here that Williams is delivering on to date, doing enough legwork to establish the team just before X of Swords comes out to play starting next week.

Rating: 8.5  out of 10

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini

Review by Stephen Gustafson

Steve Note: This review ran in a previous column but I took time to read it again and loved it! Hence, a rerun of my review.

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is a revelation and is the type of book that elevates the comic book form in a way that will be subtly felt over the coming years.

From the blossoming mind of acclaimed artist, author, director, and playwright Cynthia Von Buhler, the book drips of noir, mystery, and 1920’s thrills. Minky Woodcock might very well be my favorite new character and I could easily follow her along as she makes her own mark in an ever changing, and dangerous, world.

The melding of the words and art, both expertly crafted by Von Buhler, flow like a quick stream and after I finished the book, I immediately picked it back up to start again. My only regret that I’ll never get back that thrill of reading it for the first time, discovering the gems the story lays out.

To give away too much of the plot would be a disservice but the plot of using Houdini’s death and a sinister conspiracy was a refreshing take on the legendary escape artist. Mixing fact with fiction, you feel dipped in the period, a lucky voyeur to the story.

As someone who is constantly looking for books that embrace the comic book form in new ways, which seems to be increasingly difficult, I found Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini provocative and will entice even the most jaded of readers.

Titan Comics has quickly become one of my favorite publishers because they embrace new and exciting concepts. On top of that, they find gifted artists who have visionary talents that come through on the page. Cynthia Von Buhler’s artistic talent expands into the comic book world and we are all better for it.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

It should be noted that this book contains adult themes and nudity so mature audiences only.

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