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Review: X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1

X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1

Last year’s Hellfire Gala delivered memorable moments. The X-Men’s godlike plans for Mars were revealed. There was a murder. It was a coming out of sorts further onto the world, and galactic, stage for the mutant nation. For all of the grand ideas of last year’s event, X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1 lacks pretty much all of that. It’s a rather choppy issue whose whole at times makes little sense.

Written by Gerry Duggan, X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1 revolves around the revelation of mutant resurrection to the world. It is now a known thing setting up questions, both in how will every react, and does it create a security issue. The answer to the first is, not in any realistic way and the latter is, of course. The event will be held and it’s just Avengers, X-Men, and some celebrities that attend. And that’s what’s rather odd. With such an announcement you’d either have world leaders there to protest or protesting and not going. None of that is addressed. The Avengers attend and kind of shrug their shoulders about it all instead flirting with Emma Frost. Even when it’s revealed that Mr. Fantastic had his mind wiped over something, no one seems pissed about it. It’s like everyone took pills to relax before. For a revelation that’s built up as world shattering, the end result during the Hellfire Gala is a reaction that lacks emotion. Even Doctor Doom, who would make a speech or plot around it, makes a joke about returning David Bowie. For something that’s set to such a high pedestal, no one beyond the X-Men are treating it as such.

Then there’s the Spider-Man tie-in. Moira as infiltrated the event through Mary Jane Watson and while there’s a confrontation it doesn’t result in much after it feels like. Wolverine heads to Spider-Man’s comic for an issue but you’d think there’d be some more action regarding this. Was anyone else compromised? No one is going to check? Shut the place down? Your enemy showed up and then gets away and there’s… talk. It’s all rather odd.

Finally, the election of the new X-Men team doesn’t feel like an election. Three members remain on the team, Emma suggests one, and then others feel like they’re volunteered. Where’s the election? Wouldn’t it had been better to have some suspense and have the mutants of Krakoa vote as some are nominated and show an actual “vote”? It’s rather odd in the execution.

But, many will be buying the comic for the fashion. Kris Anka, Russell Dauterman, Matteo Lolli, and CF Villa all provide the art. Rain Beredo, Frank Martin, Matt Milla, and Matthew Wilson handle the color. Cory Petit is on lettering. The designs are always interesting to see. Some are beautiful dresses but this year’s fashion doesn’t feel as inspired by last year’s. Maybe a theme for next year would be better? Overall though, it looks good and I can’t knock the visuals too much. But, it also doesn’t quite have the memorable moments like last year.

X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1 is not the sum of its parts. It is not a better whole than each individual piece. That’s partially because each individual piece is in itself rather odd. X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1 feels like a zero issue in some ways. It sets up A.X.E.: Judgement Day for the X-Men and like Eve of Judgement being from the Eternal’s point of view, this delivers the X-Men’s side. It’s an issue that had potential but it never quite lives up to the importance it claims it has.

Story: Gerry Duggan Art: Kris Anka, Russell Dauterman, Matteo Lolli, CF Villa
Color: Rain Beredo, Frank Martin, Matt Milla, Matthew Wilson

Letterer: Cory Petit Design: Tom Muller, Jay Bowen
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Knights of X #1

Knights of X #1

When Neil Gaiman wrote Marvel 1602, he re-imagined our favorite heroes during medieval times. It gave us a brand new look at how these characters would fare in a different time and different place. As the years have gone by since it was first published, fans have been clamoring for a return to that world.

As medieval sword and fantasy stories have become popular again, our favorite superheroes in these settings have been missed. You can take a show like Game Of Thrones, where magic and supernatural creatures are part of that world, and you can easily see our favorite mutants living there. In the newest event surrounding Krakoa, we find Professor X’s brood dealing with a whole new municipality where they can live free but not without its complications. In the debut issue of Tini Howard’s Knights of X, we find Betsy Braddock being the only hope to restore order in Otherworld.

We’re taken to Otherworld, which is ruled by Merlyn, King Arthur and his loyal knights, who search the land looking for what they call “witchbreed” better known as mutants to the rest of us. This doesn’t bode well for Jersey Devil, who is not of this world but from Krakoa, and if he gets killed here, he can’t be revived like he could back on Earth, but thankfully, a soldier from the Captain Britain Corps comes to his rescue. We soon find out Merlyn has taken control of Starlight Citadel, the gate that goes to Krakoa, now known as the Lunatic Citadel, and the only respite the super powered has in this world, is the kingdom of Roma, who just so happens to be Merlyn’s daughter. As we find Betsy Braddock and Roma at odds , as they can’t agree on how to wage war against Merlyn and his merciless genocide against mutants,  as they find a back way to Krakoa, which gives Betsy an idea to recruit some reinforcements with the Grimoire of Apocalypse in hand, to even the odds with a powerful sorcerer like Merlyn. By the issue’s end, Betsy brings the fight to King Arthur and his knights, recruits a different version of Morded and finally forms what Roma envisioned, the Knights Of X.

Overall, Knights of X #1 is one of the better stories from the Krakoan Age event, one which invokes high fantasy. The story by Howard is fascinating. The art by creative team is awe inspiring. Altogether, it’s a story that uses the best part of the Arthurian legend and injects it with our favorite mutants.

Story: Tini Howard Art: Bob Quinn
Color: Erick Arciniega Letterer: Ariana Maher Design: Tom Muller
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Mazebook gets a Dark Horse Direct Exclusive Hardcover Edition

Dark Horse Direct and Jeff Lemire have partnered up and are delighted to present Mazebook HC (Dark Horse Direct Exclusive)!

This deluxe, limited, and oversized hardcover edition collects issues #1-5 of the bestselling Mazebook series, an ambitious and haunting graphic novel about family, mourning, and reality from New York Times bestselling and Eisner award-winning Black Hammer creator Jeff Lemire. Limited to just 1000 copies, this exclusive edition includes a printed art tip-in signed by Jeff Lemire, a cloth cover with red stitch embroidery, foil stamping, a color ribbon and gilding. This incredible collector’s edition features a sketchbook section with pinups by Andrea Sorrentino, Dustin Nguyen, Dean Ormston, Matt Kindt, and Gabriel Hernández Walta! Elegantly designed by award-winning designer and creative director Tom Muller, the exclusive Mazebook HC retails for $125.00 USD with payment plan options available and is scheduled to begin shipping to pre-order customers between June and July 2022. 

Mazebook is the story of a lonely building inspector, still grieving the loss of his puzzle-loving daughter, receives a mysterious phone call. Convinced that this child is contacting him from beyond this world, he sets out on an intense and melancholy adventure to bring his daughter back home.

The Mazebook HC (Dark Horse Direct Exclusive) is now available for pre-order.

Mazebook HC (Dark Horse Direct Exclusive)

Review: X-Men Red #1

X-Men Red #1

When it comes to dual X-Men teams, it often feels like one of the teams is the “also rans”. Two teams of heavy hitters has happened but even then, there feels like a bit of a rivalry between them. Too often it’s just the personalities that really define the difference. X-Men Red #1 is an intriguing entry in the “Destiny of X” line of X-Men comics in that its focus is not on the X-Men of Earth, instead it’s a terraformed Mars, dubbed Arakko. Lead by Storm, the planet features mutants from Krakoa and Amenth, a combination that opens things up to a literal world of new characters.

With a world of possibilities, writer Al Ewing does a nice balance of old and new. There’s classic X-Men characters like Sunspot and James Proudstar (aka Warpath), newer X-Men like Vulcan, and then members of Amenth, generally new to readers. But, at the center of it all is Storm and Magneto, two heavy hitters who have shaped the X-Men throughout the decades and look to do so again in X-Men Red #1.

What’s interesting is Ewing’s focus. A world so knew has lead both Storm and Magneto to reflect on their past. Infinite possibilities of what to build has caused each to think about what they’ve done, what they’ve shaped, and how they’re viewed. Magneto, going by Max, is the most interesting of all the characters. His weariness shows a man who has recognized his failures and short comings and in many ways tired of the struggle. He’s the battle hardened vet shaped by years of abuse, torture, and hate, and forged from the horrors of what mankind can do. In his journey he meets a member of the Amenth who also was forged from bars and torture. The duo together bond over their pain and suffering. Ewing presents a Magneto who’s almost poetic in his musings, far displaced from his much more focused and planned statements during his leadership of Krakoa. The debut also directly takes on the opening of House of X/Powers of X when it comes to Storm and Magneto who both showed off nationalist tendencies. Max is directly confronted about his beliefs and views by his new friend who challenges a lot of the status quo.

Stefano Caselli‘s artwork is fantastic. Along with Federico Blee on color and Ariana Maher‘s lettering, the comic is a blend of fantasy and future. It’s a strange new world that doesn’t feel too alien to connect with. A bar fight involves a simple table being smashed over an individual that looks like a normal table. But, that bar is full of characters who look like something out of a sci-fi adventure. That sits side by side as Max and his new friend talk in fields that look straight out of feudal times as Max builds a castle of his own. The juxtaposition of it all is not lost and quite nice as worlds combine to forge something new, a brotherhood.

The question going into X-Men Red #1 is whether it can be more than just “X-Men on Mars”. The debut issue sets a groundwork that’s intriguing and interesting with conflict to come and political machinations and drama to keep things interesting. It’s a solid debut that promises a bright future for the once red planet.

Story: Al Ewing Art: Stefano Caselli
Color: Federico Blee Letterer: Ariana Maher Design: Tom Muller, Jay Bowen
Story: 8.35 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Immortal X-Men #1

Immortal X-Men #1

When it comes to the X-Men, there is an air of mystery which usually pulls fans to them. I can remember the first time I picked up one of their issues. I was at Jim Hanley’s Universe  back home in New York, which was one of the coolest comic book stores ever. It had Colossus on the cover, and from that issue on, I was hooked.

As the years have gone by there have been many authors who have guided that ship, but very few whose runs were memorable. One of the most honored is Chris Claremont and another being Kieron Gillen. In the debut issue of Immortal X-Men, Gillen returns, for a frightening take on the Quiet Council who rules during the Krakoan Age.

We are taken to Paris 1919, where Essex and Adler speak of the coming war, as both are members of the Quiet Council, and though Krakoa has enjoyed relative peace, it doesn’t stop infighting from bubbling over. We are taken to a meeting, where Magneto has decided to retire, which immediately creates a power vacuum, one which has each council member plotting for control. As Destiny gets her share of sycophants amongst the council members to nominate a new member, an unlikely frontrunner rises , Hope, who brought back Destiny and intimidates most on the island. By issue’s end,a slighted mutant takes revenge on the council for not choosing her, unleashing a deadly  behemoth, that could consume all the inhabitants.

Altogether, Immortal X-Men #1 is one of the better stories from this event, making Gillen the perfect storyteller. The story by Gillen is action packed. The art by creative team is beautiful. Altogether, a palace intrigue play that involves your favorite mutants, no one could write this better.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Lucas Werneck
Color: David Curiel Letterer: Clayton Cowles Design: Tom Muller
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Immortal X-Men #1

Immortal X-Men #1

After a brief interlude with X Lives of Wolverine and X Deaths of Wolverine, the next phase of Marvel’s X-Men kicks off with Immortal X-Men #1. With Jonathan Hickman no longer guiding the direction, Destiny of X is a launching point to see where various creators can take the toys that Hickman set up over the previous few years. Immortal X-Men feels like the new “flagship” for the line taking over the role “Uncanny” held for decades with its focus on the Quiet Council and its heavy hitters. The focus isn’t just the latest threat to deal with but the grand direction for mutantkind impacting every other X-Men comic being released.

Writer Kieron Gillen returns to the X-Men after a memorable run on Uncanny X-Men. For those that read that, it should be no surprise the debut issue centers around Mr. Sinister who acts as our tour guide taking us through the politics and machinations of Krakoa and its ruling council.

Gillen continues to bring a bit of flair to Sinister who delivers ego, humor, and devious insight into the goings on. Sinister also seems to be at the center of what potentially could be major ramifications for mutantkind and Krakoa if he’s found out. But Gillen weaves back into history setting up a relationship between Sinister and Destiny which goes back a hundred years. There’s a great mix of sinister and humor to it all with political dancing that eventually flows into the action and reveal we all expect to come.

Gillen’s story is enhanced by the art of Lucas Werneck whose style is perfect for the tone of it all. Joined by David Curiel on color and lettering by Clayton Cowles, the comic’s imagery is as important as what is said. The body language of characters is key to Sinister’s comments and observations and we get an idea of some of what is getting him to come to his conclusions. There’s also Sinister himself whose body language is beyond comedic and lightens what could easily be a rather dour and serious debut. The characters look great and it really is the small details of all of the reactions that make the comic stand out. Sinister’s observations put them all in the spotlight and the art team pulls it off and then some.

Immortal X-Men #1 kicks things off setting the X-Men in a whole new direction. It builds off of what has come before and sets up so much new to come. Its humor keeps things light and funny delivering an engaging start that’s not to be missed.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Lucas Werneck
Color: David Curiel Letterer: Clayton Cowles Design: Tom Muller
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: The Secret X-Men #1

The Secret X-Men #1

When it comes to the X-Men, there are not too many superhero teams that have as much rabid fans. As readers have loved their exploits for decades.  Out of all the characters in the Marvel comic book universe, they are probably the most identifiable. As each of the team members have a tragic origin and its tied fear and hate.

It is no wonder why Stan lee often referred to the franchise as an allegory to racism in America. As fans of the franchise, also used it as form of therapy for being ostracized, just for being different. Their canon is way more storied than most fans know and the number of different X-Men  is too many to count. In The Secret X-Men, we meet some not so familiar names amongst the ranks , but who pack just as might a punch.

We are taken to the Ornithery Festival, where we find Sunspot, who was not named to the X-men during the Hellfire Gala, is trying to keep distracted.  The next morning, Sunspot and few of the other mutants who did not make selection gather as they along with the Imperial Guard have been recruited on a secret mission to find DeathBird who has taken the Princess  Xandra, which could mean political crisis between Krakoa and the Sh’iar Empire. As they embark on a rescue mission they find unnecessary trouble in the form of Sidra bounty hunters, but leads tohem show laden planet with a Krakoan gate. We soon find out that it was an elaborate test to see the where the information leak in the Imperial Guard is. By issue’s end, they lose one of their own, and must find a way to get her back.

Overall, The Secret X-Men is not your typical side characters story. The story by Howard is intense and powerful. The art by the creative team is beautiful. Altogether, a dense and detailed driven start to what looks to be one of the best X-Men stories yet.

Story: Tini Howard Art: Francesco Mobili
Color: Jesus Arbutov Letterer: Clayton Cowles Design: Tom Muller
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: The Secret X-Men #1

The Secret X-Men #1

The recent run of the X-Men has been a bit hit and miss for me. What has been good, has been really good. But, there’s a lot that just hasn’t felt like it fits the basic building blocks of the characters and teams. The Secret X-Men #1 is interesting as it’s a bit of a throwback to the cosmic times of the X-Men when they hung out with the Shi’ar and rocked matching uniforms. Despite that bit of nostalgia, the comic also doesn’t quite work.

Written by Tini Howard, The Secret X-Men #1 sees the X-Men not chosen for the team during the recent vote band together to find Empress Xandra whose life is threatened. Deathbird, having been tipped off by precognitives sees a threat coming for the Empress and has thus hidden her in a location and has tasked Sunspot with gathering a team to meet Deathbird and Xandra at that location. The journey is “difficult by design” to test this X-Men team for… something. That’s where the comic kind of falls apart.

What Deathbird and Xandra are thinking is explained at the end of the issue but it all seems to be a rather convoluted adventure. The point of it all is rather odd and, well, pointless. It’s a journey for sake of a journey, leaving to go somewhere without an endpoint in mind. There’s some action but overall it’s the interactions of this X-Men team that’s the draw.

Howard does a solid job of the team aspect. This is a group of misfits, the B-team, and together they’re kind of like that as well. They get the job done but it’s a bit sloppy and not the most efficient way to go about things. There’s some other bits about who can trust who, but overall the comic feels like a b-side plot that couldn’t be fit in anywhere else.

The art by Francesco Mobili is ok. The characters look good and the costume designs feel like a nice homage to the past. Jesus Arbutov‘s colors, Clayton Cowles‘ lettering, and Tom Muller‘s design is all good as well. It looks decent though some of the characters feel a little inconsistent at times in their looks. There’s definitely at least one inspired moment/look with Marrow that I hope we see more of. But, overall, the art is good but doesn’t jump out.

The Secret X-Men #1 isn’t a bad comic but it feels like a one-shot whose entire point is to kick off and tease some story down the road. It doesn’t really stand on its own as a memorable experience. It honestly feels like a plot point that needed to be told but couldn’t fit in with any other comic for a few pages. It’s a one-shot that right now feels like a bit of a headscratcher as to the point of it all.

Story: Tini Howard Art: Francesco Mobili
Color: Jesus Arbutov Letterer: Clayton Cowles Design: Tom Muller
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Sabretooth #1

Sabretooth #1

When it comes to villains in the comics there are few that fans really love. As there are the ones are the arch nemeses like the Joke and Lex Luthor. Then you have the amoral ones like Thanos and Dr. Doom. Then there are those villains you just love to hate.

Take for instance, Lobo, a classic villain the DC Universe, who is both sinister and salacious. Then there is Harley Quinn, a someone is tragic yet uses humor to speak through the pain. Then there is Sabretooth, who is Wolverine’s arch nemesis and whose history drives deep with Logan. In his own miniseries, Sabretooth #1, Victor Lavalle paints a portrait of someone many don’t really know.

We find Sabretooth just as the X-Men’s Quiet Council exile indicts him for  stealing date form Damage Control, a crime which Emma Frost brought him back to Krakoa, and the punishment is to be exiled to The Pit, a place where no man has escaped…. Until now. We find him months later in the wilderness of Krakoa, where the X-Men has sends a small  contingent to take him in, but he proves more voracious than when he got sentenced to the Pit, decimating them one by one. That is until they find him incapacitated and apprehend him, whereby Krakoa sends a lawyer to find out just how he escaped. By issue’s end, we find out just how time stood still and infinite universes and infinite possibilities were explored, until fate gave him something very different on one such day.

Overall, Sabretooth #1 is a fun and frightening story that is worthy of this long seething villain. The story by Lavalle is well developed and exciting,. The art by the creative team is gorgeous. Altogether, a story that tells us more about Sabretooth than previous stories have endeavored to do.

Story: Victor Lavalle Art: Leonard Kirk
Color: Rain Beredo Letterer: Cory Petit Design: Tom Muller
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Inferno #4

Inferno #4

I’ve generally been mixed about the current status-quo and direction of the X-line. To me, they’re no longer the heroes I once knew, sharing far too many characteristics with the villains they once battled. The line took a nationalist bent that felt the antithesis of what the X-Men represented. Then, there’s the issue with Moira MacTaggert. Revealed to be a mutant, each time she died she reset the timeline but retained her memories. This created an “out” in some ways that coupled with that ability to resurrect dead mutants, took away any danger and “stakes” in the battle. Inferno #4 wraps up Jonathan Hickman‘s vision for the line creating an interesting break and a new status-quo for those taking over the guidance of the various series.

Hickman is a very talented writer. His concepts are some of the best out there. But, while his series often start off strong, they tend to go on a bit too long and then peter out towards the end. He doesn’t stick the landing as much as I’d like making reading his runs feel like a let down. But, the concepts are amazing. Just like he’s done with the X-Men. Inferno #4 wraps up that run with Moira being confronted by Mystique and Destiny and Professor X and Magneto facing Nimrod and Omega Sentinel.

Hickman delivers and sticks the landing this time.

Inferno #4 takes the series and characters in some unsuspecting directions and fixes some of the issue I had with the line as a whole. It also sets up major villains for years to come along with political machinations on Krakoa that’ll reverberate for years as well. In other words, what’s past is prologue. This current “volume” now feels much more like the building blocks for what’s to come as opposed to an established status-quo. Yes, obviously things change, but things have been building now for some time and this is the end result. One chapter ends and a new chapter begins building off of what has come before.

The art by Valerio Schiti and Stefano Caselli is solid. There’s a mix of action, drama, and a lot of tension. Moments feel desperate and others will have you holding your breathe. The duo are joined by David Curiel on color, letterer Joe Sabino, and Tom Muller‘s design. The comic looks fantastic with an ominous feel throughout that leaves you wondering where it’s all going and how far things will be taken. In a series where anyone can die and come back, who would it be willing to kill? Despite the inevitability of returns, there’s still emotion shown in death and while rebirth should be joyous, the art nails the shift in where things stand.

Inferno #4 is a fitting end to Hickman’s run. It ends his take and direction for the X line and hands it off to new creators allowing them to plant their own flags while not totally being shackled by his rules. He’s opened the sandbox a little further to allow others to create. By shaking things up himself, it also doesn’t feel like others are undoing what he has envisioned, it’s his choice in some ways. It’s a diplomatic ending that’s befitting delivering an almost meta finale.

Story: Jonathan Hickman Art: Valerio Schiti, Stefano Caselli
Color: David Curiel Letterer: Joe Sabino Design: Tom Muller
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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