The Amazing Spider-Man #90 – Review

Gleason’s writing chops are nothing to mess with and pair beautifully with legendary artist Mark Bagley in a satisfying issue that I couldn’t put down, as far as verdicts go, you’re not going to get a better one than this.

The Amazing Spider-Man #90

Written by: Patrick Gleason
Artwork by: Mark Bagley
Published by Marvel
Released: 23/2/22

As a quick refresher, in the past couple of issues, Ben Reilly has been partially mind-wiped by those slimy rapscallions over at Beyond, the same dudes/dudettes that have unleashed the Queen Goblin on New York. On top of that, Old Peter Parker has managed to get back on his feet and is on his merry way to put an end to Queen Goblin’s reign of terror!

We begin with Beyond’s top dog, Maxine Danger tracing Ben Reilly as he swings across a bridge with Janine, who notices there’s definitely something off about Ben, which is where he confesses that he feels like he’s missing something in his mind (which, by the way, he totally is,  being brain wiped and all). He tells Janine that he just needs to focus and everything will be hunky-dory, but Janine knows that’s not good enough, it’s at that point that she spills the Intel she’s discovered about Beyond. Or rather, how they’ve set up the whole thing, sending out super-villains for Ben to stop so that they can get good publicity for themselves and their little Spider-man project. They decide that they’re going to take it to the top and go confront the big bosses at Beyond, but first, we’ve got some sweet, sweet action to attend to.

Pete is up in the skyscrapers, battling the new Queen goblin foe, which is where we get a ton of quality Spidey crack-ups, from getting confused with the X-men’s Goblin Queen to mentally crying for help as he barely manages to dodge the goblin’s blows. It’s moments like this where I feel Patrick Gleason really understands and gets the Spider-man character, I don’t feel like it’s one writer’s take on Spider-man, I just think of it as Spider-man, which is the best kind of writing. Of course, it’s great to actually know who’s writing a book by the tone it sets and dialogue and all the rest of the mumbo jumbo. But when it feels so much like the definitive, quintessential character, that’s when you know you’re doing a good job of writing a mainstream comic book. Obviously, it’s awesome to get some subversive material from creators not typically known for the superhero genre like, for example, Pete Bagge’s megalomaniacal Spider-man as well as a lot of other early 2000’s marvel books, which was a very interesting period for the company, but for Marvel’s flagship title, Pat Gleason does a fantastic job of realizing what readers want out of the main Spidey title. And speaking of what readers want, Mark Bagely is delivering some of his best work in the last 20 years in this issue as Spidey and the Goblin take their battle through offices, Spider-man billboards (with the Sam raising font, nice touch), and even subways. Every panel has energy inside it, there’s so much going on, but in a really good way, these pages are bursting at the seems with excitement and it really displays Bagely’s accumulation of skill on his 30-plus year tenure drawing the character. I, at least, got the sense that he must have really enjoyed penciling these issues and it shows great stuff.

Getting back to the story, the Queen goblin manages to use her unique “Goblins gaze” ability which she used successfully on the black cat’s last issue, which would have resulted in her death if not for the web-slinger arriving just in time. So Peter falls into the sea and goes through the whole “you’re not good enough” thing, but Spidey is able to defeat the hold it has on him, in his words “Doesn’t she realize self-doubt is kind of our thing?”. Pete manages to jump up out of the water and deliver the finishing blow to the latest addition to the Goblin Hall of shame.

Spider-man is able to get back onto the docks, where he meets up with MJ and the Black cat at that moment in all great superhero stories, where the previously split apart gang get back together again for the big finale, Peter is sent on his way to find Ben by his companions, but as we check up on Ben, he is kind of going a little bit insane, he’s not going evil insane, but Beyond have really scrambled his eggs to the point he doesn’t even remember Peter’s name when they meet up, but Ben pushes through it, and this installment ends with a page as awesome as when I found 20 pounds in a grid that one time, which means its totally awesome. Both Spider-men, suited up and ready to take Beyond down, Once and for all!


This issue was one of the best parts of Beyond to date, delivering all of those epic moments you know you love as we dive headfirst into what is bound to be an incredible final act of Spider-man: Beyond. Gleason’s writing chops are nothing to mess with and pair beautifully with legendary artist Mark Bagely in a satisfying issue that I couldn’t put down, as far as verdicts go, you’re not going to get a better one than this. Although if I had to make one small gripe, I would say that the Beyond company’s whole twist and game plan is a little predictable, but that is an issue that pails in comparison to all of the great aspects of this Spidey-saga. Join me soon for the next chapter!

9.5/10


Review by Leo Brocklehurst



Amazing Fantasy #3 – Review

Amazing Fantasy is a title I’d strongly recommend for anyone either intrigued by the lovely cover art, curious about the displacement of some key Marvel heroes, or who wants something a little different.

Amazing Fantasy #3

Story: Kaare Andrews
Art: Kaare Andrews
Colours: Brian Reber
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Released October 2021

I keep coming back to the covers for Amazing Fantasy 1 and 2 over and over, just to enjoy them, to find new details, to appreciate the skill of their creator. This one’s no different.

Here we have Black Widow, framed by an unmistakably alien vista, the victor of a battle against strange foes. It’s a wonderful piece of art by Kaare Andrews, once again nodding to his influences while creating something suited to the modern age. There’s a strong retro-futurism feel here, recalling the work of greats such as Ed Emshwiller, Virgil Finlay and the fantastical cityscapes of Frank R. Paul. There’s more than a dash of Rodney Matthews here too and, as each of these fantasy and sci-fi greats brought us whole new worlds of incredible imagination, so too does Kaare Andrews with his cover art here. If there are any elements that draw you in, be it the gorgeous rendering of Black Widow and alien companion, the Soviet rocket ship, the strange structures on the horizon, then you would do well to not only check out this run but also investigate Andrews’ predecessors.

While each of the three primary covers for Amazing Fantasy so far have been worthy of the ‘amazing’ tag and very much stand on their own, they also serve to signal a comic story which places its characters in situations and settings which are several steps from the norm. While the atypical nature of Andrews’ title might be divisive when it comes to audience, there are enough familiar elements to ease readers into this new world and allow them to enjoy the adventure.

And what an adventure it is! The action moves at quite a pace now, and early in this issue Andrews’ establishes the drums of war as a central theme. Certainly tensions have been building as each of the three main characters find their feet in this strange new land.

Another familiar face from the Marvel universe makes her entrance proper while a young king, Black Widow at his side, makes a bid to avert the impending conflict. Meanwhile, Captain America (in full pulp hero mode) attempts to rally the tribe of the Cat People to act against instinct and tradition in order to defend themselves. Spider Man/Peter Parker remains with the people of Dragon Rock, who make their own preparations.

Add to all this, two other bestial tribes, both of whom chomp at the bit for conflict, and soon we hear the drums start; DOOM, DOOM, DOOM. Moments of court intrigue and quiet reflection are done. Now is the time for battle to be joined.

Andrews switches to epic wide panels to depict both the prelude to war and its main act, a technique which works to great effect, especially when paired with the repeated sound of drums, literally spelling doom. The action is enhanced further by Brian Reber’s colours, shifting here to a dark, hellish palette and so fully immersing us in the grim events facing our heroes. The writing is working well too, with tight dialogue and good characterisation. Kaare Andrews guides us through his ‘Island of Death’ with confidence and no small amount of mystery, supported throughout by some great lettering work from Joe Sabino, who presents the words clearly while respecting the artwork.

The story brings a good number of dramatic moments, reveals and twists; certainly enough to make for a compelling page turner. By the time we reach the cliffhanger ending, we are left ready to read on, to look forward to the next instalment. And, as the preview of issue four’s cover would indicate, yet more stunning art to appreciate.


Verdict

Amazing Fantasy is a title I’d strongly recommend for anyone either intrigued by the lovely cover art, curious about the displacement of some key Marvel heroes, or who wants something a little different. As an added plus, this is a limited run and as such should be easy to track down and collect in its entirety. There are some great variant covers around for each issue too, so seek them out if you can!


Review by Andy Flood, 11/1/22


The Amazing Spider-Man #81 – Review

As Ben and Marcus (Ben’s supervisor) discuss their plan to attack, Marcus brings up the fact that since its in Brooklyn, there’s a mighty high chance Miles will ‘swing’ by onto the scene…

The Amazing Spider-Man #81

Written by: Saladin Ahmed
Artwork by: Carlos Gómez
Published by Marvel Comics 15/12/21

One of the most anticipated chapters of BEYOND is finally upon us! The two rookie Spider-men collide in one action packed issue with a brand new creative team of Saladin Ahmed and Carlos Gómez.

This issue starts with (I believe an introduction of a new villain) Rhizome being spotted on the loose in Brooklyn. I’ve attempted to do some digging and it looks like this is the first appearance of Rhizome which is a welcome addition. Just to have ANY new marvel villains in this day and age is quite a feat, the last time Spider-man faced a new villain was Kindred back in 2018! Hopefully we get more new villains in Spidey’s future, fingers crossed.

As Ben and Marcus (Ben’s supervisor) discuss their plan to attack, Marcus brings up the fact that since its in Brooklyn, there’s a mighty high chance Miles will ‘swing’ by onto the scene, being the Borough’s resident web-slinger. Ahmed seems to really know how to give characters a personality, like most of the beyond issues, he manages to add in titbits of humor and depth to the character of Ben Reilly. Like in the introductory scene, we get some nice quips and when asked to enforce the Beyond trademark on Miles, Ben is weary but still accepts. Little pieces of characterization like this makes the characters feel more real and show readers Ben isn’t just blindly following Beyond’s orders. This is also been building up throughout the storyline which, by the end, I’m sure Beyond will be exposed and/or put out of commission by the friendly neighborhood you-know-who.

A character I really love in this Spider saga is Janine Godbe. She’s Ben’s girlfriend and she’s an interesting, 3-dimensional person. She first appeared back in the infamous clone saga in 1995’s Spider-man: the lost years, she’s had a complex story involving her having to take her own fathers life . After the clone saga ended however, Marvel figured that to tie up a loose end, they’d just throw her in prison for her justified crime (see why its justified in the said 90’s mini-series, its really good!) And practically shelved the best new character of the clone saga. But now, she’s back in the mainstream Spider-man series and it’s always fun when she shows up. Anyway, apologies for the tangent. Ben checks in with Janine and takes off to Brooklyn.

As Ben makes his way to the scene, he showcases his awesome Spider-wings that actually make him fly, which is totally awesome. Once he gets to the area of destruction, he discovers that Rhizome is nowhere to be seen and that’s when Miles shows up on the case. After Miles realises Ben isn’t the Usual Spider-man doing the rounds, they have a cool little sparring match which showcases each others abilities , since they’re both semi newcomers, they’re pretty evenly matched and the fight only ends once Ben blurts out Peter’s name, showing that he is connected to the OG Spider-man. Ben and Miles talk it out and find that they had actually met in Spider verse/Geddon. The both of them do some duties around the block that was damaged and save a few lives, deciding to team up and find the loose Rhizome which Ben manages to do with ease due to Beyond’s advanced tech.

The fight with Rhizome goes down pretty swiftly with the two Spider-men using a combination of Ben’s webs and Miles’ venom sting to take down the force of nature which, in actuality, was just a guy in a fancy suit supplied by an enemy Miles knows called “the Assessor”. This serves as Miles exit point as he goes to track down the Assessor and whatever other juiced up villains he has on hand with Ben and Miles making a friendship and the former doesn’t attempt to give Miles any kind of warning. The fight was beautifully drawn by the hugely underrated Carlos Gómez who has done some amount of work in almost every marvel book you can possibly imagine. The guys art leaps of the page and has so much energy in it, it makes the issue go so much faster and has you missing it once its over, brilliant stuff.

Thus issue concludes with Ben receiving a Scolding from Head of Beyond, Maxine Danger which results yet another Beyond lecture on how the company has poured so much resources into him and Janine, (the Beyond lecture may actually become a villain of its own so make sure to buy five copies of the first time Ben Reilly’s most dangerous foe appears!!!) These things never seem to get through to Ben however and I’m sure he’ll continue in his rebellious, good hearted ways. As an epilogue, Maxine is revealed to be holding a jar of the material Rhizome was made out of, this might mean that Maxine danger planned the villain to break free and unite Ben and Miles? Or maybe it even means Danger herself is the Assessor, which would give Miles a far bigger part in the story. All interesting stuff!


This issue of the Amazing Spider-man lived up to its well deserving title. Exciting and mesmerizing art coupled with an edge of your seat script make a stellar issue of the webbed wonders adventures. Be here soon for an oddball tale of a problem in Peter Parker’s medical ward…


Review by Leo Brocklehurst


Batman #118 – Review

The team of writer Joshua Williamson and artists, Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin, kick off their 4-issue arc with ‘The Abyss Part I’.

‘The Abyss Part I: “Now it’s a Party!”’
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin
Colours: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles

Released: 07/12/21
Published by DC Comics

The team of writer Joshua Williamson and artists, Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin, kick off their 4-issue arc with ‘The Abyss Part I’. Coming off the back of Fear State, which was wrapped up last issue, the team are given the opportunity to tell a story of their own that isn’t bogged down by any crossover necessities. There isn’t even a backup story in this issue. For anyone who knows me, you can imagine how much that cheers me up! The end result is worth the cover price.

Williamson begins his story with a bit of playful fun, sending Batman off to deal with some gatecrashing robbers, at a billionaire’s fancy dress ball. It reminds us of just how sharp Batman is, always watching people, always taking note of the little things that most common people would never see. This skill comes into play at the back end of this issue too, as Batman surveys a crime scene in the aftermath of a supposed killing, involving a new villain called Abyss. We are not given much to go on with this character; just enough to create a sense of intrigue.

Williamson also does a good job of showing us what kind of man Bruce is throughout, which makes this particular issue a good place for new readers to begin their journey with the character. Seeing the interaction between him, Oracle and Nightwing, perfectly encapsulates what he is all about. Without a crisis to solve he seems lost. He has nothing to do but wait for something to kick off. You can almost sense the relief from him, as he avoids having to eat morning bagels with Dick and Barbara, while he runs off to Badhnisia to get stuck into a murder investigation.

The artwork here is simply gorgeous! Image after image, panel after panel, page after page: there’s nothing here that isn’t worthy of being cut out, framed, and hung on a wall. It’s just beautiful.

The theme of the aforementioned billionaire’s ball allows for some striking visuals. Tomeu Morey continues his work here on colouring duties, once again doing a marvelous job. A particular two page spread affords him the opportunity to go wild. I love the ways in which he lights a scene, almost like a movie’s director of photography. He is certainly one of the best in the business right now.

Batman #118 is an absolute delight! Of course, we will need to see where Williamson takes this story before a full judgment can be made, but if he continues to balance the playfulness with the intrigue, in the way that he does here, then we are in for a treat. If not, then you’ve always got some great pinup art for your wall!


Verdict –
Absolutely stunning artwork, from Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin, and a fun story that builds plenty of intrigue, from writer Joshua Williamson, really kicks off this new run in tremendous fashion!


Review by Bryan Lomax, 05/01/22

Batgirls #1 – Review

This is a comic that will certainly appeal to younger female readers who will instantly identify with the personalities of the three main characters

BATGIRLS #1

Written by: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad

Art: Jorge Corona
Released: February 2022

Published DC Comics

Described on DC’s website as “the pizza slumber party you don’t want to miss,” this new six-part series by writers Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad is filled with the kind of energy you’d expect to see at, well, a teenage girls’ slumber party!

Ever since Batgirl Cassandra Cain handed over the reins to Stephanie Brown (who, as Spoiler, kicked back teenage-rebellion-style at her criminal father the Cluemaster), fans have been eagerly awaiting a team-up of the two friends. Under the watchful eye of Barbara Gordon, the three move into an apartment on the outskirts of Gotham, away from the mysterious Seer and, hopefully, any criminals who might test their combined strengths. This being Gotham, it isn’t long until Cass has to take down a gang of thugs, leading her and Steph to a hide-out where they kick butt and face down a group of workmen who appear to be under some kind of hypnotic spell. Throw in a spate of murders and a suspicious looking neighbor, and it looks like the Batgirls’ plans for a discreetly led life are going to be short-lived.

This is a comic that will certainly appeal to younger female readers who will instantly identify with the personalities of the three main characters: in Cass we have the quiet, thoughtful one who won’t take things lying down (a nod to her backstory as a trained child assassin); Steph – dressed in her Spoiler costume — is the impetuous, fun-loving one; while Babs/Oracle is the level-headed leader of the group who tries in vain to keep her two friends from exposing themselves to the criminal underworld. Cloonan and Conrad know what make girls tick (or, for that matter, any teenager whatever their gender): Steph is as enthusiastic about who gets first dibs on the top bunk as she is about accompanying Cass on a crime-fighting night-time excursion, and the comradeship and excitement of three friends moving in together is shown through simple pleasures like sharing meals, goofing off and the freedoms offered by living independently from adult male interference.

As a father of twin 11-year-old daughters, I was completely onboard with this comic; it doesn’t patronise the target audience, the ear for dialogue is deftly tuned in to how teenagers actually speak, and the affection the characters feel for each other is beautifully realised through Jorge Corona’s impressive artwork; he captures the attitudes of the three perfectly, making them recognisable through a series of sideways glances, defiant scowls, and hesitant expectation (in one page, wherein Bab’s excitement at revealing the bat-bikes is matched by Cass and Steph’s disappointment on seeing them, the individual characteristics are illustrated so effectively, the scene would have worked even without dialogue). It’s also to Corona’s credit that he doesn’t resort to the anime-like frenetic expressions (jumping up and down, arms waving, etc.) that can sometimes render teenage characters silly; these three are all-business, albeit with a streak of fun.


But enough of this old man’s ramblings, this is what my daughters had to say about Batgirls #1:

“We liked Cass and Steph the most, and the bit with the bat-bikes was really funny. The story was gripping and the way the girls spoke was really cool, especially Steph’s sarcastic “Decisions, decisions” when Babs offers her a choice of Pot Noods or Pot Noods. Looking forward to the next issue!”


Reviewed by Christopher, Daisy and Robyn Witty


Star Wars: Boushh #1 – Review

Boushh is certainly tough and knows what he is doing, but it’s his personal background and how the cruel laws of his home planet of Uba have shaped him into who he is that make him a truly engaging character

STAR WARS: BOUSHH #1

Written by: Alyssa Wong
Art: David Baldeon
Colours: Israel Silva

Released: 15/09/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics


The massive, line-wide War of the Bounty Hunters narrative has rumbled on for several months now, with characters, major plot points and events spreading and intersecting across all the ongoing Star Wars titles. The slight outliers, however, have been the one-shots that have been thrown into the mix. While the stories of Jabba the Hutt and 4-LOM & Zuckuss have certainly depended on the happenings of the main series, they haven’t had the biggest impact on the overarching tale. Each has been fun, but not much else besides.

The same sense of playfulness runs through Alyssa Wong and David Baldeon’s Boussh #1, but while it may still be another title that has little impact on the core mini-series, it is an essential read in its own right. Wong and Baldeon deliver an action-packed, emotionally driven, self-contained narrative that brings to the fore everything that makes this event’s focus on the seedier side of the Star Wars galaxy so appealing.

Making one of the many bounty hunters that litter the Star Wars universe (and filled the toy boxes of many a child of the 80s) stand out can’t be an easy job – each of them is appealing in their own way but, no matter how badass a writer might try to make them, they will always be eclipsed by the man himself, Boba Fett. Wong takes a slightly different approach here. Boushh is certainly tough and knows what he is doing, but it’s his personal background and how the cruel laws of his home planet of Uba have shaped him into who he is that make him a truly engaging character. Wong has done a sterling job of making us care not only for Boushh but for his entire crew of exiles who, in just a few short pages, are convincingly positioned as a sort of family who could probably carry their own ongoing series (especially if Wong were at the helm).

What’s even more astounding is that Boushh isn’t even the best part of this book (though he comes a very close second). That honour goes to ruthless crime boss Domina Tagge, featured recently in Wong’s ongoing run on Doctor Aphra. She’s at once sexy and scary, a force to be reckoned with who would evidently do anything to maintain supremacy, as skilled of a talker as she is a fighter. Her dialogue drips with charm and malice and, in the moments where words aren’t required, Baldeon does just as good a job as Wong of imbuing her with a sense of self-righteousness and power – a raised eyebrow here, a half-smile there; every little detail is beautifully considered and skilfully conveyed.

Baldeon’s subtlety, quite rightly, goes out of the window for the more action-oriented panels. They have the vibrancy of work by Pepe Larraz and the eye-popping, cartoonish gorgeousness of the pencils of fellow Star Wars artist, Luke Ross and are wonderfully embellished with colours by Israel Silva. Burnished oranges leap off the page throughout the book, from Boushh’s tragic backstory to the humming plasma blade wielded by Domina Tagge, to the fiery backgrounds that compliment the book’s dramatic and satisfying conclusion.



VERDICT

While it may be part of a bigger story, Boushh #1 is a near-perfect standalone story, and we can only hope that this one-shot morphs into something much bigger in the future. A wish list for the attention of Marvel, Disney and Lucasfilm:

  • More Boushh
  • More Domina Tagge
  • More Alyssa Wong


Review by Nathan Harrison

Batman #111 Review

Tynion has no problem showing us where he sits on the rogues gallery totem pole, as Scarecrow takes centre stage and puts Simon Saint’s puppet in his place.


Batman #111
Reviewed by Bryan Lomax

Writer: James Tynion IV
Art: Jorge Jimenez (“The Cowardly Lot Part Five”) and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (“Ghost-Maker Chapter 4”)
Colours: Tomeu Morey (“The Cowardly Lot Part Five”) and Romulo Fajardo Jr. (“Ghost-Maker Chapter 4”)
Released: 03/08/21
Published by DC Comics

James Tynion IV does a truly great job on villain duty this issue. He is helped immensely with long-time Batman villain, Scarecrow, thanks to the amazing artwork of Jorge Jiminez and Tomeu Morey in ‘The Cowardly Lot Part Five’, which turns the villain into a truly scary, Jigsaw-like mad man. He becomes a viable threat towards Batman whereas, in the past, he has often run the risk of appearing like a B-lister.

I love that Tynion doesn’t get too precious with his own creations here too. Having brought us Peacemaker 01, building the villain up over the previous four issues, there might be a temptation there to show just how formidable he is at Scarecrow’s expense. But Tynion has no problem showing us where he sits on the rogues gallery totem pole, as Scarecrow takes centre stage and puts Simon Saint’s puppet in his place.

Not that I doubted for a second that Miracle Molly would get out of the predicament she found herself in at the end of the last issue, but I still couldn’t help breathe a sigh of relief that the character will live to fight another day, having grown rather attached to her.

Ghost-Maker chapter 4 properly gives us an introduction to the new villain, Razorline, a horrific self-made monster who, once again, gives off some serious movie-inspired vibes. For anyone who has seen the French horror film, ‘Martyrs’, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This is a sick and twisted mind that has sought to gain some form of transcendence through pain.

The artwork by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz hasn’t really grabbed me until now. But his style seems to fit with the character of Razorline for some reason.

The only thing that I am seriously unimpressed with are the final words of the issue, which tell us that the conclusion to the Ghost-Maker storyline can be found in the upcoming Batman Annual #1. Personally I am of the opinion that annuals should feature self-contained stories, but that also, unless a particular story is part of a major crossover series then it should end within the pages of the title where it began. Otherwise it just feels like an attempt by the publishers to get you to pick up more titles.

Still, this is a great issue that makes me excited to read the conclusions to both storylines that feature within. Bring on Batman #112 and Batman Annual #1!


Verdict –

Ghostmaker is given a truly compelling villain and Batman faces off against perhaps the best iteration of the Scarecrow that I’ve ever seen.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 15/08/21

X-Men #1 Review

This new start for the flagship title acts as a refreshing pallet cleanser for those who like their X-Men action ripped straight out of the Claremont era or even the classic ‘90s cartoon…


X-MEN #1Review by Nathan Harrison

Written by: Gerry Duggan

Art: Pepe Larraz
Colours: Marte Gracia


Released: 07/07/21 Published by Marvel Comics

The last couple of years’ worth of X-output headed up by mutant mastermind Jonathan Hickman has, quite rightly, been showered with praise. Fans have been treated to something all new and all different across the whole stable of X-related titles, creating a unique, morally complex, interwoven saga of the sort that only Hickman, the master of the long game, could conjure up. While that opus is continuing apace (the Reign of X era is now in full swing), this new run of the core title takes a more back-to-basics approach, firmly re-establishing the X-Men as what they have always been first and foremost – superheroes.

Following some time in isolation on the sovereign mutant island of Krakoa, mutantkind has now reintroduced itself to the world with the events of the Hellfire Gala and the one-shot Planet Size X-Men. The need-to-know elements of these are covered enough so as not to distract but also to fill new readers in sufficiently to enjoy this new run. While this title will likely still form a part of the bigger picture, those who want something a little more classic from their comics will lap this first issue up – veteran Deadpool scribe Gerry Duggan takes the reins and injects proceedings with a sense of playfulness and childlike glee, deploying hints of Silver Age style narration and a fun team dynamic to make this really stand out from the last few years’ worth of Krakoan adventures. Oh, and the X-Men’s base in New York is an actual goddamn treehouse! Simply put, this new set up is grin-inducing.

What’s more, Marvel have chosen the perfect artist for this run. Pepe Larraz is one of the finest illustrators working in comics today – his work on other recent X-Men related titles with Jonathan Hickman such as House of X was astounding, bringing this most recent era to life from the very start. Here, thanks to Duggan’s no holds barred script, Larraz is allowed to go to town, bringing a sense of dynamism to every panel, ably assisted by colour artist Marte Gracia. His work within the X-Men world has been nothing short of definitive, and he shows no signs of stopping with this latest offering.

That’s not to say that the whole issue is sunshine and rainbows – a new threat reveals itself, prompted by the mutant nation’s terraforming of Mars, and Larraz shows that he can do disturbing, twisted imagery just as proficiently as action-packed superheroics. Chances are things are only going to get darker as the run goes on.


VERDICT

While ‘Head of X’ Jonathan Hickman’s sweeping vision for mutantkind continues to be utterly compelling, this new start for the flagship title acts as a refreshing pallet cleanser for those who like their X-Men action ripped straight out of the Claremont era or even the classic ‘90s cartoon. This title does and will undoubtedly continue to form a part of a wider, earth-shattering narrative, but for anybody who feels somewhat intimidated by the scope of the current X-Men range, Duggan’s X-Men makes for a solid jumping on point, with no indication as of yet that it won’t act perfectly well as a fun, escapist standalone piece for those who want in on this exhilarating and intriguing era.


Review by Nathan Harrison, 09/07/2021