Dark Web: X-Men #1
THE X-MEN ARE ENSNARED IN CHASM AND THE GOBLIN QUEEN'S DARK WEB! Chaos reigns in the streets of New York City as demon hordes pour forth from the realm of Limbo…a realm that until recently was ruled by Magik. A realm now ruled by Cyclops' ex. Also, Havok's ex. Also, a clone of Jean. The X-Men wade into the fray by taking on some of their darker history as the Goblin Queen returns for vengeance!
Dark Web: X-Men #1 – written by Gerry Duggan with art and colors by Rod Reis and letters from VC’s Cory Petit – picks up immediately from the opening Dark Web one-shot with the X-Men reacting to the invading demons from Limbo. Magik provides a one-page recap of her Limbo origins and the previous story arc of New Mutants that dealt with her passing the crown to Madelyne Pryor aka the Goblin Queen. From there, the issue splits the X-Men team with Magik, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Havok heading to Limbo to find Madelyne while Forge, Iceman, and Firestar stay to help in New York.
The first storyline sees the Magik lead team ambushed by sleep demons, and imprisoned by the Goblin Queen (full cheesecake for Havok is included). Back in New York, Forge dispatches the demons on his own while Iceman and Firestar bump into Spider-Man and have an Amazing Friends reunion as they battle the annual Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. The trio defeats the tree at the cost of annual traditions before Spider-Man speeds to his Dark Web issue, Amazing Spider-Man #15. The issue finishes with a fun data page recounting the X-Men’s White Elephant exchange adding a bit of levity to the opening issue.
The scripting for this issue is great, building off Duggan’s excellent ability to be a team player, incorporating the beats and character arcs for X-Men, New Mutants, Hellions, and more without bogging down the pacing of the issue. Much of that backstory works thanks to Reis’s art, channeling the narrative and graphic conventions used during his time on New Mutants, playing with the form of a recap/flashback page. It’s a micro-example of the economic storytelling on display in the issue, as Duggan smartly splits the cast to provide both a covering of ground for multiple antagonists and the large roster of heroes on the team.
With the Amazing Friends reunion fight, Duggan and Reis get to bring the action, with a great synergy between the three heroes that shows how easily they can slip into old patterns. For characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men, team-ups are a dime a dozen, and Duggan’s scripting ensures there’s no confusion or wasted time between the three. Even with the current status quo of the X-Men and the public’s disdain for them, there’s no distraction in the form of hatred from the public. They’re in full rescue mode, and Spidey’s quips are enough to voice comedic approaches to the seeming mutant war on Christmas.
Duggan’s script offers plenty of good action beats with character moments linking them, like the trio taking the time to save a beagle in the middle of the fight. After the three defeat the tree in a clever but disruptive way, then comes the piling on from emergency services. The trio gets heckled, but Spider-Man departing gives Duggan a way out of the scene without having to hammer the point of them ruining Christmas for many New Yorkers.
The second plot, with Magik, Jean, and the Summer brothers is shorter, with the group getting taken out within the span of a few pages. Duggan’s scripting ensures that it doesn’t feel too convenient, playing up Magik’s cockiness at the level of demons attacking, paired with her misplaced trust in Madelyne. It’s a great beat that reinforces Magik’s growth and maturing from New Mutants and the general responsibilities of the Krakoa era while reinforcing her deeper character flaws.
After the group is separated, Duggan continues that excellent scripting with a focus on Cyclops and Havok, before the older brother’s infamous wardrobe is brought up. Havok’s place in the X-Men was done as a bit of petty spite, and that tension with Cyclops has been an underlying tension of the current iteration of the main X-Men book. Havok tries to address this with his trust/understanding of Madelyne but is quickly cut off by Cyclopes before the Goblin appears. Again, this is Duggan at his best, organically weaving in these quieter character beats as Havok and Magik are forced to reckon with their character growth and conflicted views of Madelyn.
Reis crushes the art in both plotlines, rendering the action of the Amazing Friends’ battle with the demon tree and the quieter moments of Magik and Havok defending Madelyne with equal skill. The action in the first portion is vibrant and kinetic thanks to the use of great motion blurring and effect combined with unique, visually interesting compositions. Reis’s work takes the painterly quality of Phil Noto and combines it with the expressive, scratchy linework of Bill Sienkiewicz to wonderful effect.
The demonic tree is the right blend of grotesque monster and self-aware being, the shape of its jagged branch teeth creating a striking image on the page. Reis was born to draw this sequence/story and makes me more than a little disappointed he isn’t drawing more of the crossover. Reading this makes his time on New Mutants feel like the perfect preparation for both elements, the action, and emotion.
Those quieter moments still have the strong visual acuity and dynamic layouts as the action, but the spectacle comes in the form of facial expressions, setting, and costuming. Once Magik and the team transport themselves to Limbo, Reis gives an immediate close-up of Illyana and his coloring does a great job of indicating the incoming small mountain. After that, Reis plays up the expressive faces and cheesecake in the Summers brothers’ cell.
Moments of pain as the duo is whipped by massive chains are etched across their faces in sharper, color palette-shifted images. Even without the SFX, the action is visceral thanks to the blotting effect and contact flare-up Reis employs near the points of contact. The scene also makes sure to give a full look at Havok in his Goblin King outfit, perfectly tattered and torn in the most tasteful of places before revealing the matching Goblin Queen design.
Dark Web: X-Men #1 is by far the best issue of the crossover so far thanks to its tight, economic storytelling paired with a grounding in well-cultivated continuity and character growth. Duggan’s script benefits from the splitting of the X-Men, allowing for Magik and Havok to play vital roles in the Goblin Queen's arc while Iceman and Firestar can reunite with Spider-Man for a solid action sequence. Reis’s art and colors are perfectly matched for this crossover and its various elements, thanks to his work on New Mutants, illustrating demon-infused objects with the same care as the handling of Madelyne Pryor’s betrayal. This is a tie-in that is a must-read for both X-Men and Dark Web readers, reveling in the collaborative nature of serialized, shared-universe comics.
Dark Web: X-Men #1: O, God, Christmas Tree
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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