DARK X-MEN #1
WELCOME TO THE DARK X-MEN… HOPE THE WORLD SURVIVES THE EXPERIENCE! Following the explosive events of the Hellfire Gala, MADELYNE PRYOR realizes the world needs the X-Men now more than ever. HAVOK and GAMBIT have served on the team before…but never one that looks like this! And how does GIMMICK, breakout star of MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE, fall under the Goblin Queen’s sway?
I try very hard to downplay my own hype for new X-books. I’ve let my overbearing expectations and imagination run away with my own internally manufactured wants of what a book should be, instead of just letting the creative team do it’s thing and take it as it comes. Hey, we love X-Men and who among us has not placed the burden of our own hopes on a specific x-book at one time of another (the answer is we all have…don’t kid yourself) so I was very pleased to find that this debut issue scratches almost every single itch I had when it came to what I thought this book would be, with a few surprises to boot.
Steve Foxe splits the issue into two actual separate stories and we will deal with the main body first, THERE IS A KINGDOM is this mini’s establishing shot and Foxe and co fit a ton of explanation into those opening pages. As with X-Men #25 it’s X weeks after the Fall aka the tragic events of the Hellfire Gala. Mutant kind is on the backfoot, Orchis runs the streets, what’s left of mutant kind is scattered. The US government is still however recognizing the sovereignty of Limbo and as such the NY Embassy has become a haven and sanctuary for mutants who find themselves once again hunted, hated and feared. Foxe uses Gimmick and a set piece around “Informants” to establish how humanity at large has turned on mutant kind. The story spins out from there. What the issue does very well is bring the characters together in a more organic way than just throwing them instantly on the team. Foxe smartly uses a rescue and tragedy in the opening shot to bring certain characters together.
There’s darkness, violence and blood aplenty as the creative team makes very sure this is lives up to its name, with cheeky and very direct foreshadowing straight out of the gate in a dream sequence before carrying the violence and tragedy on to the streets What Foxe does very well is give the cast very specific recognizable voices. Madelyne is not Jean Grey, she has her own identity and character and she has no time for bigot fascists, Alex is a man very much in love but still trying to soften what he perceives to be Madelyne’s merciless stance against the enemy and it ends up costing him. Also there’s Maggot, and for a South African , seeing our most famous mutant son get some screen time is fantastic. Then there’s Gambit. Now here’s a spoiler. Don’t read this issue to find out answers to his relationship status because I’m telling you there are no answers to that. What you need to know is: he has a beard now. The thing about Gambit is he never been the smartest or the most powerful mutant but he is definitely one of the coolest and Jonas Scharf reminds us of this with an absolutely PERFECT silhouette shot to mark his appearance in the issue. Warren well Archangel is in this albeit very briefly but as the smoke clears around the rescue gone bad, there are definite question marks to why he was allowed to end up in the situation he ends up in because that can’t be an accident, surely? Guess we will find out. Story wise Foxe ticks all the boxes here. High stakes, violence and grievous bodily harm, a great cast and a level of mystery to where we going capped with a perfect cliffhanger last page.
Jonas Scharf, Frank Martin Jr. and Clayton Cowles pull art duty here. Scharf’s heavy on the black ink style and Martin’s darker orange/red and deeper shades of blue are perfect for the mood of the book. The art style literally screams DARK X-MEN, with grim reapers, violent stabbings, demonic fire and Azazel doing terrible things to Orchis soldiers being the order of the day. The art style and coloring emphasize the dark violent tone of the book. I mean there is a car eating a person at one point, you aren’t in Kansas anymore toto! Scharf packs a solid amount of dynamism into his action moments but for me where he shines is in the tighter close ups of faces conveying emotion especially with Madelyne. Cowles gets to play around with some cool sound effects and really its a a well crafted issue from an art point of view that balances the tension of the characters situations with the more action driven parts of the story. Scharf also gets to draw a fairly large amount of characters and villains which he does really well at bringing them to life on the page. The last two pages (and the appearance of REDACTED, read the comic) are a wonderful study by Scharf and Martin in atmosphere and use of a specific palette to lead into a cliffhanger ending, Cowles gets to play with some cool sound effects and is as usual excellent on lettering.
Then Steve Foxe and company switch things up a bit. While the main part of the book drops you into the thick of things X-weeks later, Foxe and artist Nelson Daniel then circle back for a seven page week-long establishing shot that puts Alex Summers, a man searching for purpose, comically in the center of things. being smartly additive to what’s happened in the main part of the story. DO YOU LOVE ME, establishes how the the Embassy of Limbo establishes itself, with certain characters including primary cast members Azazel, Emplate and Zero showing up and giving reasons for why they are seeking asylum in the embassy , and we even drop in for visit with Chasm. Its’s a more tongue in cheek, comedic approach than the main body of the story but ties things in the main story and even to other books coming out this week.
The main story in Dark X-Men lives up to it's namesake by being very dark but at the same time very X-Men. Violent and taking no prisoners with a brilliant combination of atmospheric line art and coloring that elevate the excellent script and deliver a disturbing but thoroughly enthralling opener that tells you more than enough to hook you in while keeping it dark and mysterious while the second part allows the creative team to be more tongue in cheek but still additive to the overall story.
DARK X-MEN #1: Very Dark, Very X-Men
- Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
- Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
- Art - 9.5/109.5/10
- Color - 9.5/109.5/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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