Jean Grey continues to assemble her team and learn the nature of the next great threat to mutantkind in this latest installment that takes us from Wakanda to Atlantis!
X-Men: Red #4 “The Hate Machine Part 4: Small Problem”
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Letters: Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Travis Charest; variants by Travis Charest & Tamra Bonvillain; Brent Schoonover & Nick Filardi
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Publisher: MARVEL COMICS
What You Need to Know:
Jean and her new team of X-Men are returning to Wakanda (where they are seeking asylum after Jean was framed for the murder of a foreign ambassador) after a successful mission to rescue Trinary from mobs controlled by Cassandra Nova (unbeknownst to them yet) when they are ambushed by Storm.
What You’ll Find Out:
It does not take long in the battle against Storm to sus out that she is being controlled by external forces. After a brief battle, Jean easily removes a psychic suggestion from Storm’s mind (placed by Nova) but finds that there is still another device, a nanite sentinel, exerting its programming over Storm. With the help of T’Challa (who informs Jean that he and Storm were married while she was dead) and our newest member, Trinary (a technopath), the “sentite” was discovered and disabled. The function of the sentite, however, is so malicious in its ability to turn any mind in the world to a mutant hunter-killer, that Jean determines even Wakanda is insufficient in the protection of her team. Instead, she appeals once more to Namor, who grants the team asylum in his kingdom. Half a world away, Nova gathers world leaders to discuss the “mutant menace”, introducing the Forge-constructed sentites by infecting said leaders, opening up a Pandora’s Box of globalized danger to mutantkind.
What Just Happened?
X-Men: Red continues to establish itself as one of, if not the best of the current titles by playing both to a macro and micro sense of mutants in a world that fears and hates them. While we see a stoic core group of the newly resurrected Jean alongside Nightcrawler, Storm, and Namor, the team also brings a youthful exuberance with Trinary, Laura, and Gabby, while maintaining a grounded compassion in Gentle. With the team now assembled, Jean is poised to establish a new mutant nation (although as a long-time reader, I would advise against such a move—it never seems to work out in the long term).
Taylor’s writing and connectivity between the world of the X-Men and our own world remain as sharp as ever. In the sequence below, we see a beautiful contrast in Jean’s push to expand global mutant relations in the notion of her “thinking smaller than ever” to remove the microscopic sentite from Storm’s mind. Again, as the over-arching narrative strives for macro change in the world, the battle remains at a micro level.
The following sequence maintains the interplay between two poles, as the narrative points towards the notion of social media as a global network, open to exploitation, but that said global network still operates at the level of individual users. As the world gets smaller, influence grows larger.
I struggled with Asrar’s art style through the first few issues, but it was with this issue and my reflection on the story that will probably help reconcile my personal tastes with the operations of the narrative. What occurs to me is that this somewhat detail devoid style seems to complement the series thematically in the context of the micro/macro interplay. In a sense, the lack of detail in the backgrounds and the characters, in general, opens up the opportunity to hyper-focus on detail at other times, such as in the below instance, illustrating Gentle’s core nature.
Final Thought: My waning struggles with the artistic style aside, this particular issue makes impressive strides in its move to globalize the X-Men in a way that has been seemingly absent for a few years, between the retreat into Limbo and the subsequent move to Central Park. The introduction of sentites is an interesting spin on a time-tested trope, but moving forward, the real test will be in the execution and handling of said trope (how is it different from similar devices?).