Coping With a Post-Truth Society in X-Men Red 10

by Spencer Irwin

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk.

Tom Taylor and Roge Antonio open X-Men Red 10 with a single, three-word sentence that packs so much power that it takes up an entire page’s worth of real estate.

This image has so much power because it runs counter to everything we as the audience know about Jean Grey as a character. Ultimately, though, we’re responding to it based off our pre-determined opinions and biases, deciding that it’s fake, that it clearly isn’t Jean despite no real evidence backing us up. That’s exactly how the citizens of the Marvel Universe react to this broadcast as well, and those various knee-jerk reactions provide a startlingly prescient parallel to real life politics that make X-Men Red 10 an eerie, unsettling read. Continue reading

Feature Panels Orient the Action in Extermination 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Extermination 3

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Tony Zhou’s Every Frame A Painting channel might just be my favorite outlet for analysis of visual media. Zhou tends to frame his videos very narrowly — such as the “How to do Visual Comedy” video excerpted above — but the lessons can be applied much more broadly. Which is my half-explanation for why I chose that particular video to kick off my analysis of Extermination 3 — not because this issue has anything to do with visual comedy, but because artist Pepe Larraz does such a brilliant job inventively eschewing lazy visual conventions. Continue reading

Compassion is the Greatest Weapon of All in X-Men Red 5

by Spencer Irwin

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk.

A few weeks ago in X-Men Red Annual 1, Jean Grey met a bigoted anti-mutant protester and showed him kindness and compassion, relating to the turmoil and abuse he dealt with in his home life and continuing to worry about him long after their meeting had come to an end. Compassion continues to be Jean’s weapon of choice in Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men Red 5, and it’s a weapon she’s more than capable of deploying against an entire army. Continue reading

X-Men Red 4 Battles Real-World Threats

by Drew Baumgartner

X-Men Red 4

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk.

Comics have always reflected our real-world fears — from inner-city crime or nuclear panic — by heightening them to exaggerated extremes. Except, I’d argue, when it comes to the X-Men’s persecution. Sure, the X-Men’s superpowers would qualify as an “exaggerated extreme” of the types of differences that normally mark a minority class, but it’s straight-up not possible for writers to come up with more exaggerated ways societies persecute their minorities. From apartheid to lynchings to genocides, there’s nothing the X-Men have faced that real-world minorities haven’t already suffered, grounding even their most fanciful stories in sober reality. It’s a fact that Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar have leaned into from the start of X-Men Red, lending the series a “ripped from the headlines” approach that is truly unique in superhero comics. Continue reading

X-Men: The Wedding Special 1

by Spencer Irwin

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk.

What’s a Wedding Special without a wedding? It’s X-Men: The Wedding Special 1, I suppose. I’ll try not to hold the fact that this isn’t actually Kitty and Colossus’ wedding against this issue — chalk it up to a failure of expectations and research on my behalf, although I’ll still argue that it’s a misleading title. If anything, the real problem with this special isn’t the lack of a wedding, but the fact that much of what we get instead feels insubstantial and, at times, even generic. Continue reading

Luck vs. Skill in Domino 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Domino 2

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Is privilege just luck that we don’t recognize as luck? The failure to recognize the benefits afforded by our race, gender, class, nationality, or any other number of inborn factors in our lives? That is, a privileged person is a lucky person, but specifically one that misattributes their luck as merit or skill. This helps protect Domino from coming off as too privileged — she absolutely recognizes how lucky she is — though Gail Simone and David Baladeón take pains to make it clear that she’s not that lucky, and that much of her success is ultimately attributable to her skills, too. Continue reading

Lettering Through the Psychic Fog in Astonishing X-Men 11

By Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

CORRECTION (5/3/18): A previous version of this piece credited Clayton Cowles with the lettering, as is indicated in the credits. The issue was actually lettered by Travis Lanham.

Astonishing X-Men is one of those telepathic mutant clusterfucks. You know the type: there are psychics and reality warpers and a shapeshifter all int he mix at once. The audience’s ability to tell what is happening and what is not happening will likely vary from reader to reader, but I had a hell of a time tracking who was where and what specific threats they faced. This disorientation cues the reader up for that mind-bending twist on the final page. But you can’t just be confused for 20 pages, can you? With Ron Garney’s artwork and Charles Soule’s script both actively working to distance themselves from the reader, we have to look to letterer Travis Lanham for signposts of stability. Continue reading

Narrative Twists and Powerful Love in Hunt for Wolverine 1

By Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Modern storytelling loves a narrative twist — you could argue that most stories are exclusively centered around them. With that in mind, do we let the success of a twist dictate the overall reception of a story? Hunt for Wolverine 1 may be such an example. Continue reading

Dialogue and Internal Monologue as an Introduction in Domino 1

by Spencer Irwin

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

First issues have an almost impossible amount of work to do. They have to introduce (or reintroduce) the lead character, their supporting cast, their unique perspective, the series’ premise, and they have to do it all within 20 pages. Every creative team has their own unique approach to this task, and for Gail Simone and David Baldeon in Domino 1, that approach largely comes down to dialogue and internal monologue. Continue reading

X-Men Red 3 Offers a Portrait of Our Time

by Drew Baumgartner

X-Men Red 3

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk.

…it occurred to me that instead of them just being heroes that everybody admired, what if I made other people fear and suspect and actually hate them because they were different? I loved that idea; it not only made them different, but it was a good metaphor for what was happening with the civil rights movement in the country at that time.

Stan Lee on creating the X-Men

That the mutants of the Marvel universe are reviled and oppressed has long made them an allegory for any number of minorities the world over, which in turn makes the X-Men an allegory for any number of civil rights activists. Much has been written about the MLK/Xavier and Malcolm X/Magneto parallels, but as the twentieth century churned on, those movements coalesced less and less around recognizable figureheads. These movements weren’t leaderless, by any means, but the leaders were no longer the household names they were in the early ’60s. X-Men comics responded in kind, broadening its cast and bringing in an array of perspectives to cover the more diffuse push for civil rights across the globe. This made the X-Men generalists in terms of their symbolic power — maybe they were drawing parallels to the gay rights movement, or apartheid, or even the holocaust. But that generalist nature may also have blunted any one of those parallels, limiting how specific any one of them can truly feel.

Or so I thought. I’d come to accept the X-Men as a broad comment on the nature of oppression and activism, but never turned to it for “ripped from the headlines” representations of discrete real-world events. Maybe I (and the rest of the world) wasn’t paying enough attention to real-world events to recognize them. Maybe those events weren’t being covered in the way they have been over the past few years. Whatever the case, I was completely bowled over by the unapologetic allegory for Charlottesville that Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar present in X-Men Red 3. Continue reading