If I were forced to make the difficult decision of picking between my darlings, I would have to deem X-men: Red as the best current ongoing X-team book. That may seem like unnecessarily high praise given that it’s only a modest five issues in. However, decisions can be made about a book within an issue or two, and this is well past that obligatory grace period. X-men: Red does not wane after it’s initial start. In fact, I’d argue that it’s becoming progressively better. In X-men: Red #5, Cassandra Nova has driven the world mad with an abominable hate for mutants.
There is a certain literary art when it comes to plot building, and each writer is the architect of their own vision. Tom Taylor had the very power of the Phoenix in his hands. Being the very first person to write Jean Grey following Matt Rosenburg after her resurrection, his vision was to hit the psychic redhead with the harsh reality about the world. It hasn’t changed, Jean. And you being back doesn’t mean it’s going to change now either. Mutants are still oppressed in different ways by different individuals, and the latest oppressor is Cassandra Nova.
I love that in X-men: Red #1, Jean's vision of creating true peace was immediately derailed by being framed for murder on live television. It makes Cassandra’s reveal as the villain that much more personal. Her attack was perfectly timed. Her new weapons are interesting, too. Microscopic sentinels known as Sentinites? I think that’s rather clever. I’ve always enjoyed the more mastermind-like villains who throw the world into disarray and sit back with crossed legs and a cup of tea to watch the chaos ensue like a Michael Bay movie. They are the kind of villains that force the heroes to fight an intangible thing that’s not exactly so easy to punch. A concept even. In this case, that concept is hate.
I’ve also fallen in love with this team construction. All the members are unique, and furthermore, have a purpose. We notice that we are in issue #5 now, and we are still adding team members. This was a smart move, given that the story is still progressing, and members are joining as necessary, as opposed to throwing them all in a pot and seeing how it tastes together. We are adding them one at a time, and so far, each of them has fulfilled a sound purpose.
I think Asrar is doing a phenomenal job on the art in this book. One of the smaller things I noticed is that he’s got a way with eyes and shadows- using them to tell a lot about a character’s state of mind in a given scene. I notice as Gambit sneaks into the hospital, his eyes are near slits, portraying a sense of darkness or hardened emotion in his mood, like a looming burden. The same is of the officer’s standing at the patient’s door ignoring his wails. Meanwhile, Jean and Trinary--who have a clarity of mind--have large beautiful eyes, uncast by shadow. Just an element I noticed and appreciated.
This is also to say nothing of the detail of line work in even the simplest of panels. Many of the action scenes and team shots are absolutely breathtaking. Add in Beredo’s colors and you get scenes that evoke emotion without relying on the overall melancholy brought on by the book’s themes as an excuse to needlessly darken everything. I appreciate that we get bright colors for X-men: Red as opposed to something more X-Force-like.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the splendor of Travis Charest’s cover. The detail in his full body shot of Namor speaks volumes of kingliness and wisdom, which is something not always captured in the King of Atlantis. The added detail of the textured blue background and the tension lines around him that make it feel as if he’s underwater was a nice touch. Fantastic work.
Though X-men: Red #5 only hit on a single major confrontation, I think it helps further establish the state of the world with Cassandra’s influence. At the same time, Tom seems to be having fun with having Jean’s power in his hands. It makes for some interesting scenarios and some of which even members of the team may come to question the morality. I think this may be a personal story arc that he leads into later, but we’ll see. For now, definitely hop on this book if you haven’t already. It is well worth your reading time.