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Daredevil #28 Arrives At An Opportune Time

Daredevil #28 is written by Chip Zdarsky, drawn by Marco Checcheto, colored by Marcio Menyz, and lettered by Clayton Cowles.

A year into quarantine, for most of us at least, and some haven’t necessarily had someone there to ask, “are you okay?” For those that have, what are you really supposed to say to such a question at this point? Is it a resounding “yes,” or is it something more complex than a one-word answer? Odds are you’re feeling a lot of things right now, and it’s likely that very few of them being okay. And that is what this issue sets out to deal with. 

Daredevil #28-Marvel Comics(2021)
Daredevil #28-Marvel Comics(2021)

The people of Hell’s Kitchen have been through something a bit different than what we’ve been experiencing in the real world. They’re recovering from the King In Black, which frankly, I do not care about and doesn’t especially matter here. It’s kind of fitting though, having to deal with the fallout from something that was out of your hands, causing you to adapt your plans. That’s something to relate to.

Sometimes (read as “often”) books suffer due to events and needing to fall in-line with them. Clever creators know how to make it work for them, and this is one such instance. Aliens, hammers, helicarriers, etc all come falling out of the sky…pretty frequently, but how often do people address the psychological toll that that takes? I can’t imagine it’s possible to be so desensitized in the Marvel Universe that you’re able to just shirk it off every time. That seems unlikely at best, problematic at least. It hits on all sides too, not just the heroes, not just the civilians, but the villains as well. It’s a lesson in empathy here, showing how relatable each side can be.

We get three points of focus: Matt in prison, Elektra babysitting, and Fisk at the hospital with Mary. Matt gets the lion’s share, being his book and all, but Fisk’s and Elektra’s page-time is no less significant. I’m not really interested in recapping what lead us to this point so go read the rest of this arc if you haven’t already, but I doubt you’re reading this if you aren’t caught up as well. So let’s start with Matt.

The Devil You Know In A Place He Doesn’t

Daredevil #28-Marvel Comics(2021)
Daredevil #28-Marvel Comics(2021)

Matt Murdock feels consumed by guilt. Not unusual for our resident Catholic superhero, but he’s having something of a crisis with his place in the world. Not hard to imagine right now, struggling to find a place for yourself where you feel like you’re contributing to society. Or even just the idea of not feeling like yourself right now. I’ve been there, still am, and have seen plenty of people around who feel similarly lost, adrift, and listless. Matt is in some ways far from himself and also the same as always, feeding into his own guilt and putting himself in a place where he shouldn’t be.

As for where he shouldn’t be, prison. There’s a quote here levied against Matt by his therapist that I’ve never heard before, “inequality tourist,” and damn that’s good. The American prison system is not a joke, and frankly, really fucking sucks. That much is made perfectly clear across these pages. There are multiple levels of privilege that Matt’s coming in here with, being a superhero and a white man. For fucks’ sake, he gets to keep his mask on, which tells you everything you need to know about how uneven a playing field it is. And still, that’s only a part of it. Even in prison, white men still aren’t treated nearly the same as marginalized folks, still feeding off the system that they made. Matt’s under the impression he’s just like anyone else in prison, by virtue of simply being there. He’s informed otherwise by basically every person he comes across, thankfully. He thinks he’s bound to the same laws as the rest of society, as if every time he knocks someone out with his baton, he’s not breaking a law. For such a smart guy, Matt’s an impeccable dumb-ass.

Calling into question the close relationship that capes like Spider-Man and Daredevil have with police is something I feel doesn’t happen nearly enough. What happens in this comic is more like a scathing indictment of the prison system at-large, which is more than fine with me. We’ve seen Daredevil in prison before, it’s not that crazy of a concept, but being told point-blank that the prison system is “for show” by Kirsten just hits different, and feels great. Fuck it, Alexa, play “Prison Song.”

Matt’s stubborn refusal to admit that he’s not okay, again far too relatable, finally abandons him only when things take a darker turn. A realization sweeps over him when Nervous Neil kills himself in his cell, feeling like he was unable to escape from his problems. Finally, the difference between Matt and the other inmates is made perfectly clear to him. It hits him like a punch in the stomach, keeling him over and putting him in the arms of his therapist, at last. Alexa, play “I’m Not Okay(I Promise).”

There’s Something (Troubling) About Mary

Moving onto Fisk and Mary, I am alarmed at how much I enjoy these two together at this point. Not in a romantic way mind you, but giving Wilson a “friend” who is on the same power level as him, so to speak, is fascinating. Fisk is someone you imagine as being steadfast at all times, no break in his stride, a rock. But it’s so much more interesting when you dig deeper than that, and here we get to see it. Fisk is compelled by Mary, stays by her side, and comforts her in her bed. He has some sort of emotional attachment to her that’s hard to quantify, but totally works.

Daredevil #28-Marvel Comics(2021)
Daredevil #28-Marvel Comics(2021)

Mary is, well, she’s broken. She briefly felt whole, then had it ripped away from her unceremoniously. She knew peace for the briefest of moments, before being tossed into a hell worse than what she previously knew. It’s a dark, dark place to be, feeling like you’re no longer…right. Balanced. Fisk sees Mary drowning and it strikes him. Fisk’s idea of friendship isn’t quite the same as anyone else’s. It feels at times like he sees friends as an extension of his property, something that belongs to him. It’s a messy way of looking at it, but also he’s a bad guy so what can you expect? This compounds Wilson’s fury at his city being attacked, and stacks onto an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. In this, Wilson and Mary can relate. That loss of control is yet again, easy to relate to right now especially, and is now the driving force forward for these two characters. Now it becomes a question of taking their power back, in the messy form that comes in from a villain.

Tough Love

Finally, Elektra, who has the simpler story beats here, but still poignant. Elektra is honestly more rigid with her feelings than Fisk and lacks basic empathy skills for the most part. But what she does care about, is Matt, and by extension his crusade to keep Hell’s Kitchen safe. She cares so much, to the point of taking up his mantle while he’s in prison. She’s caught off-guard by the fact that she needs to be there for the weak, to pick them up when they’re down, but she still accepts the role that she’s chosen to take for now. 

Alice, the little girl that Elektra is currently tasked with watching, comes from a similar place as Matt and Fisk. All three of them are feigning accountability for things that are well beyond their direct control, taking it out on themselves because it’s the only way they know. Self-destruction. Not uncommon, to me at least. “Why didn’t I do this?” or “I could’ve done that instead” are all too frequent thoughts that pop into my head, but the reality is that things are going to play out one way whether you like it or not. You can’t have control over everything, and it’s a lesson for me to learn just as well as these three characters.

Elektra pushes Alice, with little care for her current delicacy, and wants to forge her into something, someone, stronger. In Elektra’s eyes, the strong have less to fear and bounce back quicker. I’m not going to say that she’s wrong, but also, she’s not exactly right either. There is no altitude you can reach, in reality, where feelings can no longer get to you. The idea of refocusing your emotions, and putting your energies towards something more constructive though, that’s a good place to start, and there Elektra is spot-on.

Getting Better?

Daredevil #28-Marvel Comics(2021)
Daredevil #28-Marvel Comics(2021)

Matt is getting the help he so desperately needs, albeit while still in prison. Fisk is moving to kill (both) Daredevil(s), which is pretty much the logical next step for him, sure. And Alice is potentially going to be trained by Elektra, to hone her anger and make it her strength. There’s good forward momentum here on all fronts, though in Fisk’s case it depends on your definition of good, it all stems from wanting to take your power back. Mary is in stasis for the time being, but she’s not alone. That’s going to have to be enough.

This is what Heroes In Crisis wishes it was, at least to a point. A thoughtful rumination on what therapy could be like for a superhero who so desperately needs it. Or at least the idea that mental health issues need to be tackled head-on, in some way, rather than be bottled up. There is careful consideration about the benefit of therapy, or even just talking to someone you know, and how it should be more widely attended and utilized. Bringing that idea into a world of superheroes is delicate work, but Chip handles it deftly. It’s okay to not be okay.

Final Thoughts

More than anything, it reminds me of the last arc of Sex Criminals, where the series was treading ground on identifying trauma, and understanding that it’s okay to not be okay. You can see some of those same themes here, and the message is just as positive. There’s a through-line in the lessons Chip took from that era of creating comics and is bringing into his big two work. A more personal touch.

At the beginning of this year, something happened to me that made me feel as if control over my own life had been rent from me. To say I felt lost would be an understatement. But the sheer act of talking things over with someone, especially a professional, is a step towards progress and an essential one at that when you feel you’ve lost your grip. There’s no shame in it, and should be more de-stigmatized than it currently is, so I offer up my own experience in relation to this comic for whoever reads. It kinda sucks at first, opening up and being vulnerable to this stranger you’re paying to talk to about your problems. And I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easier to do what Matt does and just say “I’m fine” over and over. But that’s dismissive of your own feelings and gets you nowhere. I know, very mushy, but bear with me, we’re almost done.

The conversations between Matt and his therapist feel well-researched. Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen, but it comes across with an earnest authenticity that hits hard. I think it’s the best issue of the run so far, in what is already a stellar run. Because it’s so honest, it lays everything right on the page for you to see. This work is downright soulful and speaks to the trials and tribulations we all face in one way or another. It’s just a strong lesson in the power of comics, and how they can connect us.

Wholeheartedly, this comic touched me in many ways and feels like it couldn’t have come at a better time. People are hurt, they feel lost, and maybe need a push in the direction of talking to someone. I hope this book does that, for anyone, and gives them some sort of hope or solace they can take in knowing they too are not alone. Ask yourself and ask your friends (and take the time to listen if and when they answer), are you okay?

One final note that I would be remiss if I didn’t include, bless Marco Checchetto for Elektra’s glorious waves and Mary’s immaculate curls. I raise a glass to you, sir, these are the best these characters have ever looked and that’s one hell of a hill to climb.

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Comics Film Uncategorized Various Media

RefleXions On The New ColleXion

Every once in a while, there is something wonderful you see on twitter. Sounds crazy I know, but hear me out. There is this neat society of (at least moderately) like-minded individuals, known as X-twitter. What makes you a part of X-twitter, you may wonder. Tweet about the X-Men even one time and you’re already there, that’s all it takes. There are so many critics, artists, and creatives of all sorts throughout this place. Sometimes, parts of the community even come together and make something that is truly special. This is one of those times.

Scott Modrzynski organized this behemoth, gathering over thirty different artists from the community, to illustrate double-sided X-Men cards, showcasing the duality of the characters. It’s a huge undertaking and really highlights how talented this community is. Scott was kind enough to share some of his time and answer some questions about the process.

So, how does such a thing come about? I know you did the first ColleXion, but how did you broach the idea of a follow-up to the artists?

Honestly, the follow-up was way easier. Most of the artists from Series 1 were more than willing to jump back in a second time, and with proof of concept backing me up, it was a lot easier to snag new talent. No longer was this a pie in the sky, shady deal. It was real with tangible results.

The results do certainly speak for themselves. As far as new artists go, were there any that you had in mind already whose work you wanted to see in the Collexion? Or did you let artists approach you?

A little bit of both. Some artists came to me after seeing the first series. Some, I accidentally found through my usual travels on the internet. In both cases, I jotted down their contact information, so if and when the time came, I’d have them ready. 

In a few cases, I specifically wanted to find an art style – Monika Norcross-Cerminara’s beautiful jazz age children’s book illustrations come to mind – and found the artist through that reverse search.

You ended up with an incredible slew of artists with varied styles, so clearly your methods worked out. How were the characters chosen for each artist? Did everyone get their choice?

I told Dave Shevlin – editor of https://comfortfoodcomics.com/ and all-around good dude – my idea for reversible cards featuring light and dark aspects of the characters, and together, we came up with an initial list of about 40-50 for artists to choose from, with the caveat that each artist had to render both versions. (So in the end, this set has 158 illustrations!) Some artists, like Kevin Newburn and Quinn Hesters, ran their own ideas by me, and in most cases, I loved them. It’s great when other people get what you’re trying to do, and can be additive to the process.

Dave(Editor’s note: famously of Comfort Food Comics, whom we love at GC) is a great guy so I love to hear that. Could you see a similar sort of project happening with another IP? Or do you think the attachment to X-Men is the only thing strong enough to pull everyone together?

Definitely room for any number of things. The Ninja Turtles are probably the one thing IP that rivals my love and general knowledge of X-Men, but I’d throw any “boy property” that was big in the 80s (He-Man, GI Joe, Transformers, ThunderCats) into the mix. 

Dave and I joked about a series that focused exclusively on C-list Spider-Man villains. 

I love the idea of keeping this going, maybe once a year, and getting to contribute a little to society by donating the proceeds to charity. But I also want to find a way to do this to get the artists paid and be free and clear of any entanglements fan art presents. I have a couple ideas on that front, too. Right now I’m focused on cutting, scoring, and folding boxes to ship out the cards in my home office.

I think you and Dave might be onto something there. I know I would love to see this sort of project revisited annually with different ideas mixed in. I wish you the best of luck with figuring out how to get everyone paid, they surely deserve it. Are there any final thoughts you’d like readers to know about the new ColleXion?

This was always about art and different art styles. I really want people to check out the work of these awesome creators. Some of them (Adam Reck, Leigh Wortley and Marcelo Biott come to mind) have webcomics you can check out for the low cost of NOTHING. 

A number of the crew have terrific online shops with tees (Beefcake Boss), or cool swag like patches, stickers and buttons (Valentine Smith, Elisa Barety), and most post their incredible work all over the web. I’ve tried to make it easier to find them by linking to their social channels in the free, downloadable, interactive PDF.

We would like to thank Scott for his time and insight into the process behind this project. You can check out the PDF that was mentioned right here. It’s incredibly handy and brings you right to the accounts of all the artists involved.

Consider throwing some money at these folks, whose social media accounts are also all linked below, as well as a select portion of their cards(mostly because I think the PDF is awesome and you should really look at that whole thing).

Contributors to The ColleXion: RefleXions are: Brendan Albetski, Elisa Barety, Ryan Barr, BeefcakeBoss, Marcelo Biott, Emma Burges, Karen Charm, Bradley Clayton, Josh Cornillon, Brandon Deichler, Elliot Dickson, Andrew Drilon, Roberto Duque, Chris Enterline, Quinn Hesters, B Hughes, Dave Hulteen Jr, Kenneth Laster, Scott Modrzynski, Joshua Nelson, Kevin Newburn, Monika Norcross-Cerminara, Lee Nycz, Michael O’Shields, Michael Pope, David Powell, Adam Reck, Mike Segawa, Dave Shevlin, Heri Shinato, Jean Sinclair, Valentine Smith, Jeff Somogyi, Matt Speroni, Amanda Stewart, Taylor, Jeremy Thew, Erle Tompkins, Sergio Torres, Leigh Wortley

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Comics

Kickstarting Superheroes With The Miracles’ Joe Glass

We caught up with writer Joe Glass this week, and asked some questions via written interview for his new book launching via Kickstarter, The Miracles. To give you an idea about the book if you’ve not already checked the Kickstarter, which can be found here, here is a brief introduction to the series, copied from the campaign page.

The Miracles is a brand new, 120 page original graphic novel. It tells the story of high school senior Elliot Morgan: a massive comic fan with graduation and Major Voltage Adventures on his mind, when he’s astonished to discover he has superhuman abilities of his own. 

When he almost immediately goes out and makes a public display of his new superheroic abilities, he’s amazed to be confronted by his favourite comic book characters staring him down in the real world. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, they reveal the truth about themselves – they’re his parents and they reveal that they are refugees from the world of his favourite comic book escaped to this world when he was just a baby. 

What follows is revelation after revelation, after more and more of the family’s secrets come to light. Just how many secrets can one family be keeping?”

Joe graciously answered some questions we had regarding his creative process, his influences, and working through Kickstarter to bring his vision to life.

What are some of your key influences for The Miracles? Are there any you think might surprise some folks?

In terms of comics, there’s things like Invincible (which was a big influence), Fantastic Four and also a bit of Justice Society in there. But the book is also influenced by TV shows too, most predominantly The OC and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. If you’re wondering what comics it’s like, well those I’ve mentioned, but also the excellent Getting It Together and the mystery books like Meet the Skrulls and Morning Glories.

The one major influence that I think will surprise many is the book is heavily influenced by Alan Moore et al’s run on Miracleman.

What are some of the greatest challenges to overcome in doing indie superheroes beyond the big two?

Oh, easy. That absolutely NO publisher will consider them. Honestly, I’ve approached publishers where as soon as the word ‘superhero’ left my lips they shut me down and shut me out. Indie publishers seem to be terrified of doing superheroes because they think they’d have to compete with Marvel and DC, but it’s ridiculous. If you go in planning to sell as many as them, then sure, you probably won’t. But what you will be doing is the kind of superhero stories that Marvel and DC are either too scared to do or simply can’t due to the constraints of corporate intellectual property management.

There do seem to be signs that this is starting to change. Image certainly seem to be more open to superheroes than they used to be. But generally, if you want to make superhero books that are independent or creator-owned, be prepared to go the self-publishing route. And that is itself not without its own difficulties and challenges.

Do you have an artist in mind when you come up with a new idea for a book? Or do you pitch an idea specific to your collaborators? 

Not always.

Sometimes you do. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to have the artist up for just doing something with you, and you come up with something together from the ground up. But sometimes you just have to write the story, and the artist comes in later. For The Miracles, several artists were attached at one time or another, and each time the project evolved to fit in with them and the things they like to do and do best. Ultimately, it all became truly ready when Vince came aboard, and the final elements all clicked in place. In fact, it was in working with him that I realised we could probably go with a more young adult, book market style and a self-contained graphic novel, as opposed to breaking the story unevenly into issues.

But yeah, I’d say you have to be flexible with it, but even if you don’t have an artist in mind or someone already working on it with you, still write it FOR an artist. Make it as easy as possible for whoever you’re working with. There’s loads of hints and tips out there on how to do that, and as long as you are doing that as you write, you’re all good.

Are there any lessons you learned from doing The Pride on kickstarter that inform how you’re tackling The Miracles?

Honestly, not especially. Mainly because it seems like every campaign is completely different and what works for one won’t work for others. For example, when I ran the initial The Pride hardcover campaign, Facebook Pages were still actually useful and didn’t require you spending heaps of cash just to get in touch with your followers. So each time you run a campaign, it feels like it’s your first one.

Do you think of yourself as being primarily a superhero writer? While some skew to fantasy, science fiction, and many to crime, what do you find yourself most gravitated towards?
Oh yes, I’m definitely a superhero writer. It’s the genre and character type I’m most drawn too, always has been. I of course have other stories in other genres; obviously, last year I published Glitter Vipers and I’m working on a romance with an exciting creator too. But superheroes will always be my biggest obsession. 

Are there any interests of yours outside of superheroes that readers can expect to see reflected in The Miracles?

Well, as I say, my love of dramas, in particular family/teen dramas is definitely in there. Anyone who’s watched The OC, The Outs, Eastsiders, Dawson’s Creek and so many more will probably feel something of that in The Miracles too.

How much of the marketing and advertisement do you take into consideration before launching a project like The Miracles?

Well, not much, sadly. I wish I could do more. But I come from a working class background, and still work a retail job, so I don’t really have a personal budget to put into a great deal of advertising. That certainly helps, I imagine, when running a Kickstarter campaign. But I don’t really want to add it into the goal (and push the goal amount even higher and risk it not working out and being left on the line). I would recommend for anyone thinking of doing Kickstarter, if they have the means, to include a marketing budget though to be sure.
Are there any final thoughts on The Miracles you’d like for readers to know?

I suppose just that the story is something deeply close to me, which is why I’ve worked so hard on bringing it together over the last ten years. It’s different from me, it’s my most metatextual book to date, and it’s very personal. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to it a lot.

We are all looking forward to Joe’s new project, and we hope you are too. So once more you can check out the Kickstarter right here, and consider backing the campaign as it winds down to its last days. We want to see this comic be made into reality! You can also support Joe by pre-ordering The Pride omnibus at your local comic shop with Diamond code: FEB210312. FOC is March 8th!

Categories
Anime

Why One Piece Is Worth Diving Into

Of all the manga and anime in the world, one is closer to my heart than all the rest: One Piece. I’ll usually either read the manga, or watch the anime of a series, it’s seldom that I do both, but not with One Piece. Foolish, you may think, given the infamous length of One Piece, but it has so much to offer that I can’t help but inhale as much of it as I can. It also helps that I mostly watch English dubs of anime, so there is a decent divide between seeing and reading the same arc. But I am here to tell you that despite its prodigious length, One Piece has something in it for everyone, and is well worth diving into in either of its formats.

My Start With One Piece

I started reading One Piece as a manga when I was 10-years-old. The hook was a golden age of piracy swept over the world, with folks pouring onto the seas in search of a treasure beyond their wildest dreams, and also some of them have superpowers. For my young brain, that was the coolest goddamn thing I had ever heard of. The main character, Monkey D. Luffy, is made of rubber, which reminded me of Mr. Fantastic at the time. But now, as a learned adult, I can say with supreme and utter confidence that Mr. Fantastic is a little bitch compared to Luffy. Luffy would beat the absolute hell out of Reed Richards, and that is a fact.

One Piece volume 1(Shonen Jump)
One Piece volume 1(Shonen Jump)

Monkey D. Luffy

But what’s endearing about Luffy? Well, he’s an idiot. Very much so. But there is nothing he does that’s half-assed or without sincerity. He goes balls to the wall on everything, completely devoid of fear, and knows beyond the shadow of the doubt he’s not going to die until he achieves his dream of being King of the pirates. He is literally too stubborn to die. Also, it’s actually pretty hard to kill rubber and only gets harder as the series goes on. I’m starting to believe he might survive the whole thing. At least, if it ever comes to an end, which seems unlikely at the moment. 

One Piece(Shonen Jump)
One Piece(Shonen Jump)

Luffy only really cares about two things. Well actually three things, because it would be disingenuous not to include food as one of his greatest priorities. But his friends and his freedom are the two things he holds most dear. He will never fail his friends in any situation, and he will never surrender his freedom to anyone. Being a pirate isn’t about breaking the law to Luffy, it’s about being able to travel, live life without structure or order, Does he break the law? Yeah, quite a bit, but only because it gets in the way of him doing nothing less than exactly whatever he feels like doing at any given moment. He’s not pillaging and raiding villages and ships, he’s looking for treasure and fighting anybody that gets in his way of enjoying life. He’s reckless and needs to be reined in by his friends, but he’s not dangerous. Not to innocent people at least.

Sailing Along

Much of the beginning of One Piece is dedicated to Luffy assembling his crew and acquiring a ship, as we get to see his journey from the beginning when he has nothing but a devil fruit that grants him his rubber abilities, an inability to swim, and a dinghy. The curse of the devil fruit is the same for everyone who partakes of it. In exchange for a wild variety of powers and transformations, you lose your ability to swim, and sink like a stone in the sea, robbed of your power. As if the oceans are trying to keep a level playing field, avoiding being overtaken by scumbags and thieves. Because yes, there are many very shitty pirates as well. It’s naturally mostly bad people that are attracted to the idea of ultimate wealth, so there are many who get in the way of Luffy and his crew.

The Straw Hats

Luffy’s crew is composed entirely of dreamers, like him. I am resisting the urge to just quote the 4Kids One Piece rap theme song, as it introduces everyone so succinctly and eloquently, but I digress. Zoro becomes Luffy’s first mate, a bounty hunter who specializes in catching pirates. Luffy’s charisma and natural pull are on display from the start, overcoming this man’s prejudice against pirates by being himself and dedicated to helping. Nami is the navigator that gets recruited next, who, go figure, also specializes in aggression against pirates, only she is a thief. Usopp is the marksman of the crew, and also a local asshole in his village, but Luffy’s passion for his dream inspires yet another to follow him. Finally, he gets Sanji, the cook of the crew as well as a phenomenal douchebag from time to time when it comes to women. He is what would happen if Pepé Le Pew was given life as a human, but was at least a skilled fighter. There is also Chopper, their reindeer doctor who is probably the most useful member of the whole crew. Luffy’s resistance to tyranny and fighting spirit ultimately win Chopper over.

One Piece(Shonen Jump)
One Piece(Shonen Jump)

This is supposed to be largely spoiler-free so that’s all I have to say about the crew themselves. They each bring something important to the dynamic of the crew, and each contributes something significant to the continued function of the ship. They’re united by a shared passion for their own individual dreams and are of course fierce pursuers of freedom so they can keep going down the path they’ve started. They range from basically just a normal human, to almost as strong as Luffy without the need for a devil fruit. Their individual utility and usefulness are successfully utilized time and time again across the series, and your favorite character will change constantly, as the spotlight itself shifts as well. 

Best Bits

As for the more badass part of the series, the villains that Luffy and his crew have to face, range across the board from a mildly obnoxious clown that’s hard to kill, to hard-hitting giant men made of materials that are downright deadly, even to rubber. The danger is always there and is constantly escalating throughout the series. There are foes with such incredibly strange power sets, it yields fights of immense grandeur constantly. The action in One Piece is second-to-none. 

One Piece(Shonen Jump)
One Piece(Shonen Jump)

At its core though, One Piece really is all about the journey. There is so much heart in each story arc, you will weep, you will cheer, you will laugh. One Piece delves into a wide array of emotions and posits many questions about things like imperialism and class warfare, to name a few. The adventures of Luffy and his crew have been ongoing for over two decades now, with no indication of coming to an end any time soon. What better time to dive into this vibrant, gorgeous world, filled with some of the most colorful and fascinating characters in all of fiction. Above all else, One Piece is memorable.

Categories
Comics

Eternals #1 Brings The Team Into A Bold New Era

Eternals #1 is written by Kieron Gillen, with art by Esad Ribic, colors by Matthew Wilson, and letters and designs by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics. The main cover is provided by Esad Ribic.

**Spoilers For Eternals #1 Ahead**

Baby’s First Eternals Book

I have never read an Eternals comic before, but I will tell you what I have read, which is The Wicked And The Divine, Young Avengers, Ludocrats, and many other works by Kieron Gillen. Enough to know I am largely a huge fan of their work. As for Esad Ribic, I have read Secret Wars, Thor, and more, so know very well the high caliber of art to expect from them. Put these creators together and there was basically no way I wasn’t going to check out this book. I was right, as Eternals #1 is one hell of a debut.

Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)
Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)

What Is An Eternal?

If like me, you aren’t overly familiar with the Eternals, this book can seem daunting. Kieron Gillen is aware of this and makes this issue work as an introduction to the concept as well as the team itself. Even better, he achieves this without the entire issue feels like an exposition dump. You get a bare-bones explanation of their purpose and where they came from, which feels like enough to me. I don’t need a breakdown of their history or anything substantial, just enough so that I can pick up the book and not have to dash to the Marvel wiki every few pages to understand what’s happening. They’re reborn indefinitely, strive to preserve their own culture and methodology above all else, and wipe out their enemies, the Deviants.

Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)
Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)

Eternals are cogs in a machine, almost literally. When one of the cogs isn’t doing what it’s supposed to and fucks up badly enough, it’s excluded. A brief reference to Thanos as an example of what it takes for someone to become excluded is well-played. Invoking an incident that also occurred in the Marvel Cinematic Universe works great here, removing a barrier of understanding for those who aren’t entirely familiar with the history of the Mad Titan.

Sprite

As fun as Ikaris is, the majority of the issue is dedicated to his wrestling of the newly-returned Sprite. In a brief synopsis of what got Sprite excluded for a time, Gillen paints her as someone who rebelled against the system that the Eternals are bound to, an anarchist among their people. They don’t remember any of that, but I don’t know much trust I have in Sprite as a result. Ribic executes their movement fluidly, yet manic. They are a ball of chaos with little to no restraint, and you can feel them about to leap off the page. Ikaris is more rigid in his movements, clearly powerful, but not an acrobat. The juxtaposition in their fight is delightfully amusing.

Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)
Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)

Oh Hey, I Know That Guy!

Naturally, there is a bridge to the larger Marvel Universe in Eternals #1, and that comes in the form of Tony Stark. We get a little bit more insight into the more recent history of the team, or at least Ikaris specifically, but just enough so that you know what informs his interaction with Tony. It doesn’t feel like a history lesson or something you need to have a full understanding of to go forward, you get just enough. The pacing and delivery of information are about as close-to-ideal as I could really hope for.

Ikaris addresses Iron Man in a way that feels more like Gillen addressing the reader, breaking the fourth wall almost. “A full reboot of the Eternals” is a great line of dialogue for establishing what’s happening in-universe as well as what we, the readers, are witnessing. Referring to some of the Eternals taking advantage of this time to modify their appearance and that it’s common, is the most promising thing about this book. The possibilities with an artistic license there are endless and I can’t wait to see what that looks like. It’s another way that this has become a solid entry point for the franchise as well since team members aren’t even guaranteed to look the same. It keeps things rewarding for long-time fans, but much more accessible for people like me.

Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)
Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)

Death Is Coming

You can feel while reading Eternals #1, that this series is going to be something big. I don’t mean in the sense of readers and numbers that old men will count towards its success, determining how long it gets to live and breathe for, though I am sure that will perform admirably there as well. I mean in the scope of the vision of the work. Much of this issue is spent on Ikaris and Sprite and establishing a relationship with the reader to the ideas at play, but we are left with but one thing to hang onto, going into the next issue. Gillen gave an interview here in which he describes his plans for the villain at play…Thanos. “…Giger’s Alien aboard the ship that is Earth.” I have goosebumps on the last page of this book, fearing the unholy terror that is about to be brought to the Eternals. Death walks among the undying.

The Art Of Eternals #1

Esad Ribic uses dramatic expressions frequently throughout the book, which I find incredibly amusing. It keeps the mood a little lighter, given Wilson’s muted coloring provides a darker atmosphere. The grim looks on Ikaris’ face, the childlike demeanor of Sprite, these things brilliantly capture the spirit of the characters in execution. The character design work that Ribic is displaying is some of his best ever. The deviant Ikaris and Sprite fight is positively disgusting and oddly memorable for being something I’m sure we’ll never see again. I can’t imagine whatever ungodly horrors are up his sleeve for the time to come.

Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)
Eternals #1-Marvel Comics(2021)

Blue is a HUGE thing in Eternals #1 and it is utilized strikingly and efficiently. Wilson’s colors at the beginning surrounding the rebirth of Ikaris are stunning, and pave the way for Cowles’ incredible design work and lettering, folding in blue at every possible chance. There are data pages here! You can feel the influence that Jonathan Hickman and Tom Muller’s work with the X-line has had at Marvel, and this book embraces that potential. There are design elements at work here that are sure to make it stand out on shelves in a way that many other big two books would never care to attempt. You can feel that Eternals is embracing artistic freedom on a level that we just don’t get to see very often. The sheer visual design of this comic is worth the price of admission alone, I feel.

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Comics

X-Men #16 And The Arrival Of Arakko

X-Men #16 is written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Phil Noto, letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles, and designs by Tom Muller, published by Marvel Comics. The main cover is provided by Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho.

**Spoilers For X Of Swords and X-Men #16 Ahead**

Love Is In The Air

Once upon a time, two islands were one, but they were cleaved in half by a Twilight Sword, and one half was lost for thousands of years. And now, the ex has at last returned, as a result of the contest in X Of Swords and the sacrifice made by Apocalypse. But people (islands) change over time. One island has seen an everlasting war, becoming a home for the most dangerous and sharpened blades among mutants, while the other has only recently been joined by its own mutant family. Can they find a common ground and reunite in matrimony?

X-Men #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
X-Men #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

One of the most…unexpected parts of X Of Swords was the sudden marriage of Doug to Bei, Swordbreaker of Arakko. While Bei isn’t present in X-Men #16, she is certainly referenced as Doug is still trying to wrap his head around that, as am, I. Doug is almost the center of the issue, which really works out because Noto renders him so affectionately, with his doe-eyes, and his “I have no real idea what I’m doing” stare. Luckily, Doug is the right-hand of Krakoa, and gets to help facilitate the meeting between Arakko and Krakoa. Surely it will go perfectly, with such a master of love guiding the way for these long-separated islands.

X-Men #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
X-Men #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

It Did Not Go Perfectly

It’s not Doug’s fault though, he did his level best. Hickman explains how the islands are basically just not on the same wavelength, or anywhere close. Centuries upon centuries apart and vastly different circumstances have made them into something that the other barely recognizes. Personifying them as walking, talking creatures, with an immense scale that Noto knocks out of the park, makes their tale much more engrossing, and the kind of crazy you can only find in an X-book.

Krakoa and Arakko’s relationship mirrors the relationship of Apocalypse and Genesis. They were separated for the same amount of time, and one became much colder than the other due to war-torn surroundings for centuries. Like Apocalypse still longed for Genesis, Krakoa still longs for Arakko. It’s less about being able to rejoin in peace as a result, and more about finding a way to co-exist. The development of the islands’ relationship has such a human quality to it that I’m curious to see how that will change over time, and if it will continue to reflect a marriage of sorts.

The Unending Dream Of Charles Xavier

There has been one idea at the forefront of Charles Xavier’s mind for decades: Unity. It was once the dream of unity between humans and mutants, a coexistence that would be mutually beneficial. That didn’t really work out after the first several hundred attempts. Mutants asserted their place in the world and gave rise to Krakoa, but now, they’re met with the merging of Arakko, where there are twenty times more mutants than are present on Krakoa. Sure, it would be foolish to wage war against them, but Xavier’s first inclination is peace and unification, unsurprisingly.

X-Men #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
X-Men #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

His request is met with defeat by a resolute Isca The Unbeaten. Their people are too different, despite all being mutants. They have carved different lands and lived by different codes, to say the least. The meshing that Xavier hopes for out of the gate is just not feasible, but it shows that while his dream may have evolved, he is still the same hopeful old man that would really just prefer if everyone got along.

Here Come The X-Men

Despite this book being called X-Men, there has not been a formal team like that throughout this era so far. That’s about to change, as Scott and Jean have decided the time for their people’s heroes to return is at hand. I’ve missed having a dedicated team of heroes among the mutants who will fight for the people, and not for the nation of Krakoa, or for the Quiet Council. This was the natural evolution of the journey Scott has been on in the core book and Jean’s realizations in X-Force. She tried to be something she wasn’t, to be proactive in the defense of a nation, but Jean is a hero of the people and deserves to be brought back to that level. So does Scott. Their method for selecting a new team is by vote, bringing a tinge of democracy to Krakoa. The people will decide who will be their champions of peace, and that is a hell of a hook for this book going forward.

X-Men #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
X-Men #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

Final Thoughts On X-Men #16

Noto illustrating this issue was a gift. He renders very beautiful people, but not without authenticity that makes them feel real. His coloring for the islands was sublime, and I could read him doing 9-panel grids of council meetings for days. Emotion leaps off the page from the art of his facial expressions. Isca’s body language here, engaged in conversation, relays more to me about her character than the whole of X Of Swords. It’s just good visual storytelling.

I appreciate how Hickman utilizes X-Men #16 to answer as many questions as he could, within reason, from X Of Swords. The information imparted in these pages regarding the structure of Arakko, their mutants, and their ruling body, is invaluable and incredibly promising. New Omega Mutants being added to the fold is something I didn’t expect for potentially years to come, but this era is all about being additive and that’s really on display here. I would argue this is one of the most satisfying issues of Hickman’s work on the core book so far. It lays the groundwork for what’s to come and gives you plenty to chew on in the meantime.

Hickman seems to be on the verge of reshaping the core book, making it into something more familiar to long-time fans of the franchise. The promise of an actual team of X-Men implies this will be their book, abandoning the nature of its storytelling up to this point, or there will be another book announced to put them in, allowing for X-Men to continue to be less connective from issue-to-issue, and centered more around one-and-done stories that leave implications for down the road. One way or another, the line of X-books is about to be sharpened and refined.

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Comics

Excalibur #16 Charts A New Course Ahead

Excalibur #16 is written by Tini Howard, drawn by Marcus To, colored by Erick Arciniega, lettered by VC’s Ariana Maher, with designs by Tom Muller, and published by Marvel Comics. The main cover is by Mahmud Asrar and Matthew Wilson.

**Spoilers For X Of Swords and Excalibur #16 Ahead**

A Rocky Return

After the groundbreaking event that was X Of Swords, the Reign Of X has begun across the X-titles, and Excalibur is at the center of that. The biggest loss from the event was the apparent death of our still-fairly-new Captain Britain, Betsy Braddock. With her death occurring in Otherworld, her resurrection won’t be as simple as usual, as the potential consequences are horrifyingly dangerous, given what happened to Rockslide in the event.

Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

Everybody is pretty bummed out, unsurprisingly so given how close they are to Betsy. We get some adorable time with Rogue and Gambit together, which I am always a sucker for. Whereas Rictor especially is hit hard by the loss of Apocalypse, his mentor and friend, even though he left of his own volition. There’s day drinking and even Fred gets in on it, still having some feelings remaining for Betsy after Age Of X-Man it seems. Folks are uncertain of the future and rely on each other to get through, making this a very appropriate comic for the end of 2020.

Where In The World Is Betsy Braddock?

Unwilling to take Betsy’s death as certain, Rogue and the gang push further into the circumstances of her death, courting X-Factor in the process. Tini and Marcus do a great job emulating Leah Williams and David Baldeon’s team, making Excalibur #16 feel like a communal issue with slightly more significance. X-Factor still performs their function, but they don’t arrive at the answer that Rogue and the team are looking for. Alas, poor Betsy was lost via magic, which is something they just don’t know enough about.

Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

The Excalibur team realizing that they themselves are the only ones capable of handling this situation sets us forward on our path, and the hunt for Betsy Braddock begins in earnest. Finding Betsy isn’t what I think is interesting here, but more where it leaves the team and what they have to do next. They’re leader-less and at their lowest point, but they have to find a way to pull together and forge ahead. Excalibur just feels like more of a team book as a result.

Rictor’s Evolution

Rictor’s trajectory from his entrance to the series to now has been fairly incredible. He joined the team due to Apocalypse helping him control his powers, and even though their relationship seemed sketchy at times, he ultimately imparted his mission to Rictor. Looking at Apocalypse through the eyes of someone who is motivated by him, who feels like he was a great unifier of mutants, and in some ways actually was, is so fascinating. Coming off the most captivating Apocalypse story ever told, the legacy that he leaves behind is similarly interesting. The sheer growth that Rictor makes, inheriting the philosophies of mutant magic that Apocalypse was trying to bring to their people. If I had to pick one character who isn’t Betsy to have my eye on especially going forward, it’s Rictor.

Where Do We Go From Excalibur #16?

“Back to basics” is a stupid approach in comics that never actually works. Luckily that’s not what’s happening here. Sure, there are similarities from the old Excalibur book and this one, but it only informs the lore and storytelling on display. I don’t feel like we’re taking Excalibur back to square one, but rather it’s being reinvigorated by being pointed in a new direction. The team’s relationship with magic is changing, becoming more profound, and that’s the most exciting thing I could ever hope for here.

Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)
Excalibur #16-Marvel Comics(2020)

The Visual Storytelling Of Excalibur #16

Marcus To and Erick Arciniega are back together and in fine form to say the least. Marcus’ work is always incredibly clean yet sharp, with gorgeous lines that highlight the characters’ features. There is power in the way he renders expressions, able to convey every conversation without the need for scripting even, though I’m delighted to have it. Erick only enhances the work of Marcus, as they’ve been a dream team for much of this run so far, complementing each other well. He captures warmth excellently when it’s needed, but is equally capable of bringing forth an atmosphere that FEELS magical. May they see many more issues together. Ariana Maher, my personal favorite letterer at Marvel these days, is bringing the heat too. The whimsical feel when Meggan is singing is delightful, and you can see the effort brought to every issue she works on, elevating the lettering to a level that is beyond just blending into the book. Some say good lettering shouldn’t be noticed, but the truth is good lettering only lifts a story up.

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Various Media

What a Year! Alex’s Top Ten of 2020

Birds Of Prey

Birds Of Prey-Warner Bros.(2020)
Birds Of Prey-Warner Bros.(2020)

DC Comics finally cracked the code and made a good movie with last year’s Shazam!, but their real finest work to date can be found here, in Birds Of Prey. It’s a hilarious joy ride from start to finish that takes its characters seriously while having fun at every possible moment. Harley isn’t just the punchline here, this is her main event. Margot Robbie really swings hard and delivers a memorable and charming performance. Mary Elizabeth-Winstead is a tremendous joy whenever she’s on-screen, as is Jurnee Smollett, and Ewan McGregor chews up every scene he’s in, as the devilish and sexy Black Mask.

Blue In Green

Blue In Green-Image Comics(2020)
Blue In Green-Image Comics(2020)

Every once in a while there is a collaboration in comics that embraces the medium and utilizes it in an exciting and fresh way. This year, that book was Blue In Green. This is not only one of the best books I read this year, but one of the best of my entire life. To have a team that are as in sync as Ram V, Anand RK, and Aditya Bidikar, is an incredibly rare and beautiful thing. The whole book was improvised, each member of the team working on the fly just like jazz musicians. The finished product flows like jazz, in a way that transcends the genre. The beautiful package tied together by Tom Muller’s always-excellent design work is a terrifying, insightful, and most of all memorable work that transcends comics, and is an achievement the likes of which most creators will covet their entire lives.

X Of Swords Destruction

X Of Swords Destruction-Marvel Comics(2020)
X Of Swords Destruction-Marvel Comics(2020)

It’s been one hell of a ride with the X-books since the beginning of Hickman’s era, and this epic-as-fuck crescendo by master storytellers Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller, is one for the history books. The conclusion to a 22-part story somehow delivers such a successful and mind-blowingly additive end, you have to read it to believe it. Hickman and Howard go for making Apocalypse the most interesting he’s ever been and totally get away with it. Throw in unbelievably gorgeous art from Larraz and Gracia, at the absolute top of their games, and you have one of the best X-books I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

X-Men #7

X-Men #7-Marvel Comics(2020)
X-Men #7-Marvel Comics(2020)

Not far into the run of Jonathan Hickman on the core X-book, there lies this treasure of a comic, X-Men #7 by the aforementioned Hickman, Leinil Yu, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller. The promise of this era of X-books is a new way, a mutant way. Long gone are the days of human traditions and rituals, they now make their own. This book is a celebration of that idea and has a story that hits so brutally hard, you will be in joyous tears. The implications of this comic and the story it tells will resonate throughout this entire era and is a beautiful example of how the mutant metaphor can be applied and make readers feel seen and understood in a profound way. It’s overwhelmingly excellent.

Eurovision: The Story Of Fire Saga

Eurovision: The Story Of Fire Saga-Netflix(2020)
Eurovision: The Story Of Fire Saga-Netflix(2020)

I may not have come here to take a dig at Will Ferrell, but I’m going to anyway because this is his first good movie in what feels like forever, but what a joy it is. Eurovision: The Story Of Fire Saga is a joyous celebration of the Eurovision song contest, even featuring many talents who have won the contest in real life, and also Dan Stevens in ridiculously fine form. Ferrell is funny here, at times, but Rachel McAdams’ comedic chops are what really give this movie its spark. Everyone’s accent is mostly laughable, but there is a mash-up performance in this movie that is without a doubt, one of the coolest and most fun things I have ever seen performed, and even that would be worth the price of admission alone. This movie felt like a diamond in the rough.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake-Square Enix(2020)
Final Fantasy VII Remake-Square Enix(2020)

How do you satisfy several generations of gamers after years of teases and development? I have no idea, but Final Fantasy VII Remake has some very solid ideas on making that happen. While this is only “part one” of an as yet-to-be-revealed amount of parts, it captures what made the original game fun and memorable and cranks the dial up, and brings it to modern systems in glorious fashion. Combat has changed fairly drastically, but scenes are recreated in almost 1:1 detail at times, and the story largely remains the same. The parts that do not, however, are incredibly promising for the future of this title and what its further potential can be. This is a blisteringly awesome and fun start that is sure to leave you wanting more and is a worthy successor to a legacy of RPG-excellence.

Hades

Hades-Supergiant Games(2020)
Hades-Supergiant Games(2020)

Greek mythology can sometimes feel played out in modern pop culture, but Hades has come along to prove that there is still an untapped well of potential there. The main character Zagreus is a lovable himbo, just trying to get out, away from his ruthless father, lord of the dead, Hades himself. Along the way you encounter a bevy of Greek gods looking to aid you in your journey, as you fight against your father’s forces for freedom. It’s a rogue-like game that maintains a story as you die repeatedly, using that as a storytelling mechanism rather than simply a chance to have you start over each run. It’s immeasurably satisfying, and features the most beautiful and fresh takes on these old gods, truly a triumph of modern gaming.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs-Hulu(2020)
Palm Springs-Hulu(2020)

Palm Springs is genuinely even better than its premise suggests. It’s a time-loop movie, but it has plenty of humor and charm to spare, giving you a unique take on an old style of film. Aside from stellar performances and great chemistry from the two leads, the story itself is witty and amusing. Stories that embrace the messiness of their characters, treat them as actual human beings with agency, always ring the truest, and feel the most satisfying. The conclusions they come to feel more natural and that’s exactly what this movie manages to achieve. It’s heartfelt, it’s funny, and you’ll want to watch it again and again.

Midnight Gospel

Midnight Gospel-Netflix(2020)
Midnight Gospel-Netflix(2020)

It’s no surprise that the mind behind Adventure Time would conceive something the likes of Midnight Gospel. It takes the culturally-ubiquitous art of podcasting and brings it to a level made for stoners and nerds that want to be dealt epiphanies via TV show. And I say that with the absolute highest of praise, this show goes genuinely deep into some heavy-ass subject matter. The podcast itself is happening as the world just melts and distorts in ways that feel like an acid trip that just won’t relent, showing you visions of things you can’t understand nor do you feel like you have to. The message always gets across and packs a punch that has the potential to knock you upside the head with a revelation of something so meaningful and profound, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to come to this new head-space. It’s a lot.

DuckTales Season 3

DuckTales-Disney Channel(2020)
DuckTales-Disney Channel(2020)

This poster right here, seen above, was a threat and a promise for what the future of DuckTales had in store for us going into season 3. It was a vision of a new kind of Disney Afternoon-universe, lead up by Matt Youngberg and Frank Angones, and they succeeded in its execution at every step. Never has a reboot so dutifully honored legacy and still tells new stories that change and develop these old characters into something that people can see themselves in and relate to in the modern day. Stories of courage, of family, of heart, drive this show to be one of the very best that modern animation has to offer. DuckTales is a testament to what can be done in the hands of people who have reverence for the source material, and the ambition to revitalize it in a meaningful way. It is near-impossibly good by every metric.

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Comics

Dawn Of X: Something For Everyone

It’s been over a year now since the epic House Of X and Powers Of X miniseries came to an end, and the world of the X-Men was reshaped, with a new status quo established, under the supervision of Jonathan Hickman. The nation-state of Krakoa rose to prominence seemingly overnight, and the mutants claimed their own place on the world stage. The Dawn Of X was ushered in, and along with it came a slew of new X-Men titles, which over the course of the last year has gone through several changes. There are many books that have been individually developed to work for a variety of comics readers, so there’s something here for fans of every sort of X-story. Here’s a handy guide through what’s currently running:

X-Men

X-Men #1-Marvel Comics(2019)
X-Men #1-Marvel Comics(2019)

X-Men is the “core” book among the X-titles these days, written by Jonathan Hickman himself, and drawn by a revolving team of artists that include folks like Leinil Yu and Mahmud Asrar so far. This book functions as more of an interconnected series of one-shots, splitting the focus on different mutants, but a large portion is dedicated to Cyclops and the Summers family. It’s a new dynamic with a young Cable, Rachel, Gabriel, Alex, Jean, and also Logan around on their new home on the moon. That’s right, mutants on the moon, because they can be everywhere now. Some of the best comics in all of the Dawn Of X are single issues of this run, showcasing characters like Mystique and Broo, as well as new Krakoan rituals, like The Crucible. It’s a series that has a little bit of everything going on, but there’s a lot of heart and stories about family and establishment of culture within. X-Men is the book that pushes some of the ideas from House Of X and Powers Of X further and explores new and interesting paths. Drama lies at the heart of this series.

Excalibur

Excalibur #1-Marvel Comics(2019)
Excalibur #1-Marvel Comics(2019)

You could very easily classify Excalibur as simply being the magic book of the X-line, but it is so much more than that. Tini Howard is at the helm, drawn primarily by Marcus To with Erick Arciniega coloring. The core focus of the series is two-fold, splitting its time mostly with Betsy Braddock, newly-minted Captain Britain, and Apocalypse, who is engaging with his fellow mutants in an attempt to extend their reach and reclaim what he believes to be theirs. The stories here are the most lore-heavy, and thoughtfully crafted with reverence to what they’re built upon in the X-line. Identity and finding yourself are some of the guiding themes of the book, and it is spectacular. There are Gambit and Rogue moments here that I cherish more than most anything I’ve ever seen them in otherwise. This is the book that most celebrates the potential of mutants in forging ahead their new future, while also touching on their past and what they long to fix.

New Mutants

New Mutants-Marvel Comics(2019)
New Mutants-Marvel Comics(2019)

New Mutants is unique next to the other X-books at this time, since it starts with two creative teams for the first arcs. Jonathan Hickman and artist Rod Reis take the original team into space, while Ed Brisson and artist Flaviano take some of the youth around Krakoa on a journey of their own. As of the most recent issue, #14, a new writer, Vita Ayala, has taken over with Rod Reis returning on art. This is a book about family, found family. The core original team has aged into young adults now, but otherwise we get to see a variety of younger mutants react to the establishment of Krakoa, and make their own way forward, whether it’s the right way or not. It’s a book about learning as well, and it is consistently among the most gorgeous books on shelves. If you love these kids, as so many of us do, this book honors their legacy and treats them with the care that you would hope for.

Marauders

Marauders #1-Marvel Comics(2019)
Marauders #1-Marvel Comics(2019)

Marauders brings Swashbuckling pirate adventures on the high seas with humor to spare. Gerry Duggan helms this ship, with artists such as Stefano Caselli and Matteo Lolli, among others. The evolution of Kitty Pryde, now going by Kate, is at the forefront of this book, along with how her relationship with Emma Frost has developed. The Marauders are an extension of Krakoa into the larger world, utilized for rescuing mutants from other nations, and working for the newly-formed Hellfire Trading Company. The characterization of everyone on the team is fresh and exciting, while honoring what came before it. It’s (typically) one of the more joyful current X-books. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself, and this book is evidence of how you can head in a new direction without fundamentally changing pre-established canon.

X-Force

X-Force #1-Marvel Comics(2019)
X-Force #1-Marvel Comics(2019)

“The Mutant CIA” was the idea behind this iteration of X-Force, headed up by Ben Percy with artists like Joshua Cassara and Jan Bazaldua rotating in. X-Force is the book that deals with more of the infrastructure of Krakoa, as well as how external measures are handled in regards to security. This isn’t how the team would usually be operating, as they function more like an arm of government that’s completely sanctioned by Xavier. Arguably, this is the most brutal book of the current X-line, delivering body-horror and intense action that’s both thrilling and alarming.

Wolverine

Wolverine #1-Marvel Comics(2020)
Wolverine #1-Marvel Comics(2020)

Wolverine is kind of like the other side of the coin that is X-Force. Ben Percy writes this as well, but with a rotating art team headed by legend Adam Kubert. The cohesiveness between Wolverine and X-Force is just a little tighter than the rest of the line as a result. It’s a good old solo Logan adventure, that occasionally folds in other mutants, but is largely dedicated to Logan doing what he does best. And as always, what he does best isn’t very nice. The brutality comes in at a level just below X-Force, but it is a beautiful work that showcases exactly why Wolverine is the favorite mutant of writer Ben Percy. Logan has to find his place in paradise somehow, but after the life he’s lived, that’s easier said than done.

Hellions

Hellions #1-Marvel Comics(2020)
Hellions #1-Marvel Comics(2020)

My personal favorite of the bunch, is Hellions. Written by Zeb Wells and largely drawn by Stephen Segovia, with Carmen Carnero as well, Hellions is the team of outcasts and murderers thrown together to operate as a strike team under Mr. Sinister. This is the mutant suicide squad, being sent on missions where their destructiveness can be properly utilized and they can still serve a purpose in this new world for mutants. While hands-down the funniest book in the current X-line, the jokes never come at the expense of the characters, who are largely broken mutants. There are nonetheless deep issues brought up here regarding identity and mental stability. It’s a heavy book, much heavier than I ever expected when it was revealed initially, but also always positively gorgeous in every issue. It’s the underdog of the whole line.

Cable

Cable #1-Marvel Comics(2020)
Cable #1-Marvel Comics(2020)

I was skeptical at best about this younger Cable when he was introduced, but Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto have brought him into the fold of the Dawn Of X with Cable in an incredibly charming and amusing way. More of Gerry’s trademark humor is on display here, as well as stunning pages from Noto that never fail to captivate. Cable feels like he has something to prove, to measure up against everybody’s expectations, and so in part it feels like a coming of age story. He manages to get himself caught up in his own solo adventures away from Krakoa, very flashily, but with the grace of a teenager just trying his best. Swords and action abound in this fun book about space knights and finding your way.

X-Factor

X-Factor #1-Marvel Comics(2020)
X-Factor #1-Marvel Comics(2020)

X-Factor had more hype surrounding it than any other book so far in the Dawn Of X lineup. But still, Leah Williams and David Baldeon have delivered consistently on every issue, making this one of the most acclaimed and excellent books on stands. Leah’s fresh and exciting ideas reinvent the Mojoverse to be something modern and terrifying, and brings together a truly unique team of mutants. The way that the team can work together is shown off constantly, and the chemistry is just fantastic. It’s a book that’s intended for a younger and more social media-based crowd, but for those readers it hits hard and it never lets up. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love with these wonderful characters that Leah and David have brought to life so thoughtfully.

S.W.O.R.D.

S.W.O.R.D. #1-Marvel Comics(2020)
S.W.O.R.D. #1-Marvel Comics(2020)

The newest X-book to launch, and the only one to launch so far after this fall’s event, X Of Swords, is S.W.O.R.D. It’s written by Al Ewing with art by Valerio Schiti and Marte Gracia, and only has one issue at the time of this writing, but already shows enormous promise. The central question of the first issue is “what comes next?” referring to all of mutantdom in the current time, and it offers what is a visually astonishing and conceptually extraordinary answer…in space. The mutants are taking space and expanding in a way like never before with a new team of old fan-favorite mutants, spruced up with lovely new designs. The future is bright, and it starts here. This is the book for you if you love larger-than-life adventures and playing with stakes higher than what most of the X-books deal with on the regular. It’s a celebration of what mutants have accomplished so far, and a testament to what they can yet achieve.

Children Of The Atom And The Future Of The X-Books

Children Of The Atom #1-Marvel Comics(2021)
Children Of The Atom #1-Marvel Comics(2021)

Several books on the horizon have been in discussion for months now, but none closer than Children Of The Atom. It’s currently slated for March of 2021, however has been delayed several times now, so who really knows if even that will stick, but here’s hoping. Precious little is known about this upcoming series but it will be written by Vita Ayala and drawn by Bernard Chang, and will focus on a new group of mutants who we already know aren’t clones. Given Ayala’s body of work, and their contributions to the X-books as it stands, it’s sure to be yet another victory for the X-office.

Other books such as an alleged Moira-X book, spinning out of House Of X and Powers Of X, and an X-Corp book as well, are rumored to be coming in the future but there are currently no attached creative teams to either. Hickman has still said in a recent interview that X-Corp is moving along and should have its creative team announced shortly, but either way, the future is looking very bright for the X-line, and I welcome these new additions with the hope that it will bring in even more kinds of readers.