Welcome to X-Men: Bland Design, the weekly column that answers the question: “What if Ed Piskor had no art skills, a juvenile sense of humor, and less classic material to work with?” This week there are
six five X-Books on the stands, which will cost you a total of $25 $21 to buy and, thanks to modern decompression techniques, take roughly ten minutes to read (if you read slowly). If that seems like a waste of time and money, you can keep your money by reading our recaps for free. We make no promises about the use of your time, however.
X-Books on sale this week include Rogue and Gambit #2, Spider-Man vs. Deadpool #27 (why is there a Spider-Man/Deadpool comic?), Iceman #10, X-Men Gold #21, and X-Men Red #1.
Additionally, Venom #161 crosses over with X-Men Blue for the Poison X event, so we’ll be covering that as well. We’ve been waiting to read it since it was first announced, so it’s time to finally find out what’s going on in X-Men Red #1!
X-Men Red #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: Cory Petit
Cover: Travis Charest
X-Men Red #1 is the new, third ongoing X-book featuring a team led by Jean Grey and spinning out of Phoenix Resurrection, which saw the original Jean brought back from the dead by the power of Cyclops’s butte love. You can read about that, of course, in past issues of X-Men: Bland Design.
The book opens with a little girl named Heather, awakened in the middle of the night by a voice in her mind telling her to run because “they’re coming.” She listens, and it’s a good thing, because an angry mob of anti-mutant racists, literally carrying torches, is after her. Unfortunately, they corner her in an alleyway and one woman calls Heather an abomination as she takes aim with a gun. Heather recognizes her as her mother, just as the entire mob opens fire.
But our hero, Jean Grey, is there to use her pink telekinesis powers to block the bullets! Before readers have a chance to reflect on how nice it is to see Jean again, Nightcrawler and All-New Wolverine arrive as well. Jean shields them all and they teleport away with the girl, first elsewhere in the neighborhood, then at the beach, then HOLY CRAP A SHARK!
Jean’s X-Men have apparently set up a new X-base underneath the Ocean called Searebro. Namor is with them. All-New Wolverine, a clone of Wolverine, and Honey Badger, a clone of All-New Wolverine, come to us via X-Men Red writer Tom Taylor‘s All-New Wolverine book, which has been a consistently great X-book. Nightcrawler is also on the team in X-Men Gold, where he’s in a relationship with Rachel Grey. Gentle hasn’t been on the main cast of an X-book in a while, and Trinary is a new character.
We get the title page now, which only lists Jean, Nightcrawler, Namor, Wolverine, and Honey Badger. Then we get a flashback to two months ago, showing two criminals in ski masks carjacking a woman in Roosevelt Island, New York City. The carjackers, Booch and Kyle, notice that the woman’s baby is in the back seat. The baby is crying, and the crying seems to be a mutant power. It’s hurting Booch and Kyle’s brains. The cry explodes from the vehicle, shattering windows and damaging nearby buildings.
Wolverine and Honey Badger arrive on the scene, and Wolverine covers the baby’s mouth, which stops the screaming. Until the screaming intensifies, melting Wolverine’s hand to the skeleton and sending the Wolverines flying. Jean and Nightcrawler alive. Jean catches the Wolverines with her powers and explains that the baby’s name is Toby and he’s scared. Jean rescues the baby and soothes him.
Jean gives the baby back to his mother and explains everything. Toby is a mutant, and though mutant powers don’t generally manifest until later, it can happen earlier under extreme stress. She offers to have the X-Men make her a power dampener to keep the powers in check until Toby gets older, at which point the Xavier Institute will work with him to teach him to control his powers. She points out that she’ll probably the subject of anti-mutant bigotry now though, so she says she’ll be monitoring the situation and points out that Wolverine lives nearby.
Of course, on television later…
After just a few moments of cable news, Jean can’t take anymore and needs to take a nighttime flight to get away. She uses her powers to sense how @#$%ed up the world has gotten since she was last alive. Which is pretty damn @#$%ed up. Jean has no idea how to help, but she’s going to try. In a montage, we see Jean visit Turkey, Pakistan, East Timor, and presumably lots of other places, inviting them to a meeting in Wakanda with Black Panther to discuss healing the world. She’s gathered the smartest people in the world and brought them together to “borrow” their minds like a psychic supercomputer, all with the purpose of coming up with an idea to save the world from itself.
Later, Jean invites Nightcrawler to meet with her in a tranquil mountain scene to show him the idea. Kurt thinks the idea is beautiful, but that a lot of people will be mad at Jean about it, and at mutants in general. They’ll need a team to protect the entire world. Nightcrawler wants to be on that team, and he also hopes Jean doesn’t die again. He probably doesn’t have to worry about that for at least a few years.
First order of business is for Jean to go meet with Namor in Atlantis.
Jean wants Namor to join the X-Men, but more than that, she wants Atlantis to back her in a proposal to the United Nations. So the next scene shows Jean at the United Nations. She explains that every time the world tries to deal with a minority without giving that minority a voice, it ends badly. She wants mutants to have a spot at the United Nations. An ambassador from Britain argues that mutants are a species, not a country, but Jean points out that whenever mutants try to start a country, it either gets eradicated by sentinels or invaded by Captain America, supposedly *before* he was a fascist. Jean wants mutants to have a voice to further the spirit of Charles Xavier’s dream that humans and mutants can live in peace. Following brief silence in the chamber, Atlantis and Wakanda recognize the mutant nation.
Outside, Wolverine and Honey Badger are there. Jean thanks the Wakandan ambassador, and stops to speak with the British ambassador. She hopes to convince her to support the mutant nation, but the ambassador says it’s not necessary. She says she was just posturing inside, and that Britain will go with the flow if the world recognizes the mutant nation. However, something is wrong. The ambassador brings up the Phoenix, and says that Jean can’t rise against “true power.” The ambassador is being mind-controlled by some malevolent force, which warns Jean that she’s upset its plans. It then makes the ambassador’s head explode while television cameras are filming. Everyone thinks Jean must have done it, and U.N. troops open fire. Namor jumps in front of Jean to block the bullets as Wolverine slices the guns with her claws. Nightcrawler appears to teleport them away.
Then we learn who was in control of the ambassador. It’s Grant Morrison era X-villain Cassandra Nova, the astral twin of Charles Xavier born on the psychic plane who created a clone of Charles in the womb. Charles tried to kill her, but she survived to be the big bad villain of Morrison’s New X-Men run. Now she’s back.
In the time since Jean’s been dead, the X-Men have been severely neglected at Marvel, pushed out of fashion due to a corporate vendetta between Ike Perlmutter and Fox over the Fantastic Four and X-Men movie rights. Insultingly, Marvel even tried their best to replace the X-Men with the Inhumans, which nobody wanted. Now that Disney is apparently buying Fox, this nonsense can finally come to an end. With the links to the last time Marvel cared about the X-Men in this book, X-Men Red could be the start of the X-Men’s long-awaited return to prominence at Marvel, and the first issue was a great start. Of course, time will tell whether Marvel can remain committed to this franchise.
We thought we had one more of these to go, but as it turns out, Venom isn’t a crossover with X-Men this month. The Poison X crossover won’t hit Venom until next month, so we’re off the hook! Thank god!
See you next week!