Review: X-Men #18 – New Creative Team’s Smash Debut
Winning Teams: Creative and X-Men
It feels good to press reset. After 17 issues, Brian Wood’s baby has passed into the capable hands of Marc Guggenheim, writer and executive producer of the TV show Arrow. If you’ve been on the fence about picking up this title, now is the time to join in. Guggenheim has kept the same core team of five X-Men: Storm, Jubilee, Psylocke, Monet, and Rachel Grey. I’ve said in Geeked Out Nation’s “Mutant Roundtable” X-Men podcast that this title is my favorite X-Men title because of this particular cast, and it’s still true. While I enjoy Bendis’ two titles and the other X-books, the chemistry and relationship depth between these five characters is a pleasure to read.
Guggenheim’s writing is a breath of fresh air in one immediately noticeable way: it’s funny. There were humorous moments in Wood’s run, but Guggenheim writes dialogue that flows smoothly with little jokes and light-hearted touches without being cheesy. It feels like these five X-Men really enjoy being with each other — a rare occurrence among X-Men these days with all of the Kitty vs. Cyclops, everyone vs. Cyclops craziness.
Guggenheim brings back three beloved characters we haven’t seen much recently: Abigail Brand, Cecilia Reyes, and Deathbird. Abigail Brand is the head of S.W.O.R.D., which is kind of like an intergalactic S.H.I.E.L.D. She was a major character in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. Cecilia Reyes, a doctor who can generate force fields, was in Marjorie Liu’s concluding arc of Astonishing X-Men. Deathbird is the sister of Majestrix Lilandra of the Shi’ar, and a key figure in the lives of Jean Grey and Rachel Grey. Abigail Brand in particular is a strong personality with a lot of comedic potential due to her very blunt demeanor, and in this issue, Guggenheim already begins to create great comedy at Brand’s expense.
The art by penciler Harvey Tolibao and inkers Ed Tadeo and Craig Yeung looks superb. It has an almost manga-like feel: when characters like Rachel Grey fill a panel in close-up focus, their heads are often prominently large, with oversized, alert eyes and narrow necks. When I saw the preview pages of this issue, Tolibao’s drawing style struck me as quite unique: in these close-up panels, he uses many short, small lines around characters’ eyes and mouths to show the 3-dimensional perspective. While these short hashes can give the visual effect of less sharpness, it merely takes getting used to. Neither Olivier Coipel nor Paco Diaz and Phil Briones (the previous artists of this volume of X-Men) used this style of shading characters’ faces. I especially like Tolibao’s extremely detailed drawings of Jubilee’s signature yellow jacket.
Paul Mounts remains the colorist on this title, which I am very happy about. He has consistently delivered bright, stunning art. A full page panel showing the psychic images that Rachel, Psylocke, and Monet see via telepathy looks absolutely beautiful. It would make a striking poster. I hope Mounts remains on this title, as he is one of my favorite colorists in comics today.
This issue is engaging, funny, and promises a great story built around the teamwork and trust between these five X-Men. I am ecstatic that Marc Guggenheim, as he shared in an interview, is choosing to focus on Rachel as the “emotional throughline,” since I have often lamented at her taking the leadership backseat to Storm. Writing humor and interdependent team relationships seems to come naturally for Guggenheim. The dialogue never disappoints, and the art never lacks. I can’t wait for the next issue.