Hanging with the HiX-Men, Part 15 — X-Men #3

Hanging with the HiX-Men is a series of reviews of Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men comics, sometimes spotlighting a specific scene or moment, followed by my opinion on any X-news. It’s what happens when a long-time X-Men fan has his love for the franchise reinvigorated by a beloved writer who has written some of his favourite comics. With that in mind… Welcome to the HiX-Men, hope you survive the experience (and graphics).

X-Men #3 Review806498._SX1280_QL80_TTD_

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by Leinil Francis Yu
Inks by Gerry Anguilan and Leinil Francis Yu
Colours by Sunny Gho and Rain Beredo
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Cover price: $3.99 USD

One of Jonathan Hickman’s greatest strengths as a writer is his long-term plotting. His stories are known for building on themselves towards an epic conclusion. While the lack of forward momentum on already established plot points or engaging character work means this issue struggles to stay afloat in a sea of new information, this sense of build-up, an interesting new threat and some decent character interactions manage to keep things engaging.

This issue follows the X-Men as they confront a new organisation, Hordeculture, who have managed to hijack Krakoa’s portals to steal some of Krakoa’s plant life that is used to create its primary export. The X-Men respond by sending a team to negotiate with this group, said team consisting of Cyclops, Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw. We learn more about this faction and how they are more dangerous than they initially appear.

The new faction, Hordeculture, is a fun addition to the X-Men rogues gallery. Hickman does a good job of making them unique, interesting and just very memorable. The group is composed of elderly women who possess a biting, barely masked contempt for everything around them that makes them stand out, but no less dangerous than the X-Men’s other villains — especially when this contempt is backed by genuine intelligence and threat, despite their appearance. Their motivations are also not only nicely tied to Krakoa, but also feel especially relevant to modern economics.

Leinil Francis Yu helps to imbue Hordeculture with individuality with his steampunk designs. The group looks unique in the Marvel universe and contrasts nicely with the sleek design of the X-Men and the all-natural look of Krakoa. Their steampunk aesthetic is also fitting for their characters and adds to their somewhat silly nature in a way that doesn’t detract from the story. This is helped by the colouring of Sunny Gho and Rain Beredo, who make use of pastel colours for Krakoa but utilise a washed out brown for Hordeculture’s suits, though it isn’t especially contrasting or jarring as to make them stand out unnecessarily against the backgrounds. Yu also does excellent work with some of the dark imagery that furthers the idea that, although these are women who you’d expect to find at bingo night, they are dangerous.

Hordeculture already stands out among the X-Men rogues gallery.

While Hordeculture is interesting, where the issue falters is with the plotting. Not much happens this issue, and while that gives Hickman some room to let characters play off each other with some fun dialogue, the lack of forward movement on the previously established plot threads of Orchis and Apocalypse means this issue is very light on story. The Hordeculture setup feels like just that — setup. Hickman’s admittedly solid dialogue can only carry the issue so much when it feels like padding, and the lack of any real twist in this story means it is just the X-Men meeting Hordeculture, feeling like the first issue of a story as opposed to a third.

Yu’s expressions are much improved from previous issues, although there are still instances where images seemingly clash with Hickman’s script. Yu’s art works with Hickman’s dialogue when characters are being deceitful or passive-aggressive, such as a funny scene with Jean Grey and Emma Frost taking potshots at each other, but there are instances where characters’ faces look off or the emotion being conveyed is unclear. That or Hickman’s script is jarring and odd at times. Either could be the case.

Did they just immediately give up all pretence of being nice or were they meant to be smiling in the second and third panels? Or is meant to feel incredibly forced?

X-Men #3 is messy but interesting. The art continues to struggle in places (unless that’s the fault of Hickman’s script) and another issue devoted to setup after an entire miniseries devoted to setup feels indulgent. But at the same time, the setup is genuinely interesting, even if the various plot threads don’t have any obvious connection to each other, and the characters play well off each other. The potential is there, now it’s just waiting for Hickman to deliver on that potential.

3.5/5 – Good

No scene spotlight this week, just because there’s none really worth looking at. The Jean/Emma cattiness was fun, though!

This issue is more build-up, like I said, but in hindsight, a lot of the first chunks of Hickman’s works are just that. I think its simultaneously the existence of HOX/POX and the apparent idea that you should be reading every Dawn of X title that makes it feel stranger in this case. With the latter especially, Hickman has never really been in charge of a line like this before — at most he’s had two Avengers books. It’s made his run a bit inconsistent, especially when any one of the three plot threads he’s established — Orchis, Apocalypse and Hordeculture — could support a good story on its own. Not helping is dialogue that feels like filler. Hopefully things pick up, because I don’t want this to become like Road Trip with the Transformers.

There’s also not much X-news, though I covered a lot last week.

I’m slowly catching up on these and this being a bimonthly thing has definitely helped in that regard. At this rate, I’ll definitely have X-Men #4 done before the next issue releases, so that’s nice. See you next time for that!

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