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 #4 Review
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by Leinil Francis Yu
Inks by Gerry Anguilan and Leinil Francis Yu
Colours by Sunny Gho
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Cover price: $3.99 USD
So far, X-Men has been a solid series that has been setting up new plot threads rather than building off what has already been established in House of X and Powers of X. However, this issue finally sees Jonathan Hickman continue one of his plot points, further developing the moral ambiguity presented in Krakoa and dealing with how its emergence has affected the world’s politics. Thanks to some strong dialogue and consistently engaging art, X-Men #4 carries itself as a good comic, one where the plot is finally advancing, or at least starting to.
The story follows Xavier, Magneto, Apocalypse, Cyclops and Gorgon as they meet with a group of important humans figures during the World Economic Forum. Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse meet with prominent figures to discuss Krakoa’s place in the world, while Cyclops and Gorgon run into their own hiccup and more than a few henchmen.
This is a very dialogue-heavy issue; however Hickman’s smart dialogue is easy on the eyes and feels very appropriate for the situation, and the conversation itself is genuinely interesting. Magneto’s extensive discussion about Krakoa’s economic impact on the world feels like Hickman is channelling his past series, Black Monday Murders, and really delving deep into the nature of capitalism and especially consumerism, while furthering the moral ambiguity that has been established in his run. While it could have come off as preachy or monotonous, Magneto’s already preachy nature makes it feel natural, so this comic instead feels like an intriguing philosophical debate — Hickman also nicely contrasts Magneto with the less threatening and more condescending Xavier and the less talkative and more overtly threatening Apocalypse. With this issue, Hickman firmly establishes mutants as a dominating presence in the world, one that threatens — literally, in the case of Magneto — to destabilise the entire world, all stemming from their treatment by humans in the past. This aggressive, unified moral stance feels like an appropriate development in the characters of Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse.
Helping the dialogue-heavy issue is Leinil Francis Yu’s layouts. Once the dialogue-heavy part of the comic begins, Yu’s consistent layouts, all working off a standard 9-panel grid, not only nicely breaks up Hickman’s wordy script but gives the comic a consistent pace. Yu deviates at appropriate points when moments call for it, with wider panels for select moments, but always maintains three tiers which gives the pages a uniform appearance that helps to maintain the issue’s pacing and makes the events of the comic feel appropriately cold, clinical and almost procedural given the events that transpire. Whether it be to give Magneto more panels than other characters to establish his dominance or to let action scenes breathe, Yu’s layouts are elegant in their simplicity.
Sunny Gho’s colours also do wonders for the issue. The darker shades for Cyclops and Gorgon’s extended fight scene are nicely contrasted by the blinding brightness and calming colours for the World Economic Forum’s dinner. The shift in colours is an easy way of depicting a change in scene and the way Hickman’s script alternates between action and dialogue is neat and easy to read in part because of the strong contrast in colours.
The action interspersed throughout this issue is an appropriately entertaining distraction from the dialogue. The action is not particularly complicated but does an excellent job breaking up the issue and providing some visceral juxtaposition to the calm dialogue taking place with Xavier and company. As mentioned before, the cold, almost clinical nature of the combat does more to establish the threat of the X-Men than any overblown brawl ever could, and a moment in the comic nicely intertwines the political dinner with the firefight in a way that elevates both scenarios, establishing a coordination that shows off how dominating the X-Men are.
While the action scenes are nicely done, and something Yu has done well in past issues, it’s his facial expressions that round out this issue. The blocking of the action scenes works well and there is a nice flow to the climax of the certain fight when wider panels are more common that make for a great conclusion, and one page in particular does a great job using interruptions to convey the aforementioned unity of the X-Men. However, it’s the stoicism and passive faces of Yu’s characters that stand out. The aloofness of his characters work very well in the dinner scene, where Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse are meant to possess an air of dismissiveness and elitism.
X-Men #4 is a wonderful, tidy comment that is expertly crafted to be as procedural as the X-Men themselves. Its restraint and elegance is fitting given the events of the issue and shows how the creative team is truly coming together, despite a rocky start. Hopefully X-Men has now found its footing and we’ll get more exploration of the interesting things it has set up.
4/5 – Great
Scene Spotlight: Xavier’s Smile
I went on a lot about the art in my review and it’s hard to think of the best moment in this issue, so I’m instead just going to note this one that I dug.
Near the end of the issue, after largely not speaking and letting Magneto speechify and Apocalypse threaten, Xavier finally gets a word in.
After one of the humans at the dinner expresses distrust for mutants, helped due to Magneto outright explaining how mutants to dominate human culture, Xavier finally speaks. He first references the events of X-Force #1 where he was assassinated before taking off his helmet — the first time we’ve seen him take off his helmet in Hickman’s run since he put it on, and this is in front of humans. His expression is stoic but as warm as can be expected, and him taking off his helmet feels like a simultaneous show of sincerity and arrogance, as if the humans, whose assault teams have been disposed of by Cyclops and Gorgon, can no longer hurt him.
Instead of anger like Magneto and Apocalypse, Xavier expresses faith in humanity. We see a glimpse of the fatherly, patient Xavier of comics past, even if his dialogue can be read as somewhat threatening.
However, the warm fatherly Xavier fades and we get the smug leader of Krakoa, with an arrogant smirk that can only be read as condescending. He proclaims his superiority before repeating more Krakoan rhetoric and replacing his helmet, once again shutting himself off from the world and allowing Magneto to speak again.
Magneto’s talk about mutant unity is nicely blocked, with the eighth panel showing the three mutant leaders together, lined up perfectly.
Finally, the nine-panel grid gives way to three tiers which gives the scene — and the issue as a whole — a nice big finish as the X-Men leave. Magneto issues a warming — framed more like a threat thanks to his expression — and the X-Men leave unified, the last image being of a very aggressive-looking ship leaving the dinner.
Like I said, this issue was really well constructed overall, so I can’t really place one moment over another, but I just felt this was a good way to end the issue. The Xavier stuff was very well done and did a good job reconciling the fatherly, altruistic Xavier and the modern, more morally ambiguous Xavier.
There was also a short story with Mister Sinister in Incoming #1. It doesn’t warrant a full review, but for what it was, it had good dialogue and I still enjoy Hickman’s version of Sinister. The idea of Sinister perverting the reincarnation protocols and creating new creatures from the DNA banks is interesting, as is his interest in Franklin Richards, who Hickman has already mentioned in the data pages for “House of X”. I’m not sure why Hickman was the one to write this story and not Chip Zdarsky — who will be writing the Fantastic Four/X-Men miniseries — aside from maybe just wanting all the big name creators, and specifically the chief X-Men writer, to be on board for Incoming to make clear how important it is.
A new X-Factor series was announced, to be written by Leah Williams. It will star Daken, Northstar, Polaris, Rachel Summers, Eye Boy and Prodigy and will deal with their work in maintaining the resurrection protocols of Krakoa, confirming deaths and whatnot.
It sounds potentially interesting, delving into the intriguing world that Hickman has created, and the cast mostly has potential — even if Eye-Boy is a joke that got old fast — and I like that Williams has said she will be exploring what Northstar’s human husband Kyle gets up to on Krakoa… but this series is also an affront to everything I hold dear, and possibly to the Marvel universe as a whole. Possibly all of existence.
Because it. Does not. Star. Jamie Madrox!
I’ll give you a second to compose yourself after that revelation that left you destroyed.
Listen… Marvel… why are you like this? Who hurt you?
In all seriousness, it looks like it has potential. I haven’t really read anything by Williams, but I’m all for further exploring Hickman’s world.