X-Men: Red #10
Tom Taylor (Writer), Roge Antonio (Artist), Rain Beredo (Colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer)
November 7, 2018
The penultimate issue of X-Men: Red begins with a curse that every X-Men fan must have uttered at some point: “@#$% you, humanity.”
Shockingly, we see Jean Grey, of all mutants, making that explosive statement—or do we? Actually, it’s a video created by Cassandra Nova to inflame mutant/human relations, and make it look like Jean Grey is preparing to start a war on Genosha. The X-Men can prove it’s a fake, but in a post-truth reality, will that even matter to the people who want to kill them? It’s time for Jean and the X-Men to confront Nova face-to-face, but as Jean says, “This isn’t a war. It’s a rescue.”
It will be very, very hard for me to say goodbye to X-Men: Red, which is the best ongoing X-Men book on stands right now, and my favorite X-book in recent memory. Essentially a twelve-part story (counting the Annual!) about the recently resurrected Jean Grey reconnecting with a world that’s only become more violent and divided in her absence, Red threaded real-world anxieties with superheroic optimism – when Jean says she’s going to change the world, we believe her.
X-Men: Red is a perfect starring vehicle for Jean Grey, the heart of the X-Men. As a longtime fan of the character, I have been starving for her proper return to comics, and with every issue, writer Tom Taylor shows why her presence as a compassionate leader is so refreshing and vital. She’s not following in the Kevlar booted-footsteps of Wolverine and Cyclops, but changing the rules to find a new way for mutantkind. When Honey Badger (a character who always surprises me with how good she is) cuts to the quick of the problem with Cassandra Nova and asks Jean what would stop a telepath as powerful as she is, Jean’s response is so obviously perfect I’m shocked it’s never been tried before.
It’s important that Red strongly establishes Jean in her new role as X-Men team leader, considering that she was off the board for nearly fifteen years, and she’s no longer shackled to the previous plot points that defined her, namely the Phoenix Force and her love triangle with Scott and Logan. The downside to this is that the comic doesn’t quite feel like a team book, with characters standing off to the side while Jean figures out everything. Namor feels particularly underused, especially considering that the delightfully-named Searebro is situated in his kingdom of Atlantis. But when Taylor does give the other X-Men the spotlight, they dazzle. (Er, sorry, Dazzler.) Gentle straight-up punches a missile! I adore this book.
Of course, a superhero book is only as good as its villain, and Taylor’s vision of Cassandra Nova as the personification of online hate is as creepy as it is relevant. Tackling the metaphor of the mutants as a scapegoated minority and social media’s propensity for amplifying bigotry is like juggling bowling balls while walking a tightrope, but Taylor handles it with subtle effectiveness rather than a Black Mirror hammer to the face. The weaponization of the Jean Grey deepfake video is chilling in its plausibility. Who needs shapeshifters when you have the horrors of real-life technology?
Artist Roge Antonio races us to the finish line with a comic that’s sharp and effective; his image of the digital Jean’s face hovering ominously over Genosha reminds us of how intimidating Jean can be, even without the threat of the Dark Phoenix. He also gives special attention to the issue’s Special Guest Stars, nailing Tony Stark’s one-page appearance with only a smirking glance over a pair of sunglasses. Rain Beredo complements this strong linework with a bold visual palette; I particularly like the sharp contrast of the primary colors of Jean’s costume against the purple, twilight-y hues of Trinary’s Sentinel. X-Men: Red is a perpetually good-looking comic; try not to have a thrilled little smile on your face when you reach that last page.
While I’m saddened that X-Men: Red won’t have the total page count as its color-coded siblings X-Men: Gold and X-Men: Blue, it’s a thrilling and relevant superhero comic with a shining star in Jean Grey. Taylor and Antonio have delivered the real thing. Read it before it’s over.