Hope You Survive The Experience: Reviewing ‘Immortal X-Men’ #1

by Scott Redmond

Overview

Krakoa’s unelected ruling body gets their own series as the X-Men line dives into a whole new era of stories, that pulls at many threads that came before and still rests heavily upon some elements that came from the era before. Every bit of care and skill is put into making a book about back-stabbing sort of politicians that like to talk visually stunning and enriching, using a variety of tricks that make things feel more real and nuanced. If one likes to see mostly bad folks trying to work together while holding a metaphorical as well as literal knife behind their back, this is the book.

Overall
9/10
9/10

What would happen if a group of mostly awful or self-serving backstabbing individuals, with a few sort of good folks thrown into the mix for kicks, were gathered and declared themselves the ruling body of a fresh new nation full of marginalized people who escaped the persecution and attacks put upon them in their old nations? This is the question that on the surface it would seem that a book like the newly launched Immortal X-Men would be answering.

Yet, with the debut issue, we have come to find out there is far more to things than what we see on the surface.

With Inferno having closed out a major era of the X-books, Immortal X is one of many Destiny of X marked books that are set to usher in a new era, that isn’t all that different from what came before. The Quiet Council is still broken, Sinister is still a cape-loving sinister fellow, various members are scheming, and the fate of Krakoa is at risk once more because of the decisions and machinations of this self-selected group.

Deciding that the new era of X-Men needed a book that at last gathered up these would-be politicians, that are in many ways just as bad as many real-life political leaders, meant finding the right team to make a book about such bad people be enjoyable. Kieron Gillen, Lucas Werneck, David Curiel, and Clayton Cowles are exactly the right team for such a book.

Kicking off this new era with the imagery of two important figures meeting on a park bench, to mirror the big moment of the last era, was a nice choice. Especially since the two featured characters are Sinister and Destiny who are the type that wear their machinations and scheming and agendas on their sleeves rather than hiding them like Xavier and Moira were known to do.

This of course is not Gillen’s first go-around with Marvel’s Merry Mutants, and this very issue has numerous callbacks to his early 2010’s work on Uncanny X-Men including a return of his version of Sinister’s voice and mentions of Utopia (the last time mutants tried to live upon an island of their own). There is a quickness to this extended-sized first issue because much of the book is spent with quick back and forth conversations between the council as Magneto leaves and they search for a replacement, rife with jabs and quips aplenty. It’s a fun, intelligent, and breezy sort of read which is befitting these types of political stories.

There is a ton that is happening here between the verbal jousting, yet not a bit of it feels rushed or forced into the story in any way. Behind all the moments that can make you chuckle, especially with Sinister as it was Gillen who brought about this era of the more over the top yet still utterly terrifying version of the character, there is still a lot of darkness and reminders that many of these council members are not good people. It’s a balance that would appear to be tough to keep going, yet Gillen seems to manage it effortlessly at this point. If one is going to go with the unreliable narrator direction for their story, picking the most unreliable character amongst most characters on this island was the right choice.

Gillen is a magician when it comes to writing, pulling off the sleight of hand each and every time. From the start, the meeting of Sinister and Destiny leaves intriguing crumbs to follow. Then comes all the council intrigue, spurned mutants, giant bug monsters, and lots of posturing and backstabbing that holds our attention. All so that in the very end, he can turn everything upside down to reveal that the clone experiment of Sinister we heard about in the first pages, and potentially how he seems to somewhat but not fully know what might be coming, is actually his work to make Moira clones to play around with her former mutant ability that allowed her to die and reset the timeline. Surely that won’t lead to anything good down the line.

Visually this issue is just a gigantic feast, which is perfect for kicking off a new era. Werneck did amazing work on the recent X-Men: Trial of Magneto event series (which gets mentioned off-hand in this issue), and it’s like he found a way to take that up another notch here. There are so many visually smart things that are on display here, which helps when the premise of a book is centered around fourteen individuals who sit at mostly large white tables in a circular layout. A perfect example is in the opening pages of the council meeting, as we’re looking through Sinister’s POV, each of the panels matches what Sinister would be seeing of each council member as he narrates in captions about who they are and where they stand. Characters are in the center of panels or the far edges, some further looking away than others, or how he can barely see Kitty because of the fact that Exodus is beside him and takes up part of the panel space.

This might be the most time we’ve generally spent in the Council chamber, and we get a ton of really in-depth looks at the lush nature of the place which stands in stark contrast to the cold whiteness of the actual council areas. Here it actually feels like the grand open space that it’s meant to be, as Werneck zooms out and pans around in various panels to give us a great sense of depth as various characters have their side conversations or leave the chamber, which also gives us perspective bout how far apart the members actually are at the table.

Part of that visual appeal is just how darn colorful and lush everything looks. In the present day, there are so many vibrant colors to contrast the cold white table and spaces, bold and bright as a paradise should be. A really nice touch is how Curiel changed the way he goes about his coloring for the flashback introduction pages, mirroring the somewhat lighter tone that we saw in the previous incarnations of the Moira/Xavier meeting these pages are mirroring.

Mutant powers are awesome and look even more awesome and distinct with the way they are drawn but also colored. Lots of color and pops that fit the powers but also give each character their own little dramatic personality flair to their use. Like the notably red nature of Selene’s magical abilities, similar to the signatures used by the Scarlet Witch who she name drops here (well she calls her Ex-Pretender, which is close enough).

Also, there are so many pages where they are doing inspired visuals like Selene’s use of magic to create an image of the Five, the Five at work when Selene turns the External Gate into a bug monster and many of the council go into fight mode, the final reveal page, and many others. Bright, bold, well developed, and just helps the book stand apart from others out there.

Sinister loves to hear Sinister talk, and that doesn’t change even when the ‘talking’ is his internal narration. Cowles makes the verbose amount of dialogue work, flowing around the page easily, adding little things here or there that makes everyone’s words stand apart from one another, especially the large amounts of over-the-topness that comes with Sinister. Such as the panel where he tries to feign surprise over Magneto’s departure.

Words popping to a size bigger than their bubble is nothing new or unusual but generally isn’t too much bigger than the bubble in order to not draw attention from everything else in other panels. Here though we get a giant ‘What’ from Sinister that takes up close to a whole quarter of the particular panel, looming large over the tiny bubble that it escaped. It works because Sinister immediately calls himself out for his surprise being too much, despite his initial coaching of himself to tone it down.  Also, truly a fan of the fading away text when Sinister dies at the beginning talking about ‘You’re only a ghost” with each bubble fading till the last one is empty.

Destiny of X is off to a fantastic start, and it will be very intriguing to see where it all goes from here.

Immortal X-Men #1 is now available in print or digitally from Marvel Comics.

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