Review: ‘X-Men Red’ #9 Changes The Game

by Tony Thornley

Abigail Brand has proven herself to be the greatest strategist and manipulator in the Sol system. Unfortunately for her, X-Men Red #9 shows that she may have an equal.

Cover by Russell Dauterman & Matt Wilson

Al Ewing, Stefano Caselli, Federico Blee, and Ariana Maher reveal that Brand is playing checkers while others are playing three dimensional chess.

Brand’s manipulations have brought an angry Vulcan to Arakko to reclaim the Shi’ar throne. As Gabriel rages through the Imperial Guard, Brand thinks she’s won. However, Roberto DaCosta is about to show her that she should never underestimate one of the greatest, smartest and most handsome X-Men and Avengers to ever live.

I was grinning like an idiot this entire issue. Two years of stories pay off in this issue (though aren’t completely resolved- looks like that’s up for next issue), and it’s one of the most exciting, intricate, and satisfying single issues in years. Ewing’s Brand is self-serving and arrogant, though she isn’t completely irredeemable. Sunspot, on the other hand, is her equal in nearly any way (I think he could take her in a fair fight), and Ewing makes it completely play fair. You can see how every piece of Brand’s plan is perfectly thwarted by Sunspot’s, and that’s not even the full scope of the issue. This is near-perfect comics, and we’re still not finished with the story.

Where Ewing sets up the pieces, Caselli positively lights them on fire. The storytelling is great, with clean lines and fantastic layouts. Where this issue shines though is in its splash pages. The pages turns to Vulcan’s resurrection, Sunspot’s arrival and the final page (which I won’t spoil) all are fist-pumping, cheer-inducing moments. Blee takes what Caselli puts on the page and gives it all a glow that elevates it into something unearthly.

Maher always deserves a call-out for her work. A letterer is usually underappreciated because if they’re doing their job right, you don’t really notice their work until a re-read or two. She doesn’t just place balloons and captions well, she adds emphasis in a way that feels like spoken dialogue. 

This issue is one of the best single issues of the year, without a doubt. This is what superhero comics should be, and I can’t wait the resolution.

X-Men Red #9 is available now from Marvel Comics.

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