I apologize up front if I confuse anyone with the title of this issue, but I refuse to call it X-Men #10: Now Ghosts #1 or whatever, because I just find that a little ridiculous. It’s also been a bit of a recurring struggle to enjoy the book as fully as I would like to when it’s endured such a revolving door of artists. It was initially announced as a Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel book, which immediately got my attention. He’s my favorite writer and a terrific artist. That lasted three issues. Since then, the title was momentarily conscripted by a crossover event, and we’ve seen artists David Lopez, Terry Dodson, and Barry Kitson come and go. For this issue, we have Clay Mann and Kris Anka sharing art duties. The good news is that some cheesecake tendencies from Terry Dodson aside, all of these artists are pretty interesting. Call me an old cynic, but I just long for the days that a single creative team would steward a run of 100, or 50, or heck, even 24, or 12 issues of an uninterrupted, on time, monthly series.
With my little parade of caveats out of the way, this is a good issue! Psylocke, Rachel, and Monet look particularly radiant and engaging on the cover. The front half of the book has Kris Anka on art. Though I’m not familiar with Anka’s work, it feels as if there was a deliberate effort made to achieve consistency with the Terry Dodson aesthetic, as he was the artist who helped Wood launch this story involving Lady Deathstrike, Typhoid Mary, Arkea, John Sublime, even Gabriel Shepherd and Sabra, and all of the seemingly disparate elements from Wood’s incarnations of this title. While I found some of the backgrounds to be a little sparse with detail, the thing I loved about Anka’s style is the emotion he pulls from the characters. There was a dire sense of danger emanating from Monet’s eyes, for example, when she was being restrained in combat by Amora, the wayward Asgardian. There’s a lot of “acting” going on in her eyes, lending the right gravitas to her situation. Later, I enjoyed the almost Kirby-ish black lines on Amora’s cheeks, a sense of youthful vigor amid strife, letting the audience know that these women allying with Arkea really don’t comprehend the dangerous mess they’ve gotten themselves into.
The back half of the book is handled by Clay Mann, who works in a very stylized aesthetic that’s bolstered by the intense and sharp coloring of Paul Mounts. Mann sort of strikes me as an artist that also fits interestingly into this stable, with the fine lines and detail of an artist like David Lopez, but with the type of sketchy, peripheral lines that almost reverberate on the page, from someone like Olivier Coipel. I sometimes wonder if this is all just a happy accident, or if we should give more credit to the editors for thinking through some of their collaborator choices during the decision-making process. In either case, Mann is at home rendering everything from Sentinels, to outdoor environments, to the diverse power sets of this mutant cast, making the proceedings rightfully feel like a rushed, all-hands-on-deck effort to halt events in motion.
It’s a difficult issue to review without giving away some of the specific plot details, but I appreciate Brian Wood’s eagerness to offer globetrotting endeavors, pushing away from most writers’ tendency to only create in strictly American locales, as he’s also done in Northlanders and The Massive, more recently. With the team having to marshal its resources in response to truly worldwide threats, it’s a great balance of action and some great character development arcs. This characterization includes Storm’s evolving leadership, Rachel’s troubled relationships, Karima finding a place on the team, Monet’s reluctant powerhouse status, which is a nice counterpoint to Psylocke’s self-confidence and experience – this is truly a great pairing, and some younger members of the team like Pixie, Bling, or Hellion wanting to prove themselves, not to mention the crazy reveal concerning two additional characters this new sisterhood is seeking. It’s big. At the end of the day, it’s a rousing plot with rich interpersonal dynamics, essentially what the X-Men should be all about.