This week Jean Grey assembles a new team of X-Men, and Swamp Thing goes walking in a winter wonderland in the Swamp Thing Winter Special!
X-Men Red #1 (Marvel Comics)
Now that Jean Grey is back in the land of the living, it’s time for her to rejoin the X-Men. But Jean’s not joining just any team of mutants. She’s forming her own group of X-Men, and getting her very own title with X-Men Red, the latest in the “color coded” X-Men teams. With Tom Taylor on writing duties and Mahmud Asrar on the art, Marvel’s betting that Red will be a pretty sizeable hit with readers, and I gotta say, after reading this first issue, I think it will be too.
Now that she’s back in the world, Jean Grey can’t believe the amount of anger and hatred that’s grown since she’s been gone. Realizing that she can try and make a positive difference in the world, Jean assembles a team of classic and new X-Men characters (including the new X-23 Wolverine and her sister Honey Badger from Taylor’s All-New Wolverine), and sets out to become a sort of ambassador for Mutantkind. Of course, that’s easier said than done when Cassandra Nova makes her presence known, and creates a pretty major hurdle for Jean to get over to accomplish her goals.
I’ve enjoyed Tom Taylor’s work for a few years now, ever since he started the Injustice tie in comic, but I have to say, this might be the best comic he’s written. X-Men Red was a book that I initially didn’t think too much of, but after reading it I can’t wait to see what comes next. Taylor has a great gift for characterization, so placing him on an X-Men title is a no brainer. He’s able to bounce between the many personalities on the team, and while some don’t get many stand out moments (this is primarily the Jean and Nightcrawler issue), Taylor’s got so much cool stuff lined up now that I’ll definitely be back for the next issue.
Like Taylor, Mahmud Asrar is also a creator I’ve been following for a long time, and it’s been interesting seeing his art grow as he’s gotten more titles at Marvel. While there’s a few rushed panels towards the end of the issue, Asrar makes up for it with some truly incredible pages in the first half of the issue, the standout being Jean Grey floating in the sky, listening in on the problems of the world.
While my interest in the other X-Men titles has started to fade, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this debut issue. I dare say that this is a much stronger debut than both X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue, and may just end up becoming the new flagship X-Men book. For now though, X-Men Red is a rock solid debut issue that’s worthy of the returning Jean Grey.
Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 (DC Comics)
One of the few DC characters suspiciously absent from Rebirth has been Swamp Thing. Despite an appearance in an issue of Batman a year ago, it’s been pretty quiet on the Swamp Thing front. That is, until this week, which sees the Swamp Thing Winter Special hit stands. Typically the big two would be content with putting some up and comers or complete unknowns on a special like this, but in a nice change we’ve got Tom King and Jason Fabok on this special, and the results are absolutely stunning.
I’ll refrain from going into the plot in too much detail, mainly because the surprise in this book will absolutely floor you. A giant snow monster was attacking a young boy, and Swamp Thing is now trying to get the boy to safety. The catch though, is that this snow creature has turned everything around Swamp Thing into snow and ice, effectively cutting off his connection to The Green. That’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot of this issue, because you should 100% go buy it right now.
Swamp Thing Winter Special solidifies Tom King as the best writer in DC’s stable right now. Nothing against Scott Snyder or Peter J Tomasi, but between this, Batman, and Mister Miracle, King has proven himself as the new force to be reckoned with at the publisher. Like Snyder before him, King has the golden touch for any property at DC, and my god, this book is simply incredible. King touches on the tragedy of Alec Holland in a way that completely tugs at your heart strings and makes you completely feel for the guy, while also building up a sizeable sense of dread as Holland continues his seemingly endless quest of getting this young boy to safety.
I’ve long been a fan of Jason Fabok’s since he made his first marks on the comic industry with Batman Annual #1 way back at the start of the New 52. The heir apparent to the Jim Lee and David Finch throne, Fabok, like King, is the new best of the best at the publisher. I’ve seen Fabok’s takes on Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman before, but I was curious about how he’d take on Swamp Thing, who’s style is decidedly different from those heroes. Well, I was not disappointed, as Fabok is able to absolutely crush every panel and page in this issue. There’s a very minimal amount of action in this issue, but it doesn’t matter because Fabok’s style makes every single panel and moment count.
Straight up, Swamp Thing Winter Special is the best comic I’ve read this year. Yes, we’re only two months into 2018, but I have a very hard time believing that anything else will come close to this issue. Expect this to not only sell out, but go into multiple printings, and maybe even stand alongside the mighty Alan Moore’s take on the character. Hopefully this does well enough to get King and Fabok on a monthly Swamp Thing title, but for now we have this one single issue that serves as a great example of the power comics have as a form of storytelling.