Writer: Tini Howard
Art: Francesco Mobili, Jesus Aburtov, Clayton Cowles, Leinel Francis Yu, Sunny Gho, and Tom Muller
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: February 9th, 2022
When the Shi’ar Empire faces a surprising threat, Deathbird asks for help from the “leader” of the X-MEN. Enter the team co-captains Sunspot and Cannonball who must lead Armor, Banshee, Boom-Boom, Forge, Marrow, Strong Guy, and Tempo on an undercover expedition to save the Empress. Let’s dive into SECRET X-MEN #1 by Tini Howard and Francesco Mobili to see how these mutants who lost the election can deem themselves “the X-MEN” as well as why Deathbird requires the X-MEN’S help and not the Empress’ own guard?
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SECRET X-MEN #1 is both confusing and fun at the same time. Tini Howard takes some of the best elements from Hickman’s NEW MUTANTS space opera and intertwines them with some new wrinkles from the HELLFIRE GALA to create a pretty wild and amazing team of X-MEN. Additionally, the abilities of the cast are quite unique and balance out well. Plus, the how and why this team are placed together are ironed out nicely before the story takes a deep dive.
Alas, in order to cram a ton of information into a small package, Howard provides a ton of convoluted premises and scene setup that really makes SECRET X-MEN #1 hard to follow. One minute the team is fighting in space and the next minute their back inside the ship. One minute they’re dealing with a problem and the next minute it’s somehow wrapped up. It felt almost as if Howard fixed problems off-panel without even addressing how they were remedied and why.
This caused SECRET X-MEN #1 to feel disconnected and extremely disorganized. Randomly placed gates in the middle of nowhere, random attacks, random team split-ups, and so much more that just jump to new panels where everything is fine again were done to speed up the story. Nevertheless, it came at the cost of logistics and understanding.
Yet on a more positive note, the team was loads of fun and they gelled so well together. Howard did a fabulous job of allowing almost every member to shine, which is extremely difficult with a large cast of characters. But somehow, Howard gives everyone a fair shake. Moreover, Howard writes Sunspot well with his overconfident, almost smarmy, attitude alongside Cannonball affirming that classic friendship without skipping a beat.
However, as well as Howard wrote the characterizations of these SECRET X-MEN, she still managed to drop some rather ridiculous story beats that just didn’t jive with this reviewer. For example, can a bone spacesuit have you breathe in space? And to what extent do Tempo’s powers really work? Even more so, can spears fly through open space and shatter windows from the outside only to plunge into someone’s side? Keep these questions in mind as you read SECRET X-MEN #1.
Francesco Mobili and Jesus Aburtov provide a stunningly bright and vibrant issue of SECRET X-MEN. Their style is very reminiscent of the 90s, well-defined, superhero physique but with a subtle modern twist. Plus, Mobili doesn’t shy away from a strong smile and other emotional features that help the team dynamic and fortify the relationships between the characters. However, the busyness of the issue is directly related to the cluttered scene display and choppy panel configurations that make each page come across as a bit chaotic.
Take SECRET X-MEN #1 with a grain of salt. It’s busy, confusing, jumpy, but loads of fun. Some aspects of the issue are a bit silly while other story beats appear to be managed off-panel. Yet, Howard’s take on the characters is strong and inviting. Her balance and ability to juggle this large cast are ultimately what helped make SECRET X-MEN #1 so incredibly entertaining. Additionally, the issue was extremely wordy and weighed down by a lot of dialogue almost as if Howard was trying to fit three issues into one and a half. Readers, X-MEN in space is always a good time. And overall, that’s what SECRET X-MEN #1 is, especially with this eclectic crew. Just be prepared to figure a few things out on your own, take a couple of rereads, and occasionally suspend some belief along the way. Let me know what you think, have a great week, and God Bless!