Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta, Lucas Werneck, Frank Martin, Sara Pichelli, Matthew Wilson, Sunny Gho, Nolan Woodard, VC’s Clayton Cowles, Tom Muller, Leinil Francis Yu, and Russell Dauterman
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: June 9th, 2021
At the premier HELLFIRE GALA, the mutant nation is unstable. While an election is about to be carried out to appoint the new X-MEN, the team is far from the only shift coming. It’s a changing of the guard as the first X-MEN team of Krakoa debuts! Let’s dive into X-MEN #21 by Jonathan Hickman and watch as one era ends and a new one begins.
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Jonathan Hickman’s last issue of X-MEN comes to an uneventful closure in this week’s X-MEN #21. As the Head of X concludes his 21 issues stay, all that readers discover is the new team, which was already revealed, and a few surprise guest stars from the “real world”. Moreover, Hickman gives X-MEN fans a few more Sinister Secrets that make little to no sense at all. Overall, X-MEN #21 was merely a setup issue for Gerry Duggan moving forward. Other than a deep conversation between Cyclops and Kevin Feige (… yup), there’s really no substance or direction in this week’s issue. This reviewer can’t help but feel a bit let down as Hickman‘s run comes to a close on X-MEN’S main title.
Now, I know Hickman could easily iron out Somersworth of his plot threads in other X-books, including INFERNO. However, as someone who’s put forth a ton of trust in his work, I feel like Hickman left a lot on the table that could have been addressed this issue. Instead, we get a dismissal from Namor, a telepathic vote, and a telepathic firework display. Is the HELLFIRE GALA merely a staging zone for a change-up in writers and artists? Is it simply time to readjust? Heck, what happened to the Golden Girls of Botany after EMPYRE? What really happened inside the Vault? We waited a year to get that story behind the trip inside. Furthermore, what secrets were found other than a relationship with Synch? Where are we now with Mystique? Is she eventually going to betray everyone? What’s happening in space with the Shi’ar? Who are some of the missing mutants in the Great Ring of Arakko? Where are some of those mutants after X OF SWORDS?
Readers, issues 10 and 11 were EMPYRE related. And then, issues 12-15 were X OF SWORDS focused. Issue 16 was when the two islands were basically having sex. And issue 17 was practically a one-shot about Storm in space. Therefore, 8 issues of this 21 issue Hickman run were taken away from his personal story plot threads. Therefore, if we exclude this current X-MEN issue that told us nothing other than provide readers with the new team we already knew, then we’re down to 12 issues of the actual story Hickman wanted to tell.
My point: why were none of these questions at least hinted upon in this concluding issue? Why was nothing addressed about any of these topics that he laid the foundation for? Are we simply to forget about them or will they pop back up in his other titles? There are simply too many unanswered questions without a single snippet in this issue that was ultimately filled with surface-level nothingness and disappointment. It’s very uncharacteristic of Hickman and his work. Again, his story is probably not over. However, he is transitioning to a different book. So, does that transition include any of these prior story threads or is he just moving on to something new? Only time will tell.
Now, even though the story was a bit lackluster, the beginning art and illustrations were actually the biggest letdown of this week’s tale. As the story took off, Namor was drawn exceptionally weird with sharp, almost slanted facial features, as well as Charles and Magneto. Furthermore, there really were no distinguishing characteristics that would make anyone know that the man in the top hat was actually Magneto. If you have read Hickman’s EAST OF WEST, you’d notice that Nick Dragotta, one of the artists on this issue AND that series, drew Magneto to resemble Death from that same comic series. Now, I loved EAST OF WEST, however, this depiction of Magneto just seemed out of character and a reach, to say the least.
Similarly, the line and pencil work were scratchy at some points yet later almost too caricature in nature. With the cast of artists in this book, it’s hard to decipher whose work is which. Now I, for one, am a big fan of Russell Dauterman’s work. However, many of the little nuances within this issue don’t seem to have his usual touch and appeal to them which makes me feel like it’s some of the other artist’s style that just didn’t jive with me this week. Plus, the last half of the issue where the new X-MEN team is introduced feels more like his work. Maybe it’s some of the HELLFIRE garbs that many of the X-MEN like Cyclops, Charles, and Magneto were wearing that made this issue of X-MEN seem off? Maybe it was the real-life cameos that came across as too forced and corny? But overall, this week’s tale just didn’t hit the mark.
For the main event title within the HELLFIRE GALA, one would think the weight, importance, and quality of this issue would be strong, entertaining, and significant. However, as Hickman’s X-MEN run comes to a close, he passes the torch with no big splash, no questions answered, and no big appeal. Ultimately, nothing is developed, minor clues were dropped that won’t surface for months, and the art within the first half of the issue was rough and passable. I simply expected more visually from an event like the HELLFIRE GALA whose foundation is grounded in pomp and circumstance. Fans could easily skip this issue while being directly told who’s on the new X-MEN team, which was leaked weeks ago anyway. I expected more from this than a Hickman handoff but that’s about all you’ll get this week. Let me know what you think, have a great week, and God bless!