Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Color Artist: Federico Blee
Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Mutantkind has terraformed the planet Mars, turning the lifeless red world into a living one, and colonized it with the mutants of Arakko. They even renamed Mars as Arakko. This didn’t go over so well with everyone else, but the Arakkii mutants are here to stay. But they will need protection from unknown threats as seen in X-Men Red #1.
The comic starts off with a strong opening scene that paves the way for Storm’s internal conflict and the overarching troubles of the comic. It seems like another day as Regent of Arakko’s (Mars) mutants with Storm, but she desires something different, something more than what’s there. This carries over with the other main characters in the book in different ways, Magneto, Sunspot, Abigail Brand, who all get nice intros in the story and have different visions for Arakko. The comic isn’t action filled, but there are brief moments of action with unique character confrontations and interactions.
The art by Stefano Caselli is excellent with the colors by Federico Blee. Whlie this issue isn’t the most dynamic, the artwork allows for the characters to feel alive and distinguished. Everything from the clothes to their poses and their facial expressions strongly and clearly conveys each character’s personality and emotions in the moment. Whether it’s the main characters or side characters, every action and panel feels it is drawn with a purpose in the comic.
Now, this isn’t John Carter of Mars, Dejah Thoris of Mars, or anything like that, it’s mainly Al Ewing worldbuilding and moving pieces into place to establish the conflict for the series. But this ties into the comic’s obvious problem: establishing a clear threat to Mars and its mutants. See, the comic’s big tagline is “Who can save the Red Planet?” But here’s a question everyone can ask: Save it from what or whom?
There’s no one for them to really fight, which is kind of the issue the Arakkii mutants have, they want something to fight. That’s why they keep voting on warring against the demonic forces of Amenth or sticking with peace on Mars. On top of that, Marvel writers have done NOTHING with the Arakkii mutants for 2 years now, except give them brief & forgettable appearances in Benjamin Percy’s Wolverine series and Gerry Duggan’s X-Men series. Hopefully, Al Ewing changes that by actually doing something cool and compelling with them in this series.
Speaking of threats, there is a very clear threat in the book. There is one character who can be considered a direct villain to the Arakkii mutants, their way of life, and the other X-Men related characters like Storm, Magneto, and Sunspot. However, if readers didn’t read Al Ewing’s previous stories, then they’ll be completely in the dark on who the main threat is. Especially when the comic does a poor job establishing any tangible threats that Storm and the others can fight on Arakko to begin with. I get into who the big threat is in the SPOILERS section.
Earlier, I said the opening sets up the main internal conflict for Storm. Well, that conflict involves how she really feels about being Regent of Arakko. The thing is this comes into conflict with the fact that she hasn’t been Regent that long in-universe or in real-life, just under a year and even then she didn’t really do much during all of that time except show-off here and there. Aside from a brief appearance in the first Hellfire Gala (yes, there’s going to be a second one this year), some crossover tie-ins, and a couple of issues in Al Ewing’s S.W.O.R.D. series, Storm hasn’t really done much as regent of Arakko. And now it feels like the comic’s throwing that away to have her be something else. Which I go into in the SPOILERS section.
Previously, I said one of this comic’s problems is it didn’t establish a clear threat to the martian mutants. Well, the real threat to the Arakkii mutants right now is Abigail Brand, who was established to secretly be a new high-ranking member of Orchis at the end of Al Ewing’s S.W.O.R.D. series. Yes, that Orchis, the clandestine organization founded to prevent mutant dominance of Earth and wipe them out with Nimrod and the Sentinels, who Brand has met. If the next issue ends up making Brand the main villain, then that solves this problem. Until it does, casual readers are left in the dark on who the big villain for this series is.
Here’s possibly the biggest issue with this series: Why is it called “X-Men Red” if the main team isn’t an X-Men team? See, throughout several points in the story, Ewing has a couple of characters iterate how Arakko doesn’t need thrones, heroes, or X-Men. So what does it need? Well, going by what Storm says, it needs a “Brotherhood.” That’s right, Storm is reforming the Brotherhood of Mutants on Mars with Magneto, Sunspot, and possibly the newly resurrected Thunderbird while Brand is forming her own X-Men of Mars team. Again, why is this book called “X-Men Red”? We’ll see where Al Ewing takes this, hopefully it makes sense in the next issue.
X-Men: Red #1 opens with a solid introduction to the main cast and their lives on Arakko, aka Mars. Al Ewing does some solid work establishing the internal conflict of Storm, Magneto, and others while Stefano Caselli and Federico Blee provide some good art for the comic. This isn’t the strongest first issue, but the series does have the potential to deliver a compelling storyline with more excitable issues.