Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey was not the home run that the X-Men franchise needed. That said, it did accomplish its job in bringing Jean Grey back to the world of the living in a way that creates plenty of intrigue for what she does next. While that intrigue does give X-Men: Red something to hang on the bigger selling point is that it is being written by Tom Taylor. Taylor has been a rising star who has turned in some excellent comic books with his work on Injustice 2 and All-New Wolverine. All-New Wolverine in particular has shown that Taylor understands and loves the X-Men franchise. Now that he has control of an X-Men series with Jean Grey leading the team how will Taylor do? Let’s find out with X-Men: Red #1.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Ive Svorcina
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: A girl named Heather is woken up by Jean Grey warning her to leave. Heather escapes her house just as some locals look to kill her. Jean stops all the bullets with her powers.
Nightcrawler and Wolverine (Laura Kinney) show up to provide some back up. Not wasting time Nightcrawler uses his powers to teleport the three with Heather somewhere else.
Arriving to where the other X-Men (Namor, Gentle, Trinary and Honey Badger) are Heather gets scared by a shark as they are in the middle of the ocean. Jean introduces herself to Heather and welcomes her to the X-Men’s home: Searebro.
Two months earlier a few robbers steal a woman’s car and keep the baby inside as a hostage. When the baby starts crying it activates his mutant powers which causes the robbers to crash the car.
Wolverine and Honey Badger show up to try to save the baby but the baby loses control of its powers again and blasts the pair away.
Jean and Nightcrawler show up and stop Wolverine and Honey Badger from getting hurt. Jean then uses her powers and some kind words to calm the baby down and gives the baby to his mother. Jean tells the mother that when the baby is old enough the X-Men can help train him at the Xavier Institute.
On ANB news one of the commentators is disgusted by how there is now a mutant baby around to cause havoc. The commentator mentions that the United Nations have already scheduled a meeting to talk on the increase mutant-related incidents.
Jean sees all of this and decides to get a different perspective on the matter. While floating over the city Jean is able to read everyone’s minds and finds out how divided everyone is in the world. Jean decides she must help and will do what she can to figure out how to do so.
Jean spends time going to Turkey, Pakistan, East Timor and Wakanda to gather some allies to help her speak at the United Nations meeting, including Black Panther.
Jean speaks to all the leaders in one room and tells them she wants to help heal the world that is divided and wants everyone’s help. She asks everyone in the room to allow her to borrow their minds so she can figure out an idea for them to all move forward. No one objects and Jean uses her powers to read everyone’s mind.
A little later at the Xavier Institute Jean calls Nightcrawler to meet her. Nightcrawler teleports to Jean’s location. Jean shows Nightcrawler her idea. Nightcrawler likes the idea and says she will need help. He says he’ll help her out. Jean is happy to hear that since Nightcrawler is a friend and the soul of the X-Men.
Jean then goes to Atlantis where she meets Namor. She tells Namor that she is building something and needs Namor and his country to have her back in the upcoming meeting at the United Nations.
At the United Nations headquarters in New York City Jean talks about how mutants are treated like criminals in many countries, and even killed, and she would like mutants to actually have a voice. One of the ambassadors mentions that mutants are a species not a nation. Jean reminds the ambassador that mutants have been treated as one group for a long time and that any time they try to live in one place, like Genosha or Utopia, they are slaughtered.
The British ambassador does not believe that Jean, a telepath, is not reading their minds. Jean says she is there to build trust. She mentions how Charles Xavier had a dream of mutants and humans living at peace with one another and tried to accomplish that by showing that mutants can help by being heroes. Jean says she believes that mutants don’t need to be heroes to be accepted as Charles believed.
Namor and T’Challa stand up to voice their backing of recognizing the mutant nation Jean proposes.
A little later Jean thanks T’Challa for backing her up during the meeting. Wolverine and Honey Badger compliment Jean on how impressive she was inside.
The Brititsh ambassador that spoke up against mutants asks Jean for a minute of her time. The ambassador tells Jean that while she may have sounded harsh she was trying to convey strength for the cameras. She mentions that she knows that the United Nations needs allies and that Britain won’t continue to vote against mutankind anymore.
Suddenly the ambassador’s voice changes. The ambassador mentions that Jean is not in control anymore since she lost the Phoenix. Jean is confused at what the ambassador just said. The person controlling the ambassador mentions that Jean disrupted her plans. The ambassador starts freaking out until her head suddenly explodes.
The police believe Jean killed the ambassador. Namor and Wolverine act quickly to defend Jean. Nightcrawler grabs Namor, Wolverine, Honey Badger and Jean and teleports them away.
In an unknown location Cassandra Nova is holding a Sentinal head speaking to herself about how she can control what is inside a person’s head.
Elsewhere Jean, with blood on her face, stands worried with the others on a cliffside. End of issue.
The Good: X-Men: Red #1 does exactly what it needed to do as we get a clearly defined mission statement for the team led by Jean Grey. Tom Taylor did not waste time in this issue by trying to retell what happened with Jean’s return. That all happened in Phoenix Resurrection and we did not need X-Men: Red #1 to be concerned about summarized the event that ended last week. Instead what we needed was an X-Men comic that revitalized the franchise with a clear direction and that is exactly what Taylor delivered with Red #1.
As it should be, Jean Grey is the star of X-Men: Red #1 with all the events that take place center around her actions. Taylor does an excellent job using Jean as a fresh pair of eyes and mind to all the events that have happened in the Marvel Universe. There is a sense of innocence with every action Jean takes in everything that has happened in the world which has not beaten down the X-Men and Avengers. That makes everything Jean says come off as a fresh perspective that is not hindered by events that came before. That fresh perspective allows the mission statement that Jean creates for her new X-Men team something that is filled with hope.
Taylor sets up that mission statement to be an evolution of Charles Xavier’s dream. Though we have seen other X-Men like Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Kitty Pryde do something similar Taylor made a concerted effort to have Jean’s approach be different. Instead of trying to gather the mutants up and then trying to get over how they should have the same rights as other humans Jean went the opposite way. Instead Jean made sure that she made her proposal of how mutants should be treated right away. In this way Jean made it so she becomes the figurehead for the mutants being seen as something other than a dangerous weapon to be used or exterminated.
While this was a political move Taylor did a good job blending in events in the real world and Marvel Universe to emphasize Jean’s point. By not directly calling things out Taylor stayed away from just trying to make what Jean spoke about to the United Nations about one event or action. Instead Jean wants everyone to come together and learn from what has happened so they can be better tomorrow. That hopeful statement makes it clear that Jean doesn’t just want mutants to be treated as heroes to be accepted but instead be accepted because they are good people.
That hopeful speech by Jean made the actions of Cassandra Nova even more effective. In her short appearance Cassandra Nova immediately established herself as the Ying to Jean’s Yang. And by not having Cassandra waste time in a long drawn out evil speech on her own goals Taylor was able to get over how brutal Cassandra is. That brutality made how she dashed Jean’s hope for the future a stronger action as now Jean has an even bigger mountain to climb to accomplish her goals. Hopefully in establishing Cassandra in this way we get to see her be a long term villain for X-Men: Red as there is a lot of potential for her to fill the void left by Magneto’s constant flip-flops.
Having a strong antagonist in Cassandra created greater interest in the team that Jean creates as her new X-Men. Starting out by recruiting Nightcrawler was a great move. We already know how useful his powers are but what Taylor emphasized about Nightcrawler was the type of character he brings to the X-Men. Having Jean point out that Nightcrawler has always been the soul of the X-Men gave him an instant role as that constant that his other teammates will look to when they need advice or a shoulder to lean on.
Similarly, Namor’s addition was properly spotlighted to show why he will be in the X-Men. Though he has been an X-Men in the past this is a group that Namor is not thought of being a part of. To that point Taylor showed how Namor, due to his status a leader of Atlantis and part of the United Nations, is a voice that Jean needs. Without being able to have Black Panther or other Avengers to help her out Namor will be her greatest ally in trying to get other global leaders to her side. Though that won’t be easy given who Namor is which does create an interesting dynamic between him and Jean.
Bringing in Wolverine and Honey Badger gave Jean’s team a sense of youth and familiarity. For the last few years we have seen Laura Kinney operating on her own as Wolverine and training her sister, Honey Badger. Now that Laura has established herself as Wolverine it is the right time to bring her back into the X-Men fold. It is also a chance for Taylor to continue to evolve Laura’s character since he is also writing her in her own ongoing series.
Mahmud Asrar delivered some solid artwork. While it is a small thing I appreciated the way Asrar drew each of the X-Men to stand out by designing them to each have their own costumes. This makes the action more dynamic as each X-Men had a costume that used different bright colors. He also did a good job in getting across the hopeful nature around Jean as she spoke to various people that complemented Taylor’s writing.
The Bad: The only thing that did come off as odd is how easily Jean was able to gather all the leaders and geniuses that she did. I appreciate that it was done for a sense of timing but given that Jean has only been back a few days and the mutant distrust it shouldn’t of been this easy. There should’ve been a panel or two that showed some of the people that Jean went to turning her down. This would’ve made the ambassadors talk with Jean before Cassandra Nova took her mind over more effective. Because that opposition is what Jean will be fighting to overcome and convince the world to treat mutants like people rather than a weapon.
Overall: X-Men: Red #1 does exactly what it needed to do as Tom Taylor creates a sense of hope around the direction Jean Grey wants to take the mutant race. Taylor shows his strong understanding of the X-Men side of the Marvel Universe by effectively using his page count to highlight each core X-Men that Jean recruits. In addition to the set-up for the X-Men: Red’s direction, Taylor did a great job setting up a strong long-term antagonist in the form of Cassandra Nova. The villains presence is the perfect antithesis to the hope Jean Grey brings to the X-Men.