In the lead up to the Hellfire Gala hosted by Krakoa there were several mutants that fans got to vote on which would get the fan favorite spot on the new X-Men roster. Polaris ended up winning the vote and is currently part of the X-Men. Now the other people that were not select have been brought together to form the Secret X-Men. This roster is made up of Sunspot, Cannonball, Tempo, Banshee, Strong Guy, Boom-Boom, Armor, Marrow, and Forge. What story would bring these heroes together to form a Secret X-Men team? Let’s find out with Secret X-Men #1.
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Francesco Mobili
Colorist: Jesus Aburov
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: During the Shi’ar Empire’s Great Ornithery Festival, Deathbird corners Sunspot, who she believes is the X-Men leader, to get him to help her on a secret mission.
Sunspot then recruits Cannonball, Tempo, Banshee, Strong Guy, Boom-Boom, Armor, Marrow, and Forge for his X-Men team. Before leaving to meet Deathbird, Gladiator and Smasher show up to reveal to the new X-Men team that Empress Xandra Neramani is missing, and they believe Deathbird has taken her.
On their search for Deathbird the X-Men’s spaceship is attacked by a group of Sidri bounty hunters. They are able to fight through the Sidri and make it to the planet Forge tracked down Deathbird’s ship. There they discover a Krakoa portal. Before going through it the Sidri appear once again. The team go through the Krakoa portal.
The X-Men end up on Deathbird’s ship where Xandra, Delphos, and Oracle are also on. Deathbird is not happy for Sunspots betrayal. Xandra tells Deathbird they haven’t been betrayed as she actually influenced Sunspot to assemble this team of the X-Men to save her when she really goes missing.
The Sidri suddenly appear again and are able to capture Deathbird. The X-Men aren’t able to save Deathbird but are able to get Xandra, Delphos, and Oracle through the Krakoa portal to safety.
Seeing that what she intended to be a training mission for this X-Men team was a failure Xandra alters the teams mind so they only remember the fun of the adventure and not that Deathbird has gone missing.
The X-Men then head back to Krakoa and have casual conversations after what they believe is a successful mission.
Xandra admits to Delphos and Oracle that she agrees that altering their minds was the right thing to do but isn’t proud of having to keep her X-Men a secret. End of issue.
The Good: Secret X-Men #1 is exactly what it needed to be. It presented us with an one-shot adventure that by the time it was over fed into the greater narrative around Krakoa and Planet Arakko that was established during the Hellfire Gala. For
One of the missing elements from this current direction in the X-Men franchise has been the Shi’ar Empire. We’ve seen them a few times but never in a big meaningful way. Given that the X-Men’s Krakoa era has been being intergraded deeper into the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe it certainly felt like the Shi’ar Empire were missing. Secret X-Men #1 addressing that missing element was very much welcome surprise.
Tini Howard also did a great job in showing how the Shi’ar Empire’s current state is not as straight forward as Gladiator and Smasher try to make things out to be. There are multiple layers to how things are currently going on in the Shi’ar Empire which brings to highlight the complications that Xandra Neramani, the daughter of Charles Xavier and Lilandra Neramani, is having as Empress. With her special origin she wants to connect to both sides of her parentage but is not able to because of her position. Or at least not in a straight forward way, even when her life is in danger.
Which made the revelation that the entire mission in Secret X-Men #1 was intended to be a trial mission for Xandra to create her own X-Men to protect her from a coming danger fascinating. It made great use of Xandra’s powers that she took all he mutants at the Hellfire Gala that wanted most to be part of the new X-Men team but weren’t selected for what she wanted to do. This gave this Secret X-Men team a greater reason for coming together than just being done for a one-shot. Given that they technically failed their mission we are left with even more questions as to how the Xandra’s Shi’ar Empire will factor into the cosmic stuff the X-Men have going on.
Through all of this Howard does a great job showcasing each member of the Secret X-Men as all being characters who could easily be part of the current team. In their own way each of the Secret X-Men are powerhouses but just haven’t been given the chance to shine. That is what we saw here, especially with Sunspot who showed he should be considered for leadership of his own team. He has the charisma that others will follow that is different from other X-Men leaders like Cyclops, Storm, and Jean Grey. Maybe with X-Men Red exploring the cosmic side of things he would be a great fit for that series.
There were many other characters in the Secret X-Men roster that stood out but the one I thought was the best outside of Sunspot was Forge. Forge wasn’t on the frontlines or did any big action. Forge’s development was more about how his tech continues to be a big asset for the X-Men. The stuff he creates makes him the MVP of any situation as we saw with how it was thanks to him being on the team that they discovered where Deathbird and Xandra was at. It all made the case for why we should see Forge as a character that should at least be part of most X-Men titles.
Francesco Mobili artwork worked very well for delivering on the high cosmic action that is expected from this type of setting. With such a big cast Mobili was able to work in each member of the Secret X-Men’s powers so they all stood out. Even with them wearing similar yellow and black costumes Mobili got across what each one brought to the table. Which made the fight against the Sidri, who had very simple designs, stand out.
The Bad: The one thing that Secret X-Men #1 did not do as well is develop the motivations for the Sidri. This was definitely a time issue as Howard was not able to properly spend time exploring the current state of Marvel’s cosmic side. With a roster as big as Secret X-Men had there was no way around it. But even understanding that when you add in the very simple designs of the Sidri, the villains of this story didn’t come across as the big threat as Deathbird and Xandra made them out to be.
Overall: Tini Howard and Francesco Mobil made a strong argument why Sunspot, Cannonball, Tempo, Banshee, Strong Guy, Boom-Boom, Armor, Marrow, and Forge all deserve to be a big part of the X-Men franchise moving forward. In the process they were able to have Secret X-Men #1 further connect the X-Men to the greater cosmic side of the Marvel Universe.