With the previous issue, the X-Men began a crossover of sorts with Captain Marvel. The crossover is not necessarily how a typical crossover between comic books normally goes. Instead of the X-Men joining Captain Marvel with the Brood situation she is dealing with, alongside her own team of X-Men, Cyclops and Jean Grey’s team went out to help Corsair with his own Brood problem. The tie between what is going on in X-Men and Captain Marvel is just the Brood, as the horde is attacking multiple parts of the Marvel Universe at the same time. Will we see the stories begin to converge with one another? Let’s find out with X-Men #20.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
On a distant planet dubbed Refugee Rock the X-Men battle a horde of Brood while the planet’s remaining civilians get into the escape ship. With Iceman using his full powers the X-Men are able to get everyone off the planet.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Multiverse, Forge and Penance activate a small blackhole to bring the Celestial head known as Knowhere back to the Earth-616 Universe.
Back on Earth, Jean Grey and Magik find Broo to question if he is the one ordering the Brood’s latest rampage as the King of the Brood. Not looking to waste time Jean uses her psychic powers to inside Broo’s mind.
Along with Broo and Magik, Jean discovers that Nightmare has used Broo to control the Brood hive.
Nightmare reveals that the refugees the X-Men saved are already being converted into part of the Brood hive he controls and it will allow him to conquer the universe.
Over on Krakoa, Typhoid Mary helps Wilson Fisk get through the Krakoa Gate and tells Sage to inform Emma Frost of his arrival. End of issue.
X-Men #20 certainly has a lot going on throughout its story. By going with multiple directions Gerry Duggan and Stefano Caselli effectively create a story where things are as chaotic as they can be for the X-Men. Though with all that is going on, there is a point by the end you are left wondering if X-Men #20 is trying to do too much for its own good.
On the positive side of things Duggan and Caselli nail how a story involving the Brood should be defined by chaos. What makes the Brood so dangerous is that they are a horde of horror villains all looking to not just kill but convert anyone to join their hive. That is something that Caselli captures extremely well anytime the Brood appear in X-Men #20.
What makes this impressive is that the Brood do not lose their high threat level. Even when we see the X-Men successfully fighting them off, including a cool showcase of Iceman’s powers, that didn’t feel like enough. There is a feeling even from the X-Men that they were lucky to survive and get the refugees off the planet. It is all played well to show the X-Men as superheroes while maintaining the Brood as dangerous villains.
This portrayal of the Brood made the reveal of Nightmare controlling the Brood hive through Broo even more effective. Because just as it did seem as though the X-Men saved the day we got the swerve of with the reveal of Nightmare. Duggan utilized Nightmare’s abilities to use others through their dreams and nightmares very well. Everything was worked into Nightmare’s plan, including Jean Grey and Magik going into Broo’s dreamscape as it allowed Nightmare to overpower the X-Men’s two powerhouses.
It all made Nightmare come across as a truly evil being as he reveled in how the rest of the X-Men are unaware of how he plans to use the refugees to spread the Brood threat across the Marvel Universe. This makes it so this X-Men story does stand alone as it appears to be disconnected from what is going over in Captain Marvel. Which for readers of only the X-Men series is a good thing.
Though that disconnect when Captain Marvel and her team are dealing with their own Brood threat does put into question the timing of this “crossover.” Especially when you consider how Duggan did have a chance with Psylocke’s brief involvement in the previous issue but didn’t is the part of the Brood story that Duggan is dropping the ball with.
Duggan also doesn’t do himself any favors with how Forge was sent off on his own mission which was not connected to anything going on. It is treated as nothing more than a side mission with Penance. Which on its own works as Forge and Penance have great chemistry. But when Duggan has Cyclops bring up how the X-Men could’ve used Forge’s help with the Brood this mission to Knowhere is just an excuse to take an important X-Men off the board. That is not something that should be made obvious to the reader and could’ve been hidden by Duggan dropping a reference to how this mission could tie into the Brood threat.
The ending of X-Men #20 is something that, like the Forge and Penance sub-plot, works as a standalone story. But when you take the arrival of Wilson Fisk and Typhoid Mary on Krakoa alongside the main plot involving the Brood it does come across as Duggan trying to do too much. The way it was done was more of Duggan trying to show how he is able to introduce several interesting angles all at once. The problem there is that there is no connection drawn between them. It all creates a major disconnect between stories that on their own are great but together make X-Men #20 feel cluttered.
That said, it would be a lie if it was said that the Wilson Fisk and Typhoid Mary’s arrival on Krakoa wasn’t intriguing. Because this development is certainly a wild card that brings a lot of interest with it. This is a good follow-up to how the X-Men, and Emma Frost in particular, factored into Wilson Fisk’s downfall. There is an interesting story to tell there. Unfortunately, it is introduced in a way that just felt like Duggan thought X-Men #20 needed one more surprise in order to get a hook ending. Not helping matters is that because of the way it was handled the time needed to drive home why this is happening isn’t there unless you read Devil’s Reign or other stories in Wilson Fisk’s downfall.
X-Men #20 is at its best when telling the core story involving the growing Brood invasion. Gerry Duggan and Stefano Caselli get over why the Brood are to be taken seriously as a major threat. Unfortunately there are several other storylines that X-Men #20 tries to tackle that cause this to end up being cluttered. It’s truly disappointing because the elements are there for X-Men #20 to be a great issue, but the result is a comic book trying to do too much.
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10