With every issue of this series Gerry Duggan has been getting better at telling superhero stories with this X-Men roster. The one-shot direction Duggan has taken with the start of his run on X-Men has been helpful in building out the team chemistry for this roster. Each issue has each member of the team shine with some standing out more than others depending on what threats they have taken on. This balance has made the greater story that is building around the Orchis organization greater plans against the X-Men and Krakoa as a whole much more interesting. Let’s see what happens next with X-Mn #4.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Javier Pina
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
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: The night before Halloween, Nightmare sneaks into the X-Men’s Treehouse headquarters. He dives into the nightmares of Scott Summers and Jean Grey.
Nightmare finds Scott Summers nightmares to be incredibly boring as they are all about failing as a leader and his relationships with Jean and Emma Frost.
Nightmare decides to move over to Jean’s nightmares that includes her progression from student to host of the Phoenix Force.
Nightmare flies around the Treehouse to have more fun and goes into Laura Kinney’s room. Nightmare finds out that Laura is haunted by finding out the truth about her time in the Vault and fear of finding out if she loves Everett Thomas (Synch).
Jean suddenly appears and reveals she has used her telepathic abilities to discover Nightmare has been messing with her and the X-Men. Nightmare tries to escape but is quickly cornered by Jean, who astral projects different versions of herself. Jean threatens Nightmare that if he ever tries to prey on the X-Men again she will end him. Jean then kicks out the terrified Nightmare out of the Treehouse.
Jean then uses her powers to help her teammates relax. She then goes back to her room to find Scott is awake waiting for her. Scot asks Jean if she had trouble sleeping. Jean hugs Scott and tells him “Scott, sleep is for the weak.”
Over at a graveyard, Ben Urich has convinced the gravekeeper to dig up Nathan Summers grave. Nathan Summers grave turns out to be empty. Ben continues to write his story on Krakoa and thanks the gravekeeper for his help.
Out in outer space Dr. Stasis, with Feilong’s help, begins Project Polyphemus. Dr. Stasis uses a ruby quartz to channel Cosmic Ray into his body to be ready when he reaches Arakko/Mars. End of issue.
The Good: Gerry Duggan continues the trend of telling good one-shot style stories with X-Men #4. There doesn’t need to be an extended 6 part story to effectively tell a story involving a villain like Nightmare. Everything you need to know about Nightmare and his plans are laid out early on so the story can move at a quick pace.
The pacing in particular is what stood out most from X-Men #4. There isn’t any extended sequence of Nightmare invading Scott Summers, Jean Grey, or Laura Kinney’s nightmares. He dives right in and discovers what haunts these three most. In going through each X-Men’s nightmares so quickly Duggan is able to present Nightmare exactly how he should, as someone who enjoys tapping into the greatest fears of people. That enjoyment Nightmare finds in people’s fears immediately establishes him as a villain you want to see someone defeat.
Jean Grey turning out to be the one to find and defeat Nightmare was a great spotlight on her character. Thus far Jean has been mostly a support character on the field who has helped enhance the abilities of Synch, Polaris, and others on their various missions. X-Men #4 was a pure spotlight on how Jean is someone you do not want to mess with, something that Nightmare learned the hard way. It was a great display of power by Jean that got you behind the character even more than when this issue started.
Through Nightmare’s plot we also got to get more insight into Jean, Scott, and Laura’s current mindset. While they aren’t defined by their fears there are things within them that they hold on to. For Jean we do see that her own insecurities with her entire past from being a student to turning into the Phoenix is in her mind. This gives good insight into why Jean has gone back to using the Marvel Girl superhero name even though she knows it is something that can be viewed as a massive step back. This particular part of the character manifesting with the dream Emma Frost calling her out on does make you wonder if we will eventually see Jean adopt a new superhero name or costume at the very least.
With Scott’s fears we see that it is all based around being the leader of the X-Men. Even though he is a Captain of Krakoa, Scott still holds the X-Men as the ones that set the tone for mutants. That includes how he views his own possible failures dooming everyone if he makes mistakes that he will eventually be unable to apologize for. It is a good bit of characterization that gives a better perspective of how seriously Scott is taking this new era of the X-Men and being a leader.
Laura’s nightmare was also a refreshing look into her character. Laura has thus far been the one character who hasn’t gotten much of a spotlight in this series thus far. She has been mostly just been one of the frontline fighters for the X-Men. Now we get into more of what may be driving her as we see that she was more impacted by her resurrection than we were led to believe. A mutant who has gone through the resurrection protocol living with doubt or fear of lost memories isn’t something we have seen explored much thus far. But we see with Laura that not having the memories of her time in the Vault while feeling a greater connection to Everett Thomas is missing within her is a strong character beat to play off of in the future.
The last few pages of X-Men #4 focusing on driving the greater narrative around more people discovering about Krakoa’s resurrection protocols and Orchis continued plotting was a great way to close things out. I’m enjoying how Duggan is taking his time with Ben Urich investigation into Krakoa’s resurrection protocols. Ben isn’t simply publishing a story based on the information Dr. Stasis and Orchis have given him. Ben is going to use all of his skills as a reporter to nail down the story to write the best in-depth article possible. Which creates a lot of questions into what direction Ben’s investigation will go and if he will talk with Scott or the other X-Men during this process.
On the Orchis side of things, it is great to see how Duggan is tapping into other elements of the Marvel Universe to strengthen the organization. Which makes sense since Orchis is an organization that is not just made up of villains related to the X-Men. The organization has been created and run by ex-SHIELD, –AIM, -HYDRA, and other organization members. For Dr. Stasis plot to involve the same Cosmic Rays that gave the Fantastic Four their powers plays right into Orchis being more than just an anti-mutant organization. They are a threat to the entire Marvel Universe. What powers Dr. Stasis achieves and how that impacts the greater story being built around Orchis will be very interesting to see play out.
Javier Pina delivers solid artwork through X-Men #4. Pina did a good job showing how much joy Nightmare was taking in tapping into the X-Men’s greatest fears. This led to greater satisfaction in how Jean Grey used her powers to make Nightmare completely cower in fear of the Omega-Level mutant. Astral projecting a giant version of Jean along with different versions of the character made you understand why Nightmare would be kicked out of the Treehouse crying as he took Jean’s threats seriously.
The Bad: The only thing about this issue that may not work for everyone is how forgettable Nightmare’s plot was. It definitely came across as filler content rather than a full story. Especially compared to how things have gone for the X-Men with the villains they have faced in the first three issues of this series Nightmare is tame in comparison.
Overall: X-Men #4 is a good example of the consistency Gerry Duggan is establishing with the quality of this series early on. The one-shot direction this series has taken is refreshing. It allows Duggan to tell a focused story on villains such as Nightmare and how the X-Men deal with him. At the same time, the developments around Orchis organization drive the greater overarching storylines around the threats to Krakoa and mutants forward in an intriguing direction.
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