There is no rest for the mutants on Arakko even after all they had to deal with during A.X.E.: Judgment Day. If anything the most recent Marvel event accelerated things that have been cooking as Cable and others turn their full attention to what Abigail Brand is really up to behind the scenes. With Wiz-Kid’s help Cable appears to have finally discovered details about how Abigail Brand has betrayed Krakoa as she is working with Orchis. What else did Cable and company discover? And is this discovery too late with everything Abigail Brand has done from the shadows? Let’s find out with X-Men: Red #8.
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Madibek Musibekov
Colorist: Ariana Maher
At the Gosnell’s Bar on Dolo-Mayan Cable and Khora of the Burning Heart find Weaponless Zsen hanging out with Blackjack O’Hare and Prince of Power. They recruit Zsen for a special operation targeting Abigail Brand.
Over on Arakko’s Diplomatic Zone Gladiator, Paibok the Power Skrull, Frenzy and Nova await Empress Xandra to finally begin their meeting, which Abigail Brand watches from her office on SWORD. As they wait Paibok reveals that the Skrull found out that there is much more to the Shapeless Ridge incident that helps fuel the Kree-Skrull War.
It is then that Empress Xandra walks in and reveals the Shi’ar Empire rulers at the time were the ones that fed the Kree Command false information to make sure the Kree-Skrull War would be extended. Empress Xandra says that is why she is ready to take full responsibility for crimes from previous Shi’ar Empire regimes, which is exactly what Abigail Brand was waiting to hear.
One Parsec from Dolo-Mayan, Cable goes over what he and Wiz-Kid discovered about Abigail Brand’s working with Orchis and Orbis Stellaris to Khora, Thunderbird, Manifold, and Zsen. This includes how Abigail Brand cultivated a sample of Cable’s Techno-Organic Virus for Orchis. Cable uses his special connection to his unique Techno-Organic Virus to have Manifold find where Orchis may be storing it.
Manifold successfully creates a gate that gets the team to the World Farm. While investigating the World Farm Cable, Khora, Thunderbird, Manifold, and Zsen discover that the Progenitors are breeding Cable’s Techno-Organic Virus for some purpose. They come across caskets that Cable is able to get a video revealing the truth about how Vulcan returned from the Fault and has been used as a sleeper agent by Abigail Brand.
Orbis Stellaris then appears saying that the Progenitors are working for him.
Back at the Diplomatic Zone, Paibok wants to go on a full-on war with the Shi’ar Empire even though Nova is against such actions.
Vulcan suddenly appears proclaiming that the true king of the Shi’ar Empire has returned and he will burn the current galactic alliance to the ground.
As all this happens Abigail Brand safely watches from her office confident that this is checkmate in her victory. End of issue.
After what felt like we were getting a lot of normal superhero X-Men stories in this series due to the A.X.E.: Judgment Day tie-ins it’s great to see Al Ewing return to form with X-Men: Red. The space soap opera storytelling is where X-Men: Red has been at its best and that is what we get here with all of Abigail Brand’s planning dating back to Krakoa’s S.W.O.R.D founding.
Ewing is at the top of his game in X-Men: Red #8 as he juggles multiple plotlines without a problem. The key to juggling the political drama at the Diplomatic Zone with Cable’s strike team adventure is that they have strong ties to one another. That tie is the actions Abigail Brand has taken in what she sees as a chess game that she will ultimately be the victor.
Ewing goes all in on why the reader should love to hate Abigail Brand. Even when she is not on screen you feel her presence simply because you’re waiting to see when her plans will fully go into motion. There is an anticipation for what moves she is doing. Which makes the actual time we do see Abigail Brand on a panel or page her time is maximized to get over her being the ultimate villain you love to hate. Everything from the way she talks to the smile she has as she declares checkmate makes you hope someone punches her in the face. It’s a testament to how good of a villain Abigail Brand has been built up to be by Ewing.
What makes this better is the fact that our heroes, in this case, Cable, Khora of the Burning Heart, Thunderbird, Manifold, and Weaponless Zsen, are actively trying to stop Abigail Brand. This isn’t a story where our heroes are in the complete dark. Because Cable, Manifold, and Wiz-Kids previous history with Abigail Brand they are active in trying to stop her. And they make sure to work quickly to assemble the best strike team possible with Khora, Zsen, and Thunderbird to make sure they clarify what is going on in order to properly stop Abigail Brand.
The entire thing of taking this team to the World Farm is a great way to continue to show how this is a story that is so much bigger than a simple villain plot. The story is taking us to all the corners of the Marvel Universe. Settings like the World Farm make the entire story feel like its own big event because of the visuals alone. Credit to Madibek Musibekov for getting this all over because you really get a sense of an endless scale when we get to the World Farm. And when we are on the inside it feels like Cable’s team is going to get a new discovery around every corner.
Adding to this is the rising tension with the galactic council at the Diplomatic Zone. We knew that when Arakko established the Diplomatic Zone something big was going to go down. That is exactly what happens as the history of the Shi’ar, Kree, and Skrull Empires comes back to bite everyone. It was a nice touch by Ewing to use the iconic Kree-Skrull War that is so well known by Marvel audiences as what is causing this new tension. It is revealed how the Shi’ar Empire’s previous regimes made sure the Kree-Skrull War was an ongoing event making things even more personal.
All of this made the final payoff with Vulcan’s return work well to have it all circle back to Abigail Brand’s greater plans. We all know Vulcan has been used as a sleeper agent and now it is known to the characters themselves. Tying in Vulcan’s previous rule of the Shi’ar Empire works to make this as dramatic of an ending as possible. With tensions already running high with the various Empires Vulcan’s appearance was the last thing that was needed. Now there is a greater urgency for our heroes to figure out a way to resolve things or else there will be war at a scale even greater than the Kree-Skrull War that will soon take place.
X-Men: Red #8 brings the focus fully back to what Abigail Brand has been planning and the results were explosive. Al Ewing does an excellent job juggling multiple stories that all tie together while making sure to give us a lot of quality character work. The way things end makes you wonder if anyone will be able to stop Abigail Brand’s plans. That’s a sign of a strong villain plot and something that will have fans coming back to find out how things go next.
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10