After a few months on the market Marvel has deemed that X-Men: Red is ready to have its first Annual issue. This is an odd choice not just because we’ve only had four issues of X-Men: Red but the first story arc for the series has yet to conclude. Given that fact how much can really be done with a series that has yet to fully establish its voice within the X-Men Universe? Now I have enjoyed what Tom Taylor has done so far with the majority of the cast on X-Men: Red. There is still some work to be done in the actual direction of the series but maybe this Annual will help in solidifying that for X-Men: Red. Let’s see if that is the case with X-Men: Red Annual #1.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Pascal Alixe
Colorist: Chris Sotomayor
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: On a cliffside Jean Grey reflects on her life and many deaths during her career as an X-Men. After the recent events Jean was finally able to send the Phoenix Force away and back alive with her X-Men teammates.
As the X-Men celebrate Jean’s return Jean spots Old Man Logan and instantly can tell he is not the version of Logan she knows. They decide to start fresh and introduce themselves to each other.
Nightcrawler tells Jean he can take her home for a break and teleports her to the new location of the Xavier Institute in Central Park. The crowd in Central Park try to throw food at Jean for being a mutant but she stops it with her abilities.
A random person tells Jean to keep Nightcrawler, who she calls a monster, away from them. Jean does not react kindly to this and starts to act intimidating with her psychic powers. Nightcrawler tells Jean to calm down. Jean does so and then calls out the guy on how she could easily reveal to the world how horrible of a person he. She tells the guy to go home to learn to be better.
Jean then uses her powers to calm everyone else in the park down and has them go back to their normal lives.
Nightcrawler tells Jean that “she” is inside the mansion and asks if she wants him to come with her. Jean says she needs to go in alone.
Jean meets up with Rachel Grey and they awkwardly try to figure out how they should talk to each other. Jean tells Rachel to lower her defenses.
Jean and Rachel then fly through the sky together to spend some quality time together. Jean asks Rachel to introduce her to one of the kids she hasn’t met yet.
Rachel takes Jean to visit Laura Kinney. Laura asks Jean why she is visiting her home. Jean says because like Rachel, Laura is connected to someone important to her.
Before they can go on Gabby enters the room and freaks out that Jean Grey is in her home.
Jean suddenly senses someone in New York. Rachel and Laura tell Jean that they will have her back. Jean thanks them and before heading out she tells Gabby to watch after Jonathan.
Jean, Rachel and Wolverine arrive in New Attilan to confront the person responsible for killing her husband (Cyclops). As they explore the castle Black Bolt and Lockjaw show up and knock the three X-Men back. Before things get to intense Jean settles everyone in the room down as she just wants to talk, by saying that thanks to the Phoenix not being around nothing is holding her powers back anymore.
Jean asks who speaks for Black Bolt and Blinky says she does. Blinky wonders if Jean intends to kill Black Bolt for killing Scott Summers. Jean says she does not. She says like them she wants to work on changing people’s perception that make them hate both mutants and Inhumans.
Jean then shows Black Bolt all of her memories and current thoughts as she is monitoring all of the X-Men to make sure they are safe. Jean says she understands that the Terrigen Mist incident that killed Scott was an accident. She goes on to say that she wants the X-Men and Inhumans to help each other out.
Jean then tells Black Bolt to use her voice to speak to everyone. Black Bolt does so and all he says through Jean is “I’m Sorry.”
Sometime later, at Scott’s grave Jean says that while she is back she is not content with keeping things as they are. Jean says she is going to change the world for the better and wishes Scott was there to do that with her.
Later that night at Rachel and Kitty talk about what a packed day they had. Rachel says that she feels like things will get better. Kitty wishes Rachel a goodnight and leaves to her room.
When Rachel is alone Cassandra Nova appears out of nowhere. Cassandra tells Rachel no one is in the room with her. She then goes on to say while Rachel is not her mother she will be a good weapon to use against Jean eventually. End of issue.
The Good: X-Men: Red Annual #1 would’ve made a great first issue for this series. Tom Taylor does an even better job laying out Jean Grey character motivation and new mission as the X-Men’s leader in this issue. Unfortunately this wasn’t the first issue of X-Men: Red, and because of that X-Men: Red Annual #1 comes off as a rehash of the first four issues of this series.
As has been the case since starting X-Men: Red the biggest strength of Tom Taylor’s writing is his understanding of every character in the X-Men universe. Even when some story choices are questionable Taylor always makes sure to keep in mind how to write each X-Men in the version fans know them from. He does this in X-Men: Red Annual #1 very well as we get to see how he juggles different types characters from Jean Grey to Black Bolt in one issue.
Taylor’s writing of Jean Grey is by far the strongest it has been since X-Men: Red began. In this Annual issue, Taylor does an even better job at giving us a look at what Jean’s mindset is know that she has returned. Her motivations for trying to fix the relationships between humans, mutants and Inhumans is made much clearer in X-Men: Red Annual #1. The burden she feels she must carry actually makes the reason she is creating a new X-Men team much more understandable now.
And by far the best scene in this issue is the one between Jean and Rachel Grey. This was a key scene that has been missing since Jean returned. While it is never not going to be odd that Jean is interacting with her daughter from the future who is the same age as her Taylor made sure to handle this scene with care. The best part about it was that he allowed their awkwardness to propel the two regaining the bond they had.
That bond that Taylor established between Jean and Rachel made the ending of X-Men: Red Annual #1 much more effective. Learning that Cassandra Nova already has a contingency plan in place in the form of Rachel has a lot of potential for how the current arc in X-Men: Red will go. How exactly Rachel is used could make the Cassandra more of a long-term storyline that first shown to be.
The Bad: The biggest problem with X-Men: Red Annual #1 is the timing of this issue. Being only four issues into X-Men: Red and yet to complete the series’ first story arc there wasn’t much added to what is currently going on with the X-Men. And when it comes to an Annual, this is supposed to be an accomplishment for a series after a year’s worth of issues published. That is not the point that X-Men: Red has gotten to yet, especially since we are still in the middle of the first story arc. Not being something that has been earned took away from this being a special issue for fans of the series.
While Taylor does show his strong understanding of what makes Jean Grey a compelling character there isn’t anything learned about her. Everything that we see Jean do or say is what we’ve seen from her character throughout X-Men: Red. Up to this point we already understand who Jean is after her return. This just drove her character motivation to the ground. So much so you almost hope that Taylor starts giving more attention to other characters because Jean’s character is starting to get to the point Wolverine was when readers got tired of seeing him. Since we are so early on in the life of X-Men: Red this does not help you care about the series more.
It would have been much better if X-Men: Red decided to focus on lesser spotlighted characters like Storm or Nightcrawler. Both these X-Men would have been great as spotlight characters since they haven’t been the center of attention for the X-Men’s current direction. Showing how both characters would easily follow Jean over Kitty or Magneto in the Gold and Blue series would’ve added weight to X-Men: Red Annual #1. By not doing so it just further drove home how this series is all about Jean Grey and not anyone else.
X-Men: Red Annual #1 also helped highlight one of the major complaints of this series being that it’s direction is not so different from all the X-Men comics in the last few years. While Jean’s words of unity is great and in-character for her I would like to see Taylor give more depth to this direction. A forgotten X-Men story angle is the Xavier training the next generation to not only defend themselves but also have the education to have the choice not to always fight and possibly live a normal life. This is something that would help Jean’s mission statement be more compelling as her X-Men aren’t just aiming to trade punches and kicks to be the solution to mutants being accepted. It also would’ve given X-Men: Red Annual #1 a good hook other than exploring Jeans first few days back.
The artwork of X-Men: Red Annual #1 did not do the rehashed story any favors. There were a lot of instances in this dialogue heavy issue that the X-Men, particularly Jean, looked like they were wearing wigs with how Pascal Alixe drew them. There was just a lot off with the type of detail, or lack of in some instances, Alixe was trying to go give the characters. The brief action sequence also didn’t hit the way it should have as the choreography looked incredibly stiff with how the characters move from panel to panel.
Overall: X-Men: Red Annual #1 is a poorly timed comic that did not help build interest for Tom Taylor’s first storyline that is still ongoing. It would have been much better if Taylor and Marvel held of on giving X-Men: Red an Annual issue until at least ten issues into the series. By not waiting a lot of the content of this Annual ended up being a rehash of the character work Taylor has done in the four issues of X-Men: Red.