X-Men Red #8
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Mahmud A. Asrar

Cover for X-Men Red #8

Source: TFAW.com

X-Men Red has been the saving grace of the Xavier wing of the Marvel Universe. It’s relatively straightforward, and, thanks to its team’s relative seclusion in Atlantis, unencumbered by an overly large, confusing cast of secondary and tertiary characters and their story threads. Tom Taylor is leaning hard into well-traveled ground for the X-Men, tacking into xenophobia, racism and angry mobs. The story has generally been an uplifting one, with the revenant Jean Grey’s team serving as the massively overpowered, yet powerless underdogs to the unrepentant, hate-fueled machinations of Cassandra Nova.

Despite hiding under the sea to avoid said angry mobs and more, the adventures of this X-team strike a hopeful tone. There’s a lot of healing to go along with the optimism. Underneath the hysteria, the anti-mutant cause is just that; the manipulations of a single amplified party, and not really connected to reality. There’s less hate in the world than evil people would have you believe. Despite countless iterations and explorations of racism, these types of stories still retain power and meaning for those who would listen. Mahmud Asrar’s illustration has a way of emphasizing the hopeful and emotional moments of the story, with close work on Jean and others, but still carries the firepower to level Genosha with a tidal wave. Jenny Frisson’s covers for this book have been full-stop great. The inclusion of Honeybadger makes everything better, even when you’re already getting some on-point Omega-level storylines. X-Men Red might not always be hot, but for now, it’s on fire.

Gamma #1(of 4)
Dark Horse
Writer: Ulises Fariñas, Erick Freitas
Artists: Ulises Fariñas, Melody Often

Cover for Gamma #1

Source: TFAW.com

Gamma is equally tongue-in-cheek as it is compelling in its storytelling. It features narrative threads that start out confusing, and only get more twisted as the story starts skipping through time. Ulises Fariñas’ tale doesn’t suffer from this complex narrative, but rather it compels the reader to peel back the layers and give each panel that much more attention. Gamma is full of allusions and callbacks from the obvious Pokémon and Voltron references to the more obscure Watchmen, Mega-Man and Neon Genesis: Evangelion nods. The story is trippy, goofy, and nostalgic all at once.

Fariñas’ shares illustration duties with Erick Freitas, and the work of Melody Often as colorist brings forth a stylized and cartoonish world that’s as lush as it is dangerous. The story follows the journey of Dusty Ketzchemal as he goes from a Manila street-urchin to a part of the elite force that patrols the Kaiju-zones that threaten daily life. Fans of popular culture from the 1970s on are sure to find more than a few bites of eye-candy in this mesmerizing book. Gamma stands out stylistically for both its artwork and its tightly-woven, smart story, and it’s hard to think of another book out right now where the panels are this much fun. This short 4-issue mini-series will undoubtedly leave readers wanting more.

Doomsday Clock #7 (of 12)
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank

Cover for Doomsday Clock #7

Source: TFAW.com

Slowly but surely, the pieces of Geoff Johns’ ambitious Doomsday Clock are starting to fall into place. Halfway in, the final picture is barely a glimmer at the end of the tunnel, but with the much-anticipated arrival of Doctor Manhattan onto the scene (lots of nudity from DC this month), the only major player we’re now missing is Superman. With every piece, we’re given some beautiful tableaus, and Rorschach pummeling the Joker is just as good as the variant cover art would lead you to believe. Johns manages to take the crossover conceit and provide dense layers to the story, giving added depth to the world of Watchmen after Watchmen. Original creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons would have preferred it a world left unexplored, but it’s a testament to their storytelling that decades later, the story is as compelling as ever.

Gary Frank’s illustration continues to be well-executed, gorgeous depictions of Gotham as shot through a Watchmen lens. The cinematic qualities of so many of Watchmen’s original panels can be found in stylistic parallels and full-on call-backs. It gives extra gravitas to the retelling and reworking of the Golden Age Green Lantern or the tight and detailed close work of the action sequences. It remains to be seen whether this tale will end as it started, amounting to a testament to Ozymandius’ hubris. Regardless, he continues to endeavor to save the world, despite setbacks, and the fact that he has a plan should ring more ominous than hopeful.