Anyone who thinks the X-Men’s best issues are in the past needs a subscription to X-MEN RED because this series, after only two issues, is already destroying all expectations. That might sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but X-MEN RED #2 offers some of the best X-Men characterization I’ve seen in a long time. The interactions between the team members are spot-on and their motivations are achingly familiar. These motivations help the series get back to what the X-Men are all about: saving mutantkind.
Tom Taylor, Mahmud Asrar, and Ive Svorecina’s second issue in the series puts that at the forefront as Jean and the rest of her team rush to India to rescue a trapped mutant. This issue does struggle with art, especially when compared to what some of the other X-Men series are boasting. Regardless of the illustrations, X-MEN RED #2 is another great installment in a series that is delivering everything an X-Men fan could ask for.
When a Mutant’s in Need…
X-MEN RED #2 finds our heroes hiding out in Wakanda after the staged murder of the English ambassador in X-MEN RED #1. While there, the team “meets” (though he never speaks) a mutant named Nezhno Abidemi. Jean reveals that although he’s powerful, his powers cause him pain, forcing him to always control them.
The story then shifts to the mutant technopath Trinary who’s imprisoned after protesting the wage gap in India. Using her mutant powers, she is able to contact Jean and ask for the X-Men’s help. Although Jean knows traveling is dangerous (since she’s wanted by every government in the world) the Red team is on it. After all, when a mutant needs them, the X-Men are there.
Jean is able to get the team into the prison easily thanks to her telepathy. Within a few panels, the Red team saves Trinary and the mission appears to be over. And then the unexpected (or perhaps expected?) happens. Jean is momentarily rendered useless after something affects her telepathy. At the heart of the attack is one of the X-Men’s most cold-hearted villains: the Sentinel.
It Comes With the Territory
The best part of X-MEN RED #2 is how rooted it is in classic X-Men themes. The Red team is running from the law and yet they’re still more than willing to come to a mutant’s aid. That’s just classic X-Men. A lot of recent X-Men comics have strayed from the heroes’ original mission of protecting mutants in order to focus on larger villains who affect everyone — not just homo superior. While that’s fine, it’s nice to see X-MEN RED putting mutantkind first. Homo sapiens have so many heroes fighting for them: the Avengers, the Champions, and the Fantastic Four just to name a few. Homo superior only have the X-Men.
The inclusion of Trinary is a great — and fresh — addition to the world of X-Men. Trinary is such a good character to add to X-MEN RED because she represents everything the team (and, in some ways, comics as a whole) is lacking. There’s a real shortage of Indian mutants, with Indra (Paras Gavaskar) being the only obvious one. As a female Indian mutant (with technopathy powers), Trinary offers a new perspective to the X-Men that hasn’t been seen before. Although she’s not officially on the Red team yet, I’m excited to see her don the Red uniform soon.
Telepathy Usually Wins
One of the most frustrating things about comics is, surprisingly, the superpowers. While that might not be a very popular opinion, hear me out for just a second. Isn’t it really annoying when an omega-level mutant gets shut down after a two-panel fight with a B-list villain? Jean is frequently portrayed as a lackluster telepath who can occasionally use some telekinesis. Finally, Tom Taylor is changing that in X-MEN RED #2.
The Red team busting Trinary out of prison could’ve taken issues to complete. Taylor could’ve pulled the story along, having the characters encounter dramatic obstacles that don’t make sense. But, instead, Taylor actually uses Jean’s amazing powers to fast-track the rescue in a completely realistic way. After all, if you had a telepath on your team, wouldn’t you just mind trick all the guards into not seeing you? It’s really just common sense.
Style or Distortion
Asrar’s art is the only part of X-MEN RED #2 that falls behind. His illustrations do carry a noteworthy style that is clearly his, but sometimes that style causes some strange distortions. The facial expressions in this issue are lacking, with a lot of them looking unnatural. Style is great in art, but sometimes that style can become too domineering.
Still, Asrar’s art does shine in a few scenes. The double-page spread of the Red team breaking into the prison is executed perfectly. Similarly, the full page drawing of Jean using her telepathy against an angry mob shows impressive anatomical skills. Clearly, Asrar knows his way around a pencil. He just needs to focus on bringing to life the expressions of the team.
X-MEN RED #2 Final Thoughts
I really hope X-MEN RED can keep up the momentum it currently has. With their roster half filled, there’s sure to be more exciting issues, but more than anything Taylor needs to focus on balance. At the moment, the old X-Men and the new X-Men are perfectly balanced. There are fresh new characters alongside one of the original X-Men. A modern setting hosts classic X-Men themes and villains. This is comic books at their finest. X-MEN RED #2 nailed it. Let’s hope X-MEN RED #3 does the same.