Tom Taylor, Mahmud Asrar, and Rain Beredo have done it again. After giving the world of X-Men the dose of reality that it needed in X-MEN RED #1, the Red creative team has officially met and surpassed the level of their introductory chapter with their latest issue: X-MEN RED #5. The past few issues of X-MEN RED have been regretfully okay. Usually, I don’t mind an okay comic book, but with X-MEN RED I found myself disappointed. This series, a hybrid of classic and modern X-Men themes, is seeping with potential. It deserves more than okay.
And, with X-MEN RED #5, it got better than okay. Way better. Want to know why? Keep reading!
Who’re You Going to Call?
Humans with microscopic sentinel tech implanted in their brains are causing serious damage across the globe thanks to Cassandra Nova’s clever invention. These infected humans become mutant-hating machines, ready to take down any mutant who so much as looks at them. Trinary is able to turn off this sentinel tech, but the thought of finding every single infected person is overwhelming. Nova’s been thorough and the disease of mutant bigotry is spreading.
On the other side of the globe, Nova-controlled governments are threatening death to all mutants. The Polish army nearly succeeds, but the Red team steps in before things get bloody. Jean Grey uses some insanely impressive telepathy (which, of course, she treats super casually) to soothe the situation. Thanks to Jean’s telepathy trick, everything starts to connect for the Red team. None of them can use their powers to make everything better. Fighting and manipulation can’t fix societal ails. Exposing the truth is the only way to stop Nova’s plan in its tracks. Showing people that mutants and humans aren’t all that different is the only way to bring about change.
Jean Grey for President
I think I’m starting to realize why Marvel kept Jean Grey dead for so long. It was because they wanted readers to go crazy once they eventually brought her back. We may have seen Jean in PHOENIX RESURRECTION, but the confident, self-assured Jean of X-MEN RED (reminiscent of Grant Morrison’s NEW X-MEN) is so much better. After X-MEN RED #5, and Jean’s show-stopping telepathic performance, I can safely say that it is now time for Jean Grey fans across the globe to embrace their inner fangirl.
It’s hard not to become a huge Jean Grey fan after reading X-MEN RED #5. This issue in particular does a fantastic job highlighting the attributes in Jean that make her not only a capable leader but also an intrinsically good person. Jean knows when to apologize, when to mourn, and when to take action. She isn’t afraid to take matters into her own hands, but she also trusts her team and knows they can handle almost anything. She understands that to win the fight they’re going up against, she and her team can’t use their fists (or in Jean’s case, her mind). They have to be creative.
The methods the X-Men used before didn’t stop Mutantkind’s problems. So, instead of hitting the problem with the same stuff (pure violence), Jean’s using a different approach. She calls it “weaponizing truth” but it’s really just showing people what’s right in front of them. So often leaders try to keep their people from seeing what’s most obvious. But for Jean, she really cares about both mutants and humans. Her mission is pure and simple. In our current political climate, that’s a breath of fresh air.
Tell Me About Your Mutant Agenda
In the world of X-Men, it’s hard to be original. Everything is about mutant extinction or mutant hatred or mutant registration acts. It can become a little stale after a while. Or, on the rare chance, it can be reworked into something really modern and fresh.
In X-MEN RED #5, the idea of mutant extinction and mutant prejudice is still there and sometimes it does feel a little bland. We’ve seen Nova and Sentinels before. They aren’t new to the X-Men Universe. But, we haven’t seen them quite like this. Taylor brings in modern elements, like social media and technology, to make the concept of mutant hatred more relatable and relevant. Comics where giant sentinels come out of the sky and crush spandex-wearing mutants lack the sense of reality that makes the phrase “Mutant as a Metaphor” applicable. In order for readers to understand that mutants represent persecuted groups, the situations have to be rooted in reality. Taylor understands this and is using X-MEN RED not only to create an amazing X-Men series, but also to promote real-life political and societal awareness.
Art Takes a Step Up in X-MEN RED #5
The artistic duo of penciller Mahmud Asrar and colorist Rain Beredo have let me down in past issues of X-MEN RED. Unnatural facial expressions that verge on otherworldly plague the pages of X-MEN RED #1-4. And honestly, some of Beredo’s color choices have been questionable. But in X-MEN RED #5, they step up their game and deliver the best art in the series thus far. Asrar’s characters look considerably more realistic when compared to past issues and Beredo’s colors look significantly more natural.
The few full-page panels of the issue stick out as the artistic high points of this comic. Anatomically and proportionally, Asrar’s figures look like they could jump off the page and Beredo’s colors bring a vibrancy that perfectly parallels the X-MEN RED theme of hope. According to Tom Taylor’s Twitter, this is Asrar’s last issue of X-MEN RED. Thankfully it’s also his best.
X-MEN RED #5 is everything an X-Men fan could want. Taylor seamlessly combines relevant political topics (that anyone and everyone can relate to) with definitively X-Men subject matter. Characters like Jean Grey, who’s been absent for the past fifteen years, function perfectly with fairly new characters like Honey Badger. The larger message against mutant bigotry can easily resonate in today’s political climate, just as UNCANNY X-MEN #1 did in 1963.
Very rarely do all the elements in a comic come together as perfectly as they do in X-MEN RED #5. Even if you don’t consider yourself an X-Men fan, check out this issue. If you love good comics, you’ll love X-MEN RED #5.
X-MEN RED #6 comes out on July 18th!