The Annual Giant-Size X-Men issue is always fun. Hickman delivers the first in the new House of X era with aplomb. The issue features five stores tracking characters and plotlines that are both new and ones we’ve been following for a while: Jean and the White Queen need to save Storm, Nightcrawler and the New Mutants investigate the old X-Mansion, Magneto hangs out with Namor in a set-up for the Hellfire Club Party in June, Fantomex (a character I’ve never heard of) is given a backstory, and in the final culminating issue, the plotlines come together as the characters team up to save Storm.
The art in this book is the best. The first issue with Jean and Emma is almost entirely wordless, being told as a comic and utilizing the visual medium to full effect. Maybe Hickman’s been getting some shit about his overly wordy dialogue, so he decided to dial it back while creating a showcase for artist Russell Dauterman. There also isn’t any petty backbiting or sexist humor between two characters with a long history of beef, as they come together to save their friend. Its the standout story of the issue. You’ll want to look at it again and again.
The Fantomex story is also great, featuring cameos from famous heroes and a few mystery building moments that generate tension and create intrigue. Again, the art in this issue is top notch- it’s stylistically very different from many of the other artists in this title, but provides such a lived in and beautifully graphic aesthetic. The style works within the book as a collection because this story is presented as jaunt through the history of a little known character, so the difference in the look actually makes sense narratively. I went and looked up what title Rod Reis is on specifically so I could enjoy more of his work after I read this.
The X-Mansion story falls a little flat, and the Magneto one is fun but mostly just seems to be a set-up. My only complaint with the final story is that there’s some visual inconsistencies between this one and the Fantome-X one that are pretty jarring when you read them back to back. Overall, it keeps me wanting to read X-Men titles, so its a good one in my book.