Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men and Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland!
The X-Men of the past change allegiances in All-New X-Men #18. With “Battle of the Atom” behind them, the Brian Michael Bendis/Stuart Immonen issue sets up the new status quo for the original five X-Men, who have now followed their Professor Kitty Pryde to Cyclops’ team of renegade X-Men.
Like many of the pre-“Atom” issues, not a whole lot happens in this issue plot wise. The only major event that happens is the original X-Men getting new costumes. Yep, that’s it. While that would be a major strike against this book any other month, the fact that this is coming on the heels of a major X-Men crossover gives it a pass. The young X-Men have been through a lot since their arrival in the present day Marvel universe, and if this issue didn’t devote some time to them reacting to their new surroundings the issue would feel rushed. Credit goes to writer Brian Michael Bendis for crafting some entertaining scenes with all of these characters. The scenes with Bobby Drake trying to come to grips with the fact that he may become either an ice hulk or an ice wizard in the future are the best, and the ongoing love triangle between Beast, Jean Grey, and Cyclops is actually more entertaining than it sounds.
Stuart Immonen is back on art duties this month, and as usual, he’s fantastic. Even in a static issue like this, where the characters are mostly having conversations with each other, his art is extremely dynamic. There’s not a bad panel in the whole book, and Immonen has proven once again that he is one of the best artists in comics, period.
Despite taking place after “Battle of the Atom”, All-New X-Men #18 is actually pretty new reader friendly. If you’re curious as to what the fuss is about, pick this issue up, and make sure to stay on for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy crossover, which looks like a blast. Even though this is another “talky” issue of All-New, this time it’s well placed in relation to where the young X-Men are in their story. Let’s just hope that next issue moves a little bit quicker.
Joe Hill brings the horrifying villain of his novel NOS4A2 to comics with Wraith, a five-issue limited series that brings Charlie Manx into the spotlight. While readers with no prior knowledge of the character may be a little perplexed behind the character’s strange mythology there’s still plenty for them to be creeped out by, and those who’ve read NOS4A2 will gain great insight into this extremely disturbed individual.
Bookended by Charlie Manx bringing one of his newest victims to Christmasland in his Rolls Royce Wraith, this opening issue largely fills us in on Manx’s back-story, which is filled with some of the weirdest and disturbing things you can imagine. I’m a huge fan of NOS4A2, so learning the “secret origin” of Charlie Manx was very cool, and kept me entertained, despite having already knowing some of the facts from the novel. Hill’s mastery over the weird and macabre is in full effect here. The moment I started reading Manx’s dialogue I was instantly taken back to first meeting him in the pages of NOS4A2.
Hill’s Locke and Key artist Gabriel Rodriguez supplied a few illustrations in the NOS4A2 novel, so my expectations were pretty high. Thankfully, C.P. Wilson III not only met those lofty expectations, he exceeded them. There’s never been a time where an artist’s depiction of a character in a novel has matched what I pictured in my head until now. From the look of Christmasland to the horrifying creatures that Manx’s child victims turn into, it’s like Wilson peeked into my brain while I was reading the novel and put the images I was seeing onto the page.
Wraith: Welcome To Christmasland is a fantastic opening issue that can be enjoyed by fans of the novel and new readers alike (even though it may seem very weird to them). It’s another solid hit from Joe Hill, who’s quickly becoming a powerhouse of a storyteller. The perfect companion to NOS4A2, Wraith should be placed in your pull list immediately. Or better yet, under your Christmas tree.