Writer – Marc Guggenheim
Penciler – Harvey Tolibao
Inkers – Ed Tadeo & Craig Yeung
Colorist – Paul Mounts
Review by Joey Braccino
Though it started as a promising throwback to the family-centric soap opera storytelling of the Claremont years, the X-Men relaunch under Brian Wood quickly fizzled out of the fore due to a momentum-crippling crossover and general mishandling of the narrative structure. Wood himself became mired in a bit of controversy, which seemed to completely undercut both the critical acclaim and the thematic core of the series itself. It was unfortunate that all of this happened to a series that was otherwise grounded in a stellar concept: an all-female cast of X-Men headlining the titular series that once sold over 5 million copies. I mentioned back in the review of issue #1 that the X-Universe has some of the most recognizable and powerful female characters in all of comicdom, and it was apropos that the X-Men title should finally feature these ladies prominently.
Wood’s run on the series quietly came to a close last issue with the resolution of the Shogo and The Future storyline. With some fanfare, the reigns to the series has been handed over to veteran comic writer and now hit TV series producer, Marc Guggenheim (Young X-Men and CW’s ARROW). Fortunately, Guggenheim has kept the core cast in tact and, in more ways than one, he returns some of the charm and wit to a this fledgling series-that-should.
Despite little direct reference to anything that transpired over the last 17 issues, Guggenheim’s script is steeped in X-continuity, from the Shi’Ar’s eradication of the Grey family from Uncanny X-Men from like 10 years ago to the whole third Summers brother thing to the epic War of Kings storyline that Abnett & Lanning crafted back in 2009. We open with a traumatizing flashback and then some exquisite banter and, as Psylocke puts it, an “ironic” first battle against a mutated virus. It’s exactly the sort of metaphorical, action-packed high fantasy fun that the X-Men series has been known for, and it’s nice to see Guggenheim bring some of that back. The rest of the book sees the ladies responding to a strange call from SWORD, and, as always, hilarity ensues.
Guggenheim has a clear grasp of all of these characters, and he isn’t afraid to turn up the snark and wit from time to time. With characters like M and Abigail Brand bumping heads, it’s no wonder that the jokes turn into jabs quite quickly. The action and explosions are ample as X-Men #18 barrels continuously toward it’s shocking conclusion.
The perfect parallel for this changeover in creative team is the switch from Joss Whedon to Warren Ellis on Astonishing X-Men. Now, I’m not saying that Brian Wood’s run is anywhere near the quality and caliber of Whedon’s, but there is something to be said about the shift from a more grounded, intercharacter drama to a high concept, sci-fi mystery with tight characterization, which appears to be where Guggenheim is taking us.
The solicits promised Captain Marvel’s Dexter Soy, so some may be surprised to see Harvey Tolibao’s name on the credits page at the end. Regardless, Tolibao’s artwork is beautiful. A lot like Jorge Molina or Tan Eng Haut’s work on X-Men Legacy, Tolibao’s lines have a distinct flair and whimsy while still maintaining a certain degree of intense naturalism. The dynamism in his action sequences is particularly impressive, as is Ed Tadeo and Craig Yeung’s fine inkwork and Paul Mounts green-based color palette. X-Men #18 is a delightful visual experience from start to finish.
Buy! X-Men #18 returns to this series some of the charm and energy that it lost over the last year. Marc Guggenheim is clearly well-versed in the X-mythos and is poised to take the ladies on an epic space romp over the next few issues. Check it!