Giant Size X-Men is a title of some special significance historically. While X-Men had been around for years, many fans of Marvel’s Merry Mutants hold that it was not until Giant Size X-Men #1 that the concept truly took off. Not to diminish Stan Lee or Jack Kirby for creating the X-Men in the first place, but it can’t be denied that the concept took on a new life after Len Wein and Dave Cockrum refined it, presenting a largely new generation of superheroes and a greater emphasis on character over action.
The new Giant Size X-Men series is meant to accomplish similar ends. According to Marvel, the basic idea of this series is to tell epic adventure stories focused on individual X-Men characters. It is also meant to give writer Jonathan Hickman a chance to work with a rotating line-up of artists who aren’t already working on a monthly X-Men title. In this case, Kirkman is starting off with a story focused on two of the world’s most powerful mutant telepaths and working with artist Russel Dauterman, who has crafted a number of covers and variants for Hickman’s new X-Men titles.
The plot is fairly dry stuff, which is summed up by one bit of text on the first page. “The island-nation of Krakoa requires defense – and one of its greatest protectors is a mutant named Storm. A longtime defender of mutantkind, Storm recently fought Orchis and the Children of the Vault with the X-Men.” Who exactly Orchis and the Children of the Vault are is not explained, but it isn’t really important. What is important is that Storm is in a coma and the only way they think she can be revived is for a telepath to go into Storm’s head and wake her up. Of course it’s dangerous to go alone into someone else’s head, leading Jean Grey and Emma Frost to agree to go in together… even though they really don’t like each other that much.
If you know your X-Men history, you know there’s quite a lot of reasons why Jean and Emma don’t get along. And if you don’t… well, Kirkman doesn’t explain that either. This is sadly typical of most of the X-Men comics of late, ever since Kirkman started his House of X opus. It’s just assumed that you’re already familiar with these characters and their histories and if you aren’t… well, you’d better hope there’s an obliging geek or up-to-date website capable of explaining things like why all of mutantkind is now living on an island and why Wolverine seems more distraught than anyone over Storm’s being injured. (They had been dating for a while.)
Thankfully, what this issue lacks in exposition and accessibility, it makes up in style. Apart from the opening scene where an unconscious Storm is found by a group of mutant children and the final page, there is no spoken dialogue in this issue. Kirkman’s script puts the burden of conveying the story on Dauterman’s artwork. Thankfully, Dauterman is more than up to the task and he manages to convey more about Jean and Emma as people in their expressions and actions than a mere expository monologue ever could. You don’t need to be a mind-reader to know what Jean is thinking as Emma pulls out a flask before focusing on entering Storm’s mind. Ditto the later scenes where Emma is cool and dispassionate as Jean proves unable to hide her excitement. Dauterman draws some incredibly expressive faces and the finishes by colorist Matthew Wilson leave every page looking fantastic.
Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of Jean Grey or the White Queen in specific or X-Men in general, this is a fine little book with amazing artwork. If you aren’t an X-Men fan who is all caught up on the state of things in Krakoa, this isn’t the best place to start exploring the brave new world of X-Men, though the issue is a fascinating study of its two main characters, made all the more interesting for the choice of the story being told without dialogue.
Giant Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost #1 releases on February 26th, 2020!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.