Marvel’s All-New NOW! renumbering, reboot, refresh — at this point, I’m not really sure what’s going on — is at its most perplexing this month as X-Men #10.NOW, also labeled as Ghosts #1, continues as part four of the six part Muertas storyline.
For new readers, the numbering debacle — my current opinion of it — is a great jumping on point to get into the title even as the current arc has just received a huge dose of momentum.
For subscribers who’ve made it through one huge crossover that took over just as the team was founded, it’s another case of interference from the bigger Marvel picture.
Bringing in new readers means adding familiar backstory, flashbacks with exposition, and narratives where characters discuss what we already know.
And that’s not all that’s going to frustrate pull-list readers still waiting to see this title reach its potential.
Last issue, the Sisterhood finally got what it wanted: power. Having secured the Arkea Prime meteorite, the team met at the Body Shoppe where Reiko became Arkea’s new host. Unlocked and imbued with enhancements, the Sisterhood defeated Monet while Arkea’s influence woke up Sentinels and took over computer systems around the world.
This issue, there’s a bit of retelling before readers return to the scene of the crime in Dubai where Monet’s lifeless body is under watch by the local police force and Gabriel Shepherd. Shepherd creates a stasis field, fills in the resurrected Monet, then clears the area of Arkea’s signatures with an EMP blast.
Arkea and her friends, meanwhile, walk a desert road as Ana Cortes begins to realize what she’s gotten herself into. The speech bubbles seem to be misplaced, and based on my reading of it, it seems Yuriko and Ana are in conflict with each other with Amora the Enchantress also not as happy to be in someone else’s control.
The multiple personality conflict between Yuriko and Ana is pretty ironic because Typhoid Mary just had all of her personalities synced, and Arkea commands them all to fall in line as she expects the X-Men to bring retribution for Monet’s death. A hijacked helicopter under Arkea’s control comes to the rescue to pluck the Sisterhood out of its ordeal, and the issue ends with Arkea planning to bring back two heavy-hitters to life as recruits for her Sisterhood.
There are other scenes — one involving Pixie and Rock Slide recovering Arkea’s box in space, Psylocke and Monet finding Ana’s empty boat, and Rachel Grey’s final breakup with John Sublime. They add relational markers to the plot, and each of the scenes is necessary in filling out what’s going on behind the scenes.
The issue overall is pretty solid, but it seems likely that the global .NOW implementation hasn’t been a smooth one because of all the errors in the book — present and past tense, misspelled text, bubbles pointing to the wrong character, and a talking helicopter that’s either a misplaced panel or mis-attributed bubbles.
That’s not to say it’s Brian Wood’s fault — these are editing issues that should have been ironed out before the issue went to press. As for what Wood is directly responsible for — the scripting, mainly — X-Men #10.NOW works despite being a little hamstrung. The pace is great, though the desert scene seems a little jarring because it isn’t exactly clear how they really got there, or why it takes so long to get a chopper. It just feels like a forced pit stop to move the plot along.
In the artwork department, there’s another shuffle as Kris Anka takes over for Terry Dodson for a lion’s share of the book. Anka’s art looks like it’s trying to fill in for the missing Dodson, but the overall polish isn’t there which is strange because Anka’s known for his clean lines.
Jason Keith’s colors are great and look their best when he shows off his dynamic lighting skills. Still, a part of me thinks neither Anka or Keith were given full throttle. It’s possible that the creative team was told to keep the artwork in line with what the Dodson’s have done, limiting their expressive abilities. On the other hand, it keeps the arc tonally consistent with previous issues because the plotline is a serious one that needs panels to match the urgency.
A second story in the last pages of the book show a younger X-Men squad dealing with the emergence of the sunken Sentinels brought back online by Arkea. The art supplied by Clay Mann and Paul Mounts is, in many ways, the counterpoint to the first story, and it’s a better section overall than the first.
The dialogue is more interesting, the cast as an ensemble gets the fireworks started, and there’s a heavy sense of danger.
The cynical side of me thinks it’s a pilot for perhaps another X-Title waiting to begin, but I really liked what I saw these pages.
It’s clear that Wood can write setup, and he can write interesting set pieces teeming with action. There’s been a lot of setup so far, and if the last two issues of the current story arc were just filled with meaningful battles, Wood would have a very complete story here. What makes the arc compelling now is the possibility of seeing the dead rise, and that’s no easy feat.
X-Men #10.NOW (2013)
Words: Brian Wood
Art: Kris Anka and Clay Mann
Colors: Jason Keith and Paul Mounts
Letters: Joe Caramagna
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