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Secret X-Men Review

Published on February 9th, 2022 | Updated on February 9th, 2022 | By FanFest

Whom do you consult when Krakoan mutant nation allies require covert aid? You’re referring to the almost X-Men. That’s Secret X-Men, from Tini Howard, Francesco Mobili, Jesus Aburtov, and Clayton Cowles. According to the story, it appears that the vanquished candidates for the first X-Men poll spent the rest of the evening drunkenly moping and came up with the half-joking notion of re-forming a new X-Men team. After Sunspot’s blustering about being the X-Men’s leader gets him into a difficult situation with Deathbird, the Shi’ar Majestrix’ deadly aunt, he calls their bluff by forming them into an ad hoc team on a secret mission.

Getting the nine X-Men candidates together may take some creative thought, given that they don’t have any close relationships, but using Sunspot’s compulsive crowing to justify the gathering is a stroke of genius. Bobby is the individual who leaves a mess in the path of those who shed their skin cells. It’s conceivable that his boasting in the name of love might eventually lead him into a hole deep enough to necessitate the assistance of an entire team of X-Men.

Now, if only the problem could have maintained that lighthearted tone as the assembled runners-up—Sunspot, Cannonball, Banshee, Forge, Boom-Boom, Armor, Tempo, Marrow, and Strong Guy—launch into space in search of their missing queen. Instead, Howard appears unable to commit to either an over-the-top adventure or a straightforward espionage narrative, resulting in something that drifts in between as the crowded cast vies for attention while navigating a convoluted and uninteresting conspiracy.

The art group is also in the same boat. The art in this collection is devoid of feeling or atmosphere, and Aburtov’s colors, while technically excellent, evoke no particular feelings.

The story’s “cold open” is excellent—Sunspot getting his foot in his mouth, with a splash page where Mobili draws Deathbird with the perfect “if looks could kill” scowl—but it soon runs into problems. The Secret X-Men have been drawn into a twin conspiracy by Howard.The X-Men have been called in by Deathbird to assist her with a mission, but the Imperial Guard also reaches out to the X-Men for help. While the two objectives appear to conflict, because Deathbird’s directives were simply “come and find me,” they are not in any way contradictory. As a result, the story of this issue is split between two identical, redundant sequences showing the X-Men on their mission being informed to them. Both of these sequences are uninteresting and one of them results in nothing at all by the conclusion of the issue.

It’s mostly a problem because Howard focuses so much on these characters that it’s difficult to get anything out of them. Some people do better than others in this situation.The main focus of the conflict is on Cannonball and Sunspot’s well-known camaraderie, with Strong Guy appearing to be the biggest winner. Others, such as Forge and Armor, are relegated to the functional dialog that advances the story, while other characters like Boom-Boom only get a chance to reaffirm their established archetypal personae.It’s not a particularly successful B-list X-Men showcase, to be honest.

The problem is nearly undone at the conclusion, when Howard adds some manufactured interpersonal conflict to the mix. After making landfall, the same team that worked flawlessly together on their journey begins sniping at one another in random bursts of petulance. It concludes with a barely coherent nine-panel grid, which suggests that the characters are becoming more physically and emotionally distant while also bringing them back together on the page turn. It’s a lot more perplexing than it appears, and once they’ve accomplished their objectives, things get even murkier. This is all some training or evaluation test, which may be clever if the lengths she went to weren’t so simultaneously ridiculous and foolhardy. There are also suggestions that her precognitive assistants may be influencing Xandra, but it’s difficult to discern how suspicious readers are supposed to feel. Mains’ writing is a bit clunky, and it’s difficult to discern the beats in her scripts since Mobili’s straight-faced artwork isn’t doing much to nudge readers in any particular direction.

There are a few amusing moments, but for such a comedy-ready subject, it’s surprisingly forgettable. I’m not sure if the Secret X-Men intended to show why they deserve more attention by publishing this issue. Mostly, they’re meant to fill gaps on a team, but it’s hard to picture Secret X-Men #1 compelling readers to want more tales featuring these people. Surprisingly, Secret X-Men, the team, feels much like the original Secret X-Men: hastily assembled, almost as if on a dare in the aftermath of the more famous Hellfire Gala but with no apparent goal.

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