Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but especially if it presides over the planet formerly known as Mars in X-Men Red #1.
X-Men Red follows up on the (literally) worldshaking developments of last year’s Planet-Size X-Men special, wherein Krakoa revealed that they had terraformed Mars and renamed it Arakko, uprooting the sentient island that bears its name to serve as the official homeworld for mutantkind. But that’s not all: Ororo “Storm” Monroe was elected to serve as its first regent. Welcome to Arakko, Storm! Hope you survive the experience. Given the warlike nature of the Arakki, plus various outside forces threatening her rule, it’s certainly not going to be an easy task.
As mentioned with previous additions to the Krakoa era of X-Men, Red promises to fulfill a niche that many readers have been clamoring for since the conclusion of X of Swords: an Arakko-set title. There’s so much potential in following Storm and her efforts to civilize a people known for being, well, uncivilized. Especially since we haven’t really seen so much of the Arakki since they re-merged with Krakoa. But X-Men Red #1 also reveals itself to serve another unexpected role on the very last page. It’s not just the Arakko storyline, it’s also—SPOILER ALERT— the return of the Brotherhood to X-Men comics. And most surprising of all? It’s not Magneto at the helm of this new iteration. It’s Storm. Plot twist! There’s more to it in the issue itself, and her reasons for doing so make a lot of sense when you get there, but that’s still one hell of a hook. It’s also very different from the central thesis of Tom Taylor’s short-lived but much-loved 2018 series of the same name. (Extremely clever decision to recycle that title here, though!)
As written by Al Ewing, I’m a total mark for this book from the get-go. X-Men Red #1 just continues Ewing’s unrelenting streak of hits. Seriously, has he ever written a bad issue of anything? How does he just get this medium so well? It’s something of a continuation to his recently-concluded S.W.O.R.D. in the sense that it’s broadly about mutants in space, but whereas Abigail Brand was the de facto protagonist of that series, she’s actually more of an antagonist here and the impetus for Storm to want to form her own Brotherhood, while frequent Ewing faves Magneto and Sunspot also appear in major roles. If there’s one name in comics who I unwaveringly trust to deliver a concept, it’s him.
But not to be outdone, X-Men Red #1 also offers more beautiful art from Stefano Caselli, most recently of the aforementioned S.W.O.R.D. as well as Inferno. Ewing’s script really gives Caselli a lot to work with, from gorgeous Arakki landscapes to seedy neon hangouts (also, impossibly stunning people, which has always been one of Caselli’s calling cards). I just don’t know how else to better sell this series beyond reiterating the fact that it’s a Storm-led X-Men book by Al Ewing and Stefano Caselli. What more convincing do you need?!