This Week in Comics – August 28, 2019

House of X #3 – “From Sticks to Bombs…”

It’s the sixth part of the all new, all different X-Men, and it’s another perfect issue. I guess Hickman was pretty serious about this. Homeboy’s created a language, flowcharts, evolutionary cycles, multiple timelines- and that’s just the bonus material. In between this Tolkien-meets-Akira lore stuff is page after page of beautiful, pitch-perfect comic book storytelling.

I think the big success of HOXPOX is that the art matches the story. Pepe Larraz’s artwork is incredible, and I hope he draws X-Men for a long time to come. The colors by Marte Gracia work overtime here, too- bathing everything in the appropriate light. The issue’s last third especially rocks, with a classic X-Men strike on an orbital threat awash in all the sci-fi lighting of yore. It feels like all the excitement of the past X-Men eras, not just rekindled but completely reborn. And it’s not a slavishly throwback thing, either, like Astonishing X-Men was. This isn’t Claremont fetishism or an attempt to go back to something. The momentum here is all forward. It’s borderline future shock, but then again, so is reality. The job of X-Men comics are not just to keep pace, but to push things into the red. That’s being done here on every page.

There’s the snarky perfection of the White Queen, acting how we all wish we could, and the savagery of Sabertooth, the mystery of Mystique, and the heavy-head of Cyclops, mutandom’s Hamlet, forever seeking method in the madness. It’s the whole X-Men symphony, deftly orchestrated by a conductor who clearly had their Wheaties and is prepared to play. The creators here appear to be playing for keeps.

HOXPOX is a grand pageant of comics. It’s something to get excited about, something to get lost in, something to dream about. And it’s a lot of fun. I’m impressed by everything about it, mostly that it exists at all. This is a rare and wonderful thing.

Captain America #13 – “Was it ever as simple as I remembered?”

I picked this up to check out the art of Jason Masters. I first discovered Jason’s work in James Bond comics, and really loved his sharp style and angular action pieces in those books. It’s a style that works well for the clandestine, military-thriller story told here.

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates takes Captain America off the grid and far outside his comfort zone, which have always made for my favorite Cap stories. I came of age during the black suit era of “The Captain” when Steve Rogers was fired, replaced, on the lam, and fighting imposters. There’s a lot of that energy being channeled here, completely modernized with situations and scenarios from today’s real world. The end result is pretty powerful.

There are a few beats where the narration sound much more like the writer than the character. I love the idea of Steve Rogers questioning things, but I can’t quite ever see him thinking his efforts in WWII were the efforts of a “Jim Crow Army making common cause with Stalin.” That’s a whole lot of today’s Brooklyn coming from the head of a 70 year-old super soldier and to me felt like one step too far. Those distractions aside, Coates overall nails it by putting Captain America right in the center of where he should be- the issues facing the world. The icon born out of the rise of fascism has an inescapable connection to global events. It’s literally the reason why the character exists, and Coates taps into that completely by placing Rogers at the border, where chaos reigns.

Back to the art, Masters really sings in the book’s core action piece between Cap and a rogue militia terrorizing migrants. It reminds me of the work of Butch Guice, with a physicality rooted in realness and energy that subtly builds up before exploding with elegant efficiency.

The world’s in a dark place right now, an so is Cap. The mask is off as “The Legend of Steve” begins.