Volume 2 of X-Men Red picks up where V1 left off, and moves the story forward in short order. There is some mystery here, but our heroes and our antagonist need interaction. Frankly, there is too much at stake for a purely bureaucratic solution, and this is a comic book, after all.
This is a definite continuation of the story from V1, but the tone is slightly different. V1 felt like bringing the team together while setting the stage for a direct conflict, and that conflict comes to the forefront here. It’s a natural progression for the story, but also a challenge, to advance the plot without losing sight of the elements that made it compelling to begin with.
In this respect, the book is a great success. This is a well-assembled team of X-men, diverse in personalities and abilities, but also in history. It’s an ideal approach, allowing for some familiarity but also varied perspectives. We have enduring characters like Nightcrawler and Storm, but also some very new heroes in Gentle and Trinary. (Note: I love that Gentle is Wakandan.) The book is better for this variety, though a well-assembled team still needs direction.
This all comes back to Jean Grey, a character we know, but finally unhindered buy fledgling powers or psychic interference. Jean’s approach is what sets the tone for her team and the book itself. Her goal was to carry Xavier’s dream forward, and those ideals are realized here, as Jean seeks peace but prepares for a fight.
And there are fights. But the book never loses sight of its ideals; it wouldn’t be nearly as successful if the principles were conveniently ignored for dramatic punching. It remains fun, though. There are some legitimate surprises here, some creative solutions. There is one callback to X-Men history that actually feels like learning from it. And (spoiler) some character interactions that make me wish Tom Taylor would write an Avengers/X-Men crossover.
More than anything, though, the book is a success for addressing its themes without becoming hamfisted in its approach. Solutions involving teleportation may not be feasible for the real world, but the enemy here is a concept as much as a person, and the book maintains that understanding throughout.
Sadly, X-Men Red ended with issue #11, concluding this story arc. I wonder if what the book would have looked like, had it continued. Different, I’m sure. This Jean Grey, in command of her abilities, may be a challenge to write for lack of credible threats. Concerns about scale are a lousy reason to preemptively dismiss something with such positive results, though. One can only hope that this series informs future X-Men books, and that this version of Jean Grey persists. Regardless of anything else, V2 makes good on the promise of V1, and that alone is reason enough to read it.