The debut issue of this new X-title was a strong lead in to a satellite comic that might just stand on its own two feet. This is even more impressive because the true prologue to all of this, the origin of the five lights, began within the pages of “Uncanny X-Men.” It is a credit to Kieron Gillen that he has made this comic so accessible and fun to read for just about any reader.
Kenji is the fifth and final light. He’s also an artist and a self-centred arrogant kid who thinks he knows everything and yet really reveals himself as not actually knowing that much. He’s a pastiche of an homage of someone else’s shadow. He might look impressive but you can’t help the feeling that he’s got nothing new for you. We get a great sense of character through his actions and depictions of himself. Each time he evolves his physical being into something more, we can be fascinated by him, but slowly realize he’s still just a kid and he might not know the consequences of the severity of the path he’s going down.
The other ‘lights’ don’t play as large a part as they did at the beginning, but Gillen still offers them moments to shine. Teon is relegated to the background, though a slight interaction with Wolverine shows us he is not forgotten. Gabriel spends most of his panel time cracking wise but I don’t mind because he’s genuinely funny. Laurie gets to tangle in the mess but Idie just has her power co-opted by Rogue, which is a bit of a shame. However, I am understanding that an ensemble book will not always use every character equally each month and so I appreciate the flow that is already shown here.
The last issue ended with a great moment of danger and this issue deals with it well. But it also ups the ante and provides more trials for this nascent team to have to cope with. By the end of the issue, there’s just more danger and it doesn’t look like it will be easily cast aside. Both sides are escalating and the smell of death is all around. It’s this atmosphere and tone that push the comic along.
It’s always interesting to see a writer who wants crazy ideas on a page meet an artist who knows exactly how to fill a page with very crazy images. When called upon to draw the usual characters, Salvador Espin does a great job of laying out a page exactly like you expect to see in a Marvel comic. But then he has to draw Kenji and his zany transformations and it is here that Espin completely knocks it out of the park. Each iteration feels like it’s made of broken glass and manga id. The final splash of the character, which is like a Cronenberg take on the Aliens exo-skeleton, is simply glorious. It’s a great idea married to eye-popping art that generates a near perfect reveal.
Ultimately, this issue is a study of the villain of the piece. Kenji is a damaged and confused soul but that doesn’t stop him being incredibly dangerous. This fine line is cut through the issue delicately and it seems the safety of many outweighs that of this one. I think I have a feeling why this comic wasn’t called The Five Lights. Gillen and Espin pack this issue densely with great lines and visuals and the result is one of the best continuity comics being produced right now, and certainly one of the best to debut in a long time.