Best Shots Reviews: POWERS OF X #2, EVENT LEVIATHAN #3

DC Comics August 2019 solicitations
Credit: Marvel Comics

Powers of X #2
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by R.B. Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto and Marte Gracia
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

After his last three extraordinary issues redefining the X-Men across time and space, it might be damning Jonathan Hickman with faint praise to say that Powers of X #3 is good, rather than revolutionary — but despite this issue being more setup than forward movement, the sense of scale and ambition he and artist R.B. Silva brings to this series is still second-to-none.

Some of this lagging feeling is because, in some degrees, so much of this issue is the X-Men catching up to what we as readers already know. In Year 0, we see Moira and Charles team up with Magneto, which has an emotional hook as the three size each other up, it still takes up a decent amount of real estate to bring these three mutant architects up to speed. Similarly with Year 10, as the X-Men learn of Orchis’ Mother Mold in space — while Hickman makes Cyclops feel more dangerous and capable than ever in just one sentence, it’s still not driving the plot forward just yet.

Things do heat up during Year 100, which has been Hickman’s signature era in this ambitious series — while the aftermath of Rasputin and Cardinal’s heist is somewhat anticlimactic, Hickman makes up for it by delivering the goods in terms of characterization. It doesn’t feel like it’s an accident that while Cyclops acts as the standard-bearer for Charles’ dream in Year 10, its Wolverine that fronts a deadlier figurehead in a dark and dystopian future. It’s in this scene that Hickman teases out some fun continuity twists, like Krakoa’s surprising evolution.

Yet it’s the fourth and final era — Year 1000, the Ascension — that feels maddeningly opaque. It makes sense — this is a future so far removed from our own that it would of course feel completely alien — but just as Hickman showed that artificial intelligence could supplant both man and mutant as the evolutionary rulers of the planet, the way he folds in even bigger players from X-Men stories gone by is a marvelous bit of continuity card-shuffling. The thing is, this type of storytelling might not be for everybody — it’s a promise to readers rather than follow-through. This twist could be something special, but you’re being asked to take a leap of faith to hope that it sticks the landing.

R.B. Silva, meanwhile, continues to deliver wonderful artwork with linework that almost feels delicate. Seeing his expression work helps sell a lot of Hickman’s more theoretical concepts — seeing Charles Xavier beg Magneto to trust him speaks volumes just from the look on his face, while Cyclops’ stone-cold stare as he accepts a suicide mission makes the character more compelling than he’s been in ages. That said, by virtue of the script, this is a particularly talky issue, so Silva doesn’t get a chance to include too many flourishes like Magneto’s Bermuda Triangle palace. Like Hickman himself, Silva’s work might not be revolutionary here, but it is incredibly solid and easy-to-follow work.

Given the justified hype the series has earned for itself, it’s both inevitable and a little disappointing that this series has to come down to earth sometime — that’s not to denigrate Powers of X #2 in the slightest, it’s just that after changing the X-Men’s status quo so completely for three issues, now we’re at the stage where Hickman needs to start bridging the rest of his storyline. And given what a juggling act he’s doing with this book in particular, with four separate timelines, Hickman and Silva’s “good enough” is still head and shoulders above many of their peers.

Event Leviathan #3
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev
Lettering by Josh Reed
Published by DC
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

It goes without saying that the pairing of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev is one of the most known commodities in comics. But despite their reputation, their talent might be somewhat taken for granted by the general comics reading public. Event Leviathan has proven to be a compelling whodunit that features many of the duos trademarks but offers up a different flavor of superhero mystery than we’ve seen at either of the Big Two lately. It doesn’t have the massive worldbuilding draw of Jonathan Hickman’s mounting X-Men mystery - instead, the work that Bendis and Maleev are doing here feels intimate, like trying to crack a safe. Each issue is another click of the dial that will eventually reveal some treasure inside.

This issue is a bit of a breather and bait and switch after the events of the last one. At this juncture, Red Hood is not Leviathan, but we get to see how he manhandled this group of detectives and ultimately why they come to that conclusion. That might feel like Bendis taking the air out of a potentially big fight scene given the cliffhanger from Issue #2, but despite knowing the outcome, it still has excellent pacing to it thanks to Maleev’s art. The standout double-page spread is 18 panels that play like quick cuts in a film - there’s no fat, just what you need to know. Bendis is still as wordy as ever, seemingly almost to make up for the relatively silent panels, but that’s the cost of doing business with him as a writer at this point. He’s got a solid handle on all of these characters (save Plastic Man as the sometimes grating comic relief), and this is a lean plot altogether. The exposition just moves us along to the next mystery, and in a way, it feels like we’re right there with this detective team.

That’s what this book really thrives on - making the reader understand where these characters are coming from and how each new piece of information fits into the larger DCU. It’s almost lazy to mention that Maleev’s art makes this feel more like a crime noir than a superhero story, but it’s true. For a book that features as many people just standing around talking as this one does, it still has a certain energy to it. It’s tense in the Fortress of Solitude and Maleev brings that out. He chooses his shots well, blocks his scenes effectively, and despite sometimes having a reputation for his figures being a bit too static due to the photorealistic bent to his art, he gets good performances out of his characters.

Event Leviathan may not be everyone’s idea of a marquee event book and it still has a lot of room to fail, but to this point, it’s been fun and effectively told. Bendis and Maleev are doing work that stands up next to some of their best team-ups, and the mystery has some legs. Leviathan’s connections to the DCU make him a formidable foe, and depending on who he is revealed to be that could have even further implications. (Though if you ask me, there’s no coincidence in the initials of this event being “EL.” Just saying.) For fans looking for a slower burning superhero story, look no further than Event Leviathan.

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