Best Shots Reviews: FAR SECTOR #1, MORBIUS #1, X-MEN #2

"Morbius #1" covers 11-5-19
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: DC

Far Sector #1
Written by N. K. Jemisin
Art by Jamal Campbell
Lettering by Deron Bennett
Published by DC
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Delivering on every ounce of its well-deserved hype, Far Sector #1 is a winner on every level, from N.K. Jemisin’s exemplary worldbuilding to Jamal Campbell’s absolutely stunning artwork and character designs. This is what a Green Lantern story should be: rich and multidimensional, filled with intrigue and a Lantern’s emotional exploration of their place in the corps. Set in the far-flung metropolis of Platform Ever Forward, Far Sector #1’s Lantern is newcomer Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. Mullein is new to the Corps, and Platform Ever Forward is new to having a Lantern: they’re the most remote Space Sector to ever be assigned one, and the last place most of its residents might expect to need one.

The people of Platform Ever Forward have been free of violent crime for hundreds of years — just as long as they’ve all been free of any emotions at all, a scientific adaptation that, until now, has prevented the kind of violent conflict that led to the near-total destruction of their world. Now Mullein is expected to solve the kind of crime Platform never thought they’d see again with the assistance of a police force that has no concept of how to investigate it, all to stop a conspiracy that Platform’s leaders may know more about than they’re letting on.

If you’re unfamiliar with N.K. Jemisin going into Far Sector, please let this issue convince you to check out her prose work, particularly The Inheritance Trilogy — Jemisin’s worldbuilding is almost unparallelled, and she delivers once again here. The world of Platform and its inhabitants are immediately captivating, and Jemisin does a deft job introducing both the world and the central conflict of Far Sector #1 all at once in a way that never feels rushed or overloaded. If anything, I only wish Jemisin was given more pages to work with, as Far Sector comes to a bit of a jarring close, cutting out with Mullein literally in mid-punch.

Jemisin, artist Jamal Campbell, and letterer Deron Bennett are a dream team here: the character designs are distinctive and captivating, from the flashy @At to the elfin Noh and the stern keh-Topli. Each has their own distinct visual aesthetic, rich cultures consistent from race to race in a way that still allows any two characters from the same race to be visually distinctive in their own right. It’s easy to keep track of who’s who here — extremely helpful given the amount of information the team manages to pack into a debut issue.

This is a crime thriller and political drama rolled into one, delivered in a gorgeous visual package that should win Campbell any number of awards. Jemisin’s script is well-paced and exciting, the characters engaging, and the mystery aspect captivating, but it’s through Campbell’s illustrations that Far Sector #1 truly sings. His colors are stunning, giving the city of Platform Ever Forward a moody, cyberpunk vibe without ever muddying the waters that the finer details of his linework are obscured; there’s a tendency in noir to color too darkly, interpreting moody as too grimy to emote through, but Campbell creates that tension and unease in a way that never hinders the subtle expressiveness of a world that can’t even feel what it’s trying to express anymore. This is one of the best-looking comics I’ve read in awhile, with absolutely hands-down some of the most captivating character designs I’ve ever seen.

Far Sector #1 is just a flat-out great comic. Jemisin, Campbell, and Bennett deliver a Green Lantern story that any reader can dive into, regardless of how familiar you are with the far-reaching lore of the Corps. This one has snuck in just under the wire as one of the best debuts of the year — regardless of whether you’re a die-hard Lantern fan or a sci-fi fan curious to check out something new, Far Sector #1 has something you’ll love.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Morbius #1
Written by Vita Ayala
Art by Marcelo Ferreira, Roberto Poggi, and Dono Sanchez-Almara
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Horror season is still going strong in the pages of Morbius #1. Graced with a wryly funny and poetic energy by writer Vita Ayala, this new number one thrusts readers back into the dark, weird life of Michael Morbius, the Living Vampire. While Morbius’ quest for a cure isn’t a new hook for the character, Ayala and artist Marcelo Ferriera inject a real soul into the nightwalker, setting up for further fleshed out characterization. Ghoulishly rendered with real-deal heart, Morbius #1 is a solid return for Marvel’s brooding scientist-turned-vampire.

There’s a new menace in Greenpoint, and his name is… the Melter. Yeah, no — for the more genre-savvy among us, we know that this would-be predator is actually the prey, as this D-list supervillain quickly realizes an actual monster is keeping the neighborhood’s peace. Though essentially just a cold open, Ayala really leans into the both the monster and human aspects of Morbius. By methodically staging his attack against the Melter, Ayala displays the raw, scary power of Morbius, which is in turn nightmarishly rendered by art team Marcelo Ferreira, Roberto Poggi, and Dono Sanchez-Almara.

With this opening action sequence, the creative team treats us to some visceral haunted house storytelling. One by one, the henchmen start to fall, savagely attacked by the claws and teeth of Morbius in his pursuit of blood and more materials for his attempt at a cure for his unholy addiction. Even the mighty Melter cannot stand up to Morbius’ attack, as the vampire just regenerates the limbs faster than the villain can melt them. It is really gnarly stuff to open a comic with, highlighted by a poster-ready splash page of Morbius leaping toward a victim, but shows that this creative team isn’t afraid to spread some red and get really scary when the moment calls for it.

But once the battle is done and Micheal is back in the lab, the team downshifts into medical drama, complete with a noble and affecting narration from Morbius himself. Now that his blood is cooled, Morbius broods in his lab, quoting Aristotle’s theory that a man above all must be rational and pining for his long dead friend, Emil. Again, exploring the man behind the fangs isn’t something new, but Ayala is giving him a code, almost like a dark twist on Chidi from The Good Place. Throughout the narration, Ayala articulates Morbius’ life of scavenging from villains and feeding what he needs from their henchmen with a very specific philosophy and thought pattern. It’s probably the most solid reasoning he’s been given in a comic in a while, and speaks to the way Ayala is able to present this cult classic character in a thoughtful and engaging way.

The art team also proves able to handle the downshift as they move from splashy, horror movie staging to intimate close-ups on specific props and reaction shots. Sanchez-Almara’s colors also turn more introspective here — during the opening fight sequence, the colors took a sort of searing focus, pinpointing each drop of blood and set dressing with intensity, but once Michael starts his latest test, the colors dim along with his awareness, revealing the drabness of the real world around him as well as his plastery, sickly colored skin. On the whole, Marcelo Ferreira, Roberto Poggi, and Dono Sanchez-Almara really impress throughout, providing both scares and emotions in equal measure.

Is he man or is he monster? Morbius #1 proposes both! But the real fun of this debut is seeing the pathology behind both, how he becomes a monster in order to cure the man inside — and leaving us to wonder, how long can he keep this up? Hopefully Vita Ayala, Marcelo Ferreira, Roberto Poggi, and Dono Sanchez-Almara have an answer for the monster lovers out there, along with more nightmarish visuals and poetic characterization.

X-Men #2 primary cover
X-Men #2 primary cover
Credit: Leinil Francis Yu/Sunny Gho (Marvel Comics)

X-Men #2
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Sunny Gho
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

With all the excitement happening in just about every other Dawn of X title, X-Men might seem a little quaint. The first issue was fairly quiet, focused more on establishing the first family of the X-Universe above mounting threats to the X-Men’s existence. And honestly, that’s what worked so well about it. But with the other books now in motion, Jonathan Hickman balances the familial character work with a sense of urgency and a larger narrative. Leinil Francis Yu shows us another side of his skillset with some fun monster designs and big action beats. There’s a reason this is the flagship book in the line, and the creative team meets the challenge.

Through just a couple of issues and his appearances in HOX/POX, it’s clear that Hickman writes a great Cyclops. This is a familiar but still fresh new role for the mutant leader — he’s no longer the put-upon protege of the X-Men, the stalwart boy scout or the wayward mutant revolutionary. He’s just Scott Summers, a well-respected and high-ranking member of Krakoan society. But more importantly, he’s also a dad, and that’s really where this story begins. Namely, Scott taking the kids — Prestige and Cable — to an island that Krakoa is racing toward to investigate. Monster battling ensues, and the trio discover a being known as the Summoner as Krakoa fuses itself with the other island. Careful readers will understand what’s going on from the outset. This other island is Arakko, Krakoa’s other half as outlined in Power of X #4. But if you don’t remember that, Hickman has some fun getting you there.

The character work is especially on point. This is a Scott Summers that is unburdened (or at least significantly less burdened) by the fate of the entirety of the mutant condition. He gets to have a nice day with his kids — something he’s rarely ever been afforded before. The new status quo has given some characters a brand-new lease on life, and just as we saw in interactions between Scot and Corsair in issue one, we see how Scott is taking the opportunity to be more present for Rachel and Nathan here. And similarly, Hickman has used this new status quo to make Apocalypse a more weighty and nuanced character. It’s tough to really parse what Apocalypse’s deal has been in the past, but the retcon that introduced Arakko also introduced the idea of Apocalypse’s original Horsemen, and that has ramifications in this very issue. We’re only two issues, and Hickman is already making good on details from HOX/POX.

Yu, Alaguilan, and Gho make good use of this script as well. Yu’s monster designs are effective without being too busy, often approximating an animal that we are aware of and giving it some extra details. I like that Hickman doesn’t really stop to explain the Summoner or his powers and the beasts he conjures, and similarly, Yu’s designs don’t really give us greater context for the monster’s significance. As with Issue #1, there is a strong focus on body language and expression work that I appreciate throughout the book. But Yu really delivers some great action sequences. Cyclops, Prestige, and Cable all have different powers and approaches to battle that are realized differently on the page.

It’s hard not to find something to like about X-Men. It has exactly the kind of broad appeal that the main title in the line should have. The action and plotting is straightforward. The themes are present and upfront. There is intrigue that ties together events from the past miniseries as well as other Dawn of X titles like Excalibur. Hickman’s biggest victory with the X-line as a whole might just be telling a story that feels significant across the entirety of it. Each book might represent a slightly different flavor but they come together to a satisfying whole, and X-Men is the center holding them all together.

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