For a very… unconventional Free Comic Book Day release in the wake of the lockdown, Marvel Comics assembled their X-Men team of Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard to craft a story that would set the stage for the upcoming slate of mutant stories. The 10-page tale, plus a little extra something that we'll talk about art the end, is a heavily experimental exercise in foreshadowing what is to come (and, perhaps, who is to go) in the current Hickman-led era of the X-Men.
For Marvel maniacs looking for a standalone, action-packed blowout X-Men tale, X-Men FCBD does not play the part. Instead, it's a cerebral exercise in foreshadowing that is designed as if the X-Men franchise itself sat down for a Tarot card reading. The set-up is that simple: Opal Luna Saturnyne, who, at the opening scene, has a star sacrificed in her name, gears up for a good ol' glimpse into the future. She lays out her cards and turns each one: Judgment, Four of Wands, the Hanged Man, Eight of Cups, and, finally, Ten of Swords. Each page in the sequence is, itself, designed as a Tarot card facing the reader. The cards, beautifully rendered by the art team of Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracis, and VC's Clayton Cowels, offer a teaser of what is to come for the mutants of the universe. It's a clever and creative way for Howard and Hickman to tip their hands without showing too much, while also experimenting with the form. It's an idea that Grant Morrison wishes he'd thought of, and it works beautifully.
Also, as a fan of giving people the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure it was an oversight that co-writer Tini Howard wasn't given front cover credit along with Hickman. That, however, is an exceedingly lame oversight.
Notably, X-Men FCBD #1 includes not just this 10-page fortune, but another peek at what's to come with a preview of their Fall event, Dark Ages by writer Tom Taylor and artist Iban Coello. This review is about the content of the X-Men story, so I won't get too much into this, but the Iron Man and Pepper Potts-centric teaser feels like everything the current Empyre event isn't: visceral, emotional action that centers on characters above concept.
X-Men FCBD #1 is out now, for those brave enough to sit across from Opal Luna Saturnyne and peer into the future.