|AMAZING X-MEN No. 2, February 2014|
In many ways this second issue of the “Amazing X-Men” probably reminded many of its 60,870 readers of either an old Silver Age anthology comic composed of two or more different stories, or a Nineties Annual which repeatedly reprinted an old tale from the previous century alongside an all-new adventure. Obviously this particular instalment of “The Quest for Nightcrawler” is neither of those but it is arguably rare to see such an obvious separation of two plot threads running through the same storyline within a single comic book. Indeed, even this magazine’s regular cover, extremely well rendered by Ed McGuinness, depicts the exploits of two small groups of X-Men, clearly divided from one another by a hefty arrow shaft running down the centre of the front page.
As a result of this curious approach to his storytelling, Jason Aaron appears to concentrate solely upon Storm, Iceman and Firestar battling a seemingly endless torrent of black-hearted devils in the first third of the book, followed by Northstar and Wolverine, “elsewhere in the Afterlife”, desperately fighting all manner of armed cut-throats in the second. It is only then, towards the end of the twenty-page periodical that panels depicting the dimensionally divorced demonic combatants start to become interlaced with one another until they quite literally alternate at the publication’s conclusion.
This distance between the Alabama-born writer’s two separate, somewhat distinctive narratives is additionally emphasised courtesy of some simply superb shading by Marte Gracia. The Mexican colorist utilises a claustrophobically-hot red-hued palette for the X-Men’s fist-fight in the fiery depths of Hell and then contrastingly pigments Wolverine’s open-aired opposition against the phantom-like Captain Jack and his villainous crew with lots of subtle light greens, whites and pinks in order to give the sequence a significantly cooler, roomier atmosphere.
Needless to say that where-ever the action does take place within this magazine it is also beautifully illustrated by Ed McGuinness. The American comic book artist is especially good at depicting the physical challenges Iceman has to withstand whilst being almost baked alive in the fiery Underworld. Initially somewhat steamy, Bobby Drake literally melts away before the eyes during the course of the battle, panel by panel, to the point where “ice cream boy” is actually in danger of being eaten by demons as dessert. All of this wonderful sketching is however little more than an artistic set-up for the former “Superman/Batman” penciller to produce an impressive double-page sequence of pictures showing the Omega-level mutant ultimately freezing Hell over under sheets of thick ice; “Bobby Drake. Iceman. The X-Man you want by your side when you need a good laugh.”
|The variant cover art of "AMAZING X-MEN" No. 2 by Dale Keown|