Jean Grey’s return to the land of the living has not been easy going or particularly enjoyable for the former Phoenix. She’s failed to bring Mutants into the United Nations while being framed for murder, been hunted by one of the most bigoted anti-Mutant proponents in America, and hasn’t even had the time to just kick back and enjoy being alive again. No such relaxation comes in X-Men Red #4 either, as Jean and her new crew of Mutants flee to Wakanda. The issue may not blow any readers away, but it succeeds in cementing the high stakes of Jean Grey’s mission while showcasing the scene stealing capabilities of the Honeybadger.
What’s made X-Men Red so enjoyable is how it focuses on Jean Grey’s strength both as a Mutant and a team leader, both of which are put on full display in this issue. These moments show just why readers clamored to have Jean return to life and welcomed her so vocally at the end of Phoenix Resurrection.
As a telekinetic master, Jean impressively saves a mind-controlled Storm early in this issue. While under the influence of nanites, microscopic machines capable of influencing mutant minds, Storm attacks the X-Men and can’t be persuaded to stop by Jean’s mind control. After temporarily subduing her, Jean channels both Trinary, a new technopathic mutant with the ability to control machines, and the Black Panther to save her fellow X-Man.
This was a very creative method of solving the Orroro’s nanite problem that was much more memorable than simply watching the X-Men beat the mind control out of her. It also exemplifies why Jean Grey is so special: she’s able to think outside the box to solve problems without violence or bloodshed.
While the narrative doesn’t progress too much in this issue, the stakes of the team’s mission is elevated to new heights, showing just how much a threat the nanite problem poses and just how maniacal Cassandra Nova is. I’ve said it many times and I will say it again, the X-Men are at their best when they’re battling bigotry, and in X-Men Red, the X-Men are battling weaponized bigotry at a heinous level. Storm’s actions show just how dangerous nanite-controlled mutants can be while some chilling scenes with Cassandra Nova show just how far she is willing to go to rid the world of mutants.
The real scene-stealer of this issue, and really this entire series, is Gabby “Honeybadger” Kinney, who brings much needed comic relief to just about every panel she is in. This issue in particular features some hilarious moments between Gabby and Namor the Submariner that really stand out.
This issue stumbles momentarily when it tries to thrust real world events to the forefront of ethe story. I enjoy the criticism of the social media age prevalent in the narrative, but in #4 there’s an attempt to tie in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that just feels so forced and head-scratching. It slows down an otherwise well paced story.
X-Men Red #4 isn’t a monumental story nor even a particularly memorable issue, but not every issue needs to be. It may not move the narrative needle much, but it manages to tell an entertaining story that elevates the X-Men mission higher than before.