What could’ve been a great issue is stifled by poor pacing and a perplexing message.
While X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue have met their respective ends after somewhat tumultuous 36 issue runs, X-Men Red pushes onward as the number of X-team books dwindles. Whereas the other two color-coded X-Men teams battled intergalactic Nazis from different dimensions and dealt with the brain-breaking intricacies of time travel, Red has stood out for the incredibly clear and all-too-real enemy Jean Grey and her team are pitted against-bigotry fueled by targeted campaigns of hatred and misinformation. X-Men Red #8, out today, could have been the most climactic issue showing the X-Men tackle bigotry head on, yet it suffers from uneven pacing and a final message that seems questionable, at best.
The world is reeling after discovering Cassandra Nova manipulated millions of people to rile up anti-mutant sentiment using what essentially boils down to misinformation campaigns. This may sound a bit on the nose, but bigotry has always been the X-Men’s biggest enemy and having bigotry at the core of this series has only made it stronger. This issue, in fact, is exemplary of writer Tom Taylor’s ability to update this almost tired X-Men trope for modern times, as they tackle the spread of false facts and hatred through online influencers.
Trinary especially stands out in this issue as a truly modern X-Man perfect for this social media laden era of society. Taylor reveals she actually discovered her abilities at the age of 12 and spent years simply trying to make the internet a safer, more welcoming place. With the amount of filth and vile hurled about the internet every day, the thought of an X-Man who can actively combat all the rage on the internet seems like a perfect fit for the X-Men, who would undoubtedly be routinely targeted by harassment in the real world.
This climactic battle with Nova and her spread of bigotry takes over the entire issue and truly displays why the X-Men work best as a team, as they must rely on each person’s specific abilities to get the job done. As has been the case with nearly every issue of this series, it’s Gabby “Honey Badger” Kinney who steals the show with adorable quips that magnificently provide comic relief, keeping this series from becoming a little too dark.
While this could be the most climactic chapter yet that truly pits the X-Men against the destructive nature of misinformation, it’s really brought down by uneven pacing. Right from the start, a solid opening sequence showing Nova disperse her hatred-spreading nanites is quickly followed by a confusing newscast that felt shoved into the narrative only to make a point about the manipulation of right winged media. Don’t get me wrong, I think Taylor is making a terrific point here and highlights the importance of having an unbiased source for information, however this particular scene felt forced and unnecessary, ultimately derailing the issue’s tone and pace right from the start.
Later in the issue, Storm makes her way to Genosha to physically confront Nova while Jean and the gang battle her machines telekinetically and the resulting battle is… well, not even a battle. What could’ve been an incredibly climactic final showdown between the X-Men and Nova ends up being a one page tidal wave (literally) that only temporarily eliminates the problem. This issue does a good job building towards an explosive finish yet thuds when Storm simply washes Nova away momentarily.
As much as I enjoyed how Trinary is portrayed as an X-Man for the modern age, her tactics for defeating Nova’s hatred spreading nanites simply felt wrong to me (Spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned). In order to stop the nanites and shut them down, Trinary re-uploads all the horrific content she had wiped from the internet in her youth causing the nanites to essentially overload with hate and shut down. This sends, whether consciously or incidentally, a message of fighting hate with hate — something the X-Men would never sign off on.
There just seems to be no reason to make this the finale to the nanite problem and truly seems at odds with the core values of the X-Men. It would’ve been far more effective and more in line with X-Men ideals for Trinary to have uploaded all the kindness she experienced on the internet in her youth, showing that love always conquers hate, so long as you’re willing to look for that love.
X-Men Red #8 still manages to entertainingly put a temporary pause on the nanite problem for Jean Grey’s squad of mutants, but it could’ve been so much more. Some of the series’s best features are in this issue — real world problems presented with an X-Men lense, Gabby stealing scenes, and tremendous use of the team dynamic. However, and this is a first for the series, the poor pacing and downright off-brand conclusion to the nanite problem will leave readers hoping issue #9 can right the ship.