Review: X-Men 5th in KNIGHTS OF X #1

From longtime porn writer Tini Howard (Excalibur, Catwoman) and artist Bob Quinn (Way of X, Captain America) comes a story of Krakoa mutants stuck in a D&D campaign in Knights of X #1. Featuring Erick Arciniega on Ariana Maher’s colors and letters, this issue offers a dense yet fresh opener for up-to-date X-Fans and new readers alike. With an inventive script and brilliant visuals on brand, it’s the perfect comic for readers who enjoy their mutant stories with a bit of RPG in them.

“THE QUEST BEGINS HERE, WHERE MUTANTS ARE AGAIN HATED AND FEARED! The gates to the Otherworld are closed – and Captain Britain is trapped on the wrong side! The usurpers Merlyn and his right-hand man, King Arthur, control now Lunatic Citadel Sentinel-sized furies raze villages in their hunt for the ‘witch.’ Cut off from Krakoa, Betsy Braddock is Otherworld’s only hero – and to save her people, Betsy must recruit her own Round Table The Knights of X gather to restore lawful order and rescue desperate mutants, but their quest is about to become far more important than that.This is the era of fate…and the fate of Otherworld. is central to the future of mutantkind.

Writing and plot

In many ways, Knights of X #1 is a great example of the kind of limitless creativity that can be found in comic books. Tini Howard’s screenplay combines the political and ethical ethos of the rest of the Krakoa-era X books, but then combines them with the genre trappings of a fantasy RPG. Just like his race Excalibur (predecessor of this book), knights is a thoughtful take on the Arthurian legend with Marvel flavors. This time around though, the story takes the form of a party-based quest rather than a tournament of champions. It’s an X-Men title for readers who want a change of scenery and scope, with a concept and plot that’s the perfect mix of tongue-in-cheek comic storytelling and authentic stakes. Howard perfectly mixes the thematic weight of the X-Men saga with these mythical concepts and characters. We returned to a setting where mutants are an abomination to be feared (referred to as a “witch”), separating the plot both literally and thematically from the tenuous prosperity of the Krakoa era. I can’t help feeling a lot of similarities with Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert Wonder 1602. Some of the ideas from that series make their appearance here, but obviously in completely different contexts.

I’m happy to report that you can jump straight into this comic without reading Excalibur first. Howard does a great job of educating the reader on where, who, and why of Otherworld and the many details of past events. This makes for a very wordy comic with lots of explanatory dialogue. What’s almost funny about this element is how well it works. Normally exposition in a comic is something to be laughed at, but in knights it feels good. This whole comic almost reads as if Howard herself DM-ing an X-Men D&D game and reminding us veterans and newcomers alike what the score is. All that said, you should definitely at least be caught up with other mainline X-Men titles. Not knowing what Krakoa is or how mutants keep dying and being resurrected would really throw someone into a loop. Either way, Howard’s sense of pacing and storytelling personality make this comic a dense yet highly entertaining read.

Artistic direction

Besides their insane plot threads, the current era of X-books is best known for their consistently stunning visual style. Thanks to the artist Bob Quinn, Knights of X #1 is here to offer more than that. Much like the other X books, Quinn’s work here is clean, crisp, and beautifully composed. His pencil drawing is highly detailed, with characters and environments all matching the distinct design language of the current era of X-Men comics while still allowing Quinn’s style to shine through. It easily navigates the winding path between the more “conventional” X-Men style (if any) and the magical and fantastical elements on display in this comic. Its conversation sequences and explosive action scenes are equally intricate and carefully directed, with no detail lost in the rework. Also note that there is A LOT going on in this book at any given time, so the fact that Quinn juggles each element with such grace is a true testament to her skills as a visual storyteller.

Erick Arciniega’s colors create a dark, mysterious, brooding tone that really complements the atmosphere of this magic-infused X comic. While our mutant squad and some magical backdrops are their necessary bright selves, due to the medieval/fantasy dark ages we’re getting here, the dark tones are a great choice and really nail the feel of this comic. Finally, Ariana Maher’s lettering is on par with the solid readability of the rest of the X-books from this era. It uses the current in-house font to great effect with smooth, natural changes in voice tone and very effective SFX lettering. Globally, knights is as good a comic as you’d expect from a Krakoa-era X comic.

Verdict

Knights of X #1 is a dense but highly entertaining start to this book of mutants and magic. Tini Howard’s screenplay has a lot going for it, but her careful use of exposition and the personality that emerges from her writing help keep this comic engaging. Bob Quinn and Erick Arciniega’s visuals are just as gorgeous as expected, with excellent composition and design that lives up to other great X-books of the era. If you liked Excaliburbe sure to grab this issue when it comes out on April 27!

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