Considering how much Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men run has been a spiritual continuation of Grant Morrison’s work on the mutant heroes, it’s fitting Hickman and artist Russell Dauterman have made an homage to one of Morrison’s most memorable X-Men stories. Giant Sized X-Men: Jean Grey + Emma Frost is Hickman and Dauterman’s riff on New X-Men #121, a largely silent issue that saw Jean Grey and Emma Frost diving into the mind of a comatose Charles Xavier. New X-Men #121 is brilliant comic book, something that both works for and against Hickman and Dauterman’s collaborative effort.
The plot for Giant-Sized X-Men: Jean Grey + Emma Frost finds the titular pair venturing into the mind of fellow mutant Storm after she is harmed in an attack by the Children of the Vault. The Children were previously encountered by the X-Men in the Hickman penned adjective less X-Men series. To save their friend, the two telepaths must enter Storm’s mind in order to fight off the deadly machinations of one of their newest, and most deadly, enemies.
Giant Sized X-Men #1 is a visually stunning comic book. It was created using the Marvel method, so Dauterman had complete control over the pacing of the story while working off story ideas developed by Hickman and himself. Dauterman’s page layouts are inventive, frequently breaking any notion of a panel grid in favor of evoking movement and Storm’s fractured state of mind. There’s one sequence where Dauterman uses negative space to guide the reader’s eye as the panels themselves fall apart due to Storm’s worsening condition. The double page spread is beautiful to behold and is proof that Dauterman is a master storyteller.
Beyond page design and Dauterman’s pacing of the story, the artist has always excelled at drawing the human figure, using body language to convey character traits and attitude. In a mostly silent issue, this skill does wonders, particularly in how Dauterman draws Emma Frost. The White Queen carries herself a certain way, and the artwork conveys that perfectly.
Despite gorgeous artwork, the narrative being told by Hickman and Dauterman is superficial. There isn’t much depth to Giant-Sized X-Men #1, beyond two references to Storm’s history with Jean and Emma. Both references are brief, with Jean and Emma’s trip through Storm’s mind offering little to no insight into Storm as a character. Hickman and Dauterman also do little to examine the dynamic between Jean and Emma, something Morrison and artist Frank Quietly did quite well in New X-Men #121.
The issue’s finale tries to create cliff-hanger ending, but it doesn’t work well because of certain aspects of the post House of X/Powers of X status quo. I’m sure Hickman’s hiding some information for a big reveal down the line, but more context regarding Storm’s status at the end of Giant-Sized X-Men #1 would have made for a stronger ending.
The lack of a strong narrative does make Giant Sized X-Men’s series debut feel like a pale imitation of someone else’s story. I don’t think that’s the case, as Hickman and Dauterman clearly have a lot of love for Morrison’s work and New X-Men #121. There was a lot of creativity and effort put into the issue by the creative team, and there is more to Giant Sized X-Men #1 than just aping the work of Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly. However, it is difficult to not compare the two comics, especially when Morrison’s story has some solid character work.
The art may be wonderful, but Giant-Sized X-Men: Jean Grey + Emma Frost lacks a strong narrative. I still think this is a comic worth reading for the creative swing the creators took in doing an almost silent issue, but it doesn’t hit the highs of Morrison’s original story.