As Dawn of X continues its bold, ambitious relaunch of the X-Men, Fallen Angels serves as the final title of the launch's first wave. Given recent cataclysmic events that have gripped the line as Marvel's mutants forge their new future in Krakoa, the opening issue to the series is a meditatively somber one. It sees a group of mutant superheroes go rogue on an adventure that leans more into philosophy and emotional fallout than its counterparts, offering a weightier option for readers as the relaunch continues, without compromising superhero action in the face of heady topics.
The ninja assassin Kwannon has regained control of her body as Psylocke after Betsy Braddock had maintained it for years prior to Dawn of X. As Psylocke navigates traumatic memories to reclaim the mantle of Psylocke for herself, she finds herself haunted by a personal mission in her native Japan. Disobeying a moratorium on departures from Krakoa in lieu of the fledgling nation-state enduring its first, grave tragedy, Psylocke forms an impromptu team to venture into the outside world and resolve unfinished business that could put all of mutant kind at risk.
Whether writing creator-owned or mainstream superhero work, Bryan Hill has always imbued each project he's worked on with a distinctly personal touch. Given the nature of Psylocke's relatively new status quo, Hill has positioned the opening issue as a deliberately paced meditation on trauma, reclaiming one's own identity and rage in the face of personal loss. In contrast to the gritty action of X-Force, traditional superhero derring-do of the main X-Men series, high fantasy of Excalibur, and swashbuckling fun of Marauders and New Mutants, Fallen Angels is the most somber of the Dawn of X titles to date.
However, Hill also infuses the issue with plenty of action and signature wit to make this higher level of contemplation a welcome one.What especially makes the issue effective is Hill's grasp on three markedly different character voices across the story: Magneto and Mister Sinister in addition to Psylocke herself. Whereas some of the action can come off as forced or perfunctory in establishing the stakes and dynamics between the characters, Hill's obvious strength lies in dialogue, making what could be an overly serious premise and approach much more palatable and even fun as it is delves into each of the respective characters' inner psyches.
A bit more hit-or-miss is the issue's visuals by Szymon Kudranski and colorist Frank D'Armata. There are certainly standout moments and set pieces in the issue but some of the posturing of the various characters can come off as stiff. There are also sequences that are overly dark or murky and the occasional action scene that doesn't quite land as well as it should. Where the art team really excels is in conveying emotion and, given the series' apparent premise, there is plenty of emotion to be had as Dawn of X moves into territory more driven by raw pathos.
As Dawn of X endures its first tragedy and launches the final series in its inaugural wave of titles, Fallen Angels brings the emotional intensity of its characters right to the forefront. Bryan Hill and Szymon Kudranski use darker hues to paint their corner of the Marvel Universe, and when they lean into their characters' minds more than their actions, this debut issue really soars. Come for the meditation on loss and stay for the cutting look into the series' various colorful characters.
Fallen Angels #1 is available Nov. 13.