The 13 Frights of Halloween- X-Men’s Nightmare (X-Men #4)
Welcome to the 13 Frights of Halloween, the series where I share 13 comics that are spooky, creepy, unsettling, and much more. In this edition we are going to talk about a nightmare inducing issue of X-Men from the far-off year of…2021. That’s right we are talking about that time Nightmare visited the X-Men in their New York Krakoan Treehouse in the Reign of X era. You know you are in for a treat with this fantastic Headless Horsemen Cyclops cover by Pepe Larraz and Marte Garcia
X-Men (vol.6) # 4
Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Javier Pina
Colors by Erick Arciniega
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
In honor of this moment, I have decided to write a poem for the synopsis. This poem is derivative of A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore
‘Twas The Night Before Halloween
by Jordan Jennings based on A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore
‘Twas the night before Halloween, when all through the treetop.
Everyone was stirring. Especially the Cyclops.
There he lay restless in his bed
With visions of failures dancing in his head
Next to him his wife, Fire Incarnate no more
Was tormented with atrocities from before
When arose such a clatter
Jean woke up to see what was the matter.
Away to the astral plane she flew
It was then she knew
Down in New York came Nightmare with a Sound
He was dress all green and tormenting because Strange was not around.
Jean grows tall and shows her might
Sending Nightmare off into the night
There was also an empty grave, a trip to Mars, and a passive aggressive email
For you see this was just a small part in what would all entail
The Post-Hickman Fright
The Post-Hickman era of X-Men gets some grief from fans given that it had to follow what felt like an abrupt end to the Hickman era (thanks, Substack). I find that to be a bit unfair of a criticism as I think the title (early on, especially) still continues the vein of Hickman’s work by having the focus of the comic jump around to different characters on the team.
Duggan does a solid job of trying to balance character work with action throughout the run by having each issue focusing on one of the democratically elected X-men. This issue itself is a very strong Jean Grey issue but also a slight Cyclops issue with his past trauma being a major draw for Nightmare.
Duggan’s Jean, though, really does steal the show. I am not the biggest Jean Grey fan as she was pretty much dead for the bulk of my life. Yet, Duggan makes me care. She is kind and compassionate. She is concerned about her past atrocities as The Phoenix (Yes, I know that Dark Phoenix wasn’t really Jean) and she is trying to atone for them. Jean is a complex character under Duggan. That is what really makes this Halloween issue work.
Well, it wasn’t the only thing. Fill-artist, Javier Pina provides dark and moody linework. Heavy shadows cast over the X-men as Nightmare browses their minds and anguish. Pina renders the surreal dreamscape and astral planes with a sense of otherworldliness. Small things like the “Cyclops was wrong” corpse and the Cyclops jack-o’-lantern are nice touches that sell the Halloween mood.
This mood is successfully conveyed in part thanks to the colors from Erick Arciniega. The palette is darker overall compared to the previous issues until Jean brings light back into the world with her resounding rebuke of Nightmare.
While a part of a larger arc, X-men #4 functions perfectly well as a stand-alone spooky Halloween comic. It’s positively dreadful and full of dark images that brightens my darkened heart. You can find this in multiple formats including, but not limited to, Marvel Unlimited, ComiXology, various trades from this era, and maybe even the back-issue bins.
For more of The 13 Frights of Halloween, click here.