X-Men #1 review

As Gypsy Rose Lee learned, you gotta have a gimmick. And when Marvel Comics is relaunching an X-Men book it helps to have something to distinguish the title from the rest of the mutant pack.

What’s that, you say? How about stories with a unique tone, tales that don’t depend on crossovers to be ‘worthwhile’, a stonkingly good story and rip-roaringly fine art?

Happily, this new X-Men book already has the latter two requirements, and as for the former pair, hopefully that will prove the case. Meanwhile, there’s the gimmick. Or as writer Brian Wood would likely prefer, the Unique Selling Point.

The USP of this X-title is that it focuses on women only. We’ve never had a men-only mutant book, and the X-Men line has for years balanced male and female members rather well. But someone at Marvel decided that an all-girl gathering is the way to go, so here it is.

And really, one of the main things that makes a good comic book good is character, and the members in this debut issue all have strong voices. It doesn’t matter if they’re all men, all women, or a mixture, so long as we get friendship and fireworks. There are veterans Storm and Kitty Pryde. Bad girl turned stalwart Rogue. Cool and collected Rachel Summers. Tough toff Psylocke. And whatever-you-call-a-Valley-Girl-in-the-21st-century Jubilee. None of these women need their powers to define them, but let there be no doubt, as mutants go, this is a formidable bunch, with weather control, psi abilities, phasing and more at their disposal.

Wood, wisely, doesn’t make a big deal of the spotlight shining on the women. They just happen to be the X-Men around the Jean Grey school this issue. They’re not all there at the beginning, as Jubilee returns from a trip to Europe accompanied by one person she wants to be there, and someone she decidedly does not. She’s picked up an orphan child on her travels, her mothering instinct having kicked in – or perhaps it’s hanging around with waif-wrangler Wolverine for so long. And following her is an old enemy of the X-Men, but here he asks for help. For while he’s a menace, there’s someone even he’s scared of in the picture.

Wood’s script is uniformly excellent, giving us a sharp third person narration that introduces the X-Men and their world for any new readers. It’s professionalism with style, and I wish more comic book writers were so considerate of the readership. He’s equally adept at writing the heroes, as individuals and as members of the school faculty. And his handling of teamwork is a joy, as Rogue, Storm and Kitty stop a runaway train from killing its passengers. Plus, Wood gives us a subplot involving what’s bound to be more than simple teenage rivalry. As he says in the lettercol, this is his highest profile launch to date, and on this showing he’s well up to it.

Artist Olivier Coipel has had many a high-profile Marvel job, and he gets better every time out. He draws the X-Men as individuals, without pandering to the cheesecake market – if anyone has to bend, or squat, there’s a ruddy good reason, and it’s not presented with prurience; heck, I’ve rarely seen a bunch of super-beings so covered up, and it makes a great change.

The big action sequence with the train has the necessary impact without taking over huge spreads, and the tension in Jubilee as she feels hunted is palpable (click on image to enlarge). Were I editing, I’d have given a note that superheroes swooping down to grab a pal off a train might not want to dress up as superheroes, but I don’t care too much – this is a debut issue and it’s good to see the cast in their ‘workwear’. Coipel inks himself, alongside the talented Mark Morales.

Colouring the book, Laura Martin makes a natural palette exciting, while Joe Caramagna’s letters are sharp, and know where the emphasis is needed. Coipel and Martin also provide the cover, which so far as capturing the characters of a group of people via body language and expressions go, is masterful.

Overall, some great work from the core creatives – overseen by editors Jennifer M Smith and Jeanine Schaefer – makes for a thoroughly enjoyable first of a three-parter. There’s a lot respect here: for the characters, and for the readers, and that’s something I can respect.

And as this issue shows, even if you gotta have a gimmick, you don’t gotta run it into the ground.

10 thoughts on “X-Men #1 review

  1. This was the oddest first issue I've read in a while. I know most of its audience will be people already buying X-Books but there was zero attempt at acting like a first issue. It also kinda bothered me that nowhere in art or story does it ever acknowledge that Jubilee is now a vampire. Oh and Sublime is from my few years not collecting so I know zero about him. And guess what? Still don't…


  2. That's a shame, Steve – I thought it'd be accessible. Mind, I never understood Sublime even when he was showing up regularly in Grant Morrison's New X-Men. I thought it'd be enough, here, to know him for a villain, rather than have loads of X-Menny backstory dredged up.


  3. Ok let's try this again. My last one seems to have been eaten.

    First of all, she's not Rachel Summers. She's Rachel Grey. Rachel Summers has apparently ceased to exist and we've gotten this rather.. cheap knock off that is vastly more immature, not nearly as powerful or trained, and Phoenix-less Rachel Grey to replace her. The woman claiming to be Rachel Summers changed her name to Rachel Grey (and took the moniker Marvel Girl) after she discovered that Scott had cheated on Jean with Emma and didn't even care that Jean's body wasn't even cold before he had completely moved on. We know that Rachel Summers had the Phoenix Force with her until she died as Mother Askani since she used it to save Cable from the past and bring him to the future. Rachel Grey has already lost the Phoenix Force.. making them two different people (there are other things like her being bested by Emma Frost, not being able to walk in high heels, and her over-all immaturity).

    Now second, my biggest problem with this is there is absolutely no team here. The “team” in question just seem to be the left over ladies who just happen to be at the school at the moment. They don't really act like a team as Rogue handles everything with the train and Psylocke solo handles John Sublime (because Rachel Grey, who we're suppose to believe is still one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet, can't). The others do a whole lot of nothing. Add to the fact there are 2 current team leaders and 2 former team leaders on the team (the only ones who haven't lead are Rachel Grey and Jubilee) it makes it harder to believe in a team. They also have no real reason to stay a team after the first issue other than working as X-Men, there really is no purpose for this “all female team” and they're even incapable of handling everything themselves (they admit they're waiting for Beast to do analysis on the baby). Add to the fact that almost all these ladies are headlining in at least one other book, it really doesn't make a lot of sense (maybe taking some female heroes that aren't appearing everywhere else would be nice).

    Finally the other issue is Jubilee. She's useless and boring. She has no powers at the moment (except maybe vampire powers, but she doesn't appear to be a vampire anymore in this issue). She feels like she was just thrown into this title because the writer wanted to write her rather than her having any purpose or reason for being in the title. She's not even a mutant and even when she was, she barely used her powers in any useful or productive manner. I just don't see why she's included.


  4. Thanks for that, Jan. I vaguely remember Rachel taking on Grey rather than Summers, but she's still the same character – an X-Men character … expecting consistency of personality and powers often leads to frustration. As for the Mother Askani thing, I never followed any of those Jean and Scott in the future stories, they involve Cable, so try as I might, I just can't bring myself to care. I'd rather pretend none of it happened – if Rachel turns up in a story I'm reading, fine, but honestly, I'd rather we'd never seen her again after Days of Future Past.

    I've zero problem with whether or not the women in this comic work as a thought-out team, as no one is pretending they're a Gold or Blue-style unit. As I said, as you say, they're the X-Men who are on site at the time. They're not claiming to be an all-woman unit with every base covered, they're a bunch of X-Men, the Beast is an X-Man too, and it'd be stupid not to consult.

    And much as I agree that it's good to see different characters, complaining about popular mutants appearing in more than one book seems a tad peculiar, you know how Marvel comics work.

    I pretty much agree about Jubilee, to me she always seemed like a younger, weaker Dazzler, but Brian Wood really likes her – maybe he has interesting plans … surely he's going to re-power her.

    Anyway, you should probably save your money and not but #2 (I bet you've already come to that conclusion…)


  5. I've seen a bit of criticism around the net that the book doesn't address Jubilee's vampirism but I don't see how that is a negative. I don't recall the book taking the time to address the details of any character's powers or weaknesses unless they were using them. If the complaint is that Jubilee is walking around in the daytime, it's my understanding that she's got magic amulet from other vampires that let her do this. When I read this comic I enjoyed that Jubilee was Jubilee and I didn't need to worry about what her status before page one was.


  6. I think “the writer wanted to write her” is an excellent reason to use the character, as opposed to her skill set. If the characters, what they say and what they do is interesting, their exact powers are academic.

    For me, the draw was Brian Wood all the way. I'm a fan of DMZ, The Massive and Local, and he made me read a Conan book monthly for what is really the first time. And now I'm reading an X-Men book for the first time since Morrison ran the show. Plus, it's got all the X-women from when I was reading the book as a teenager, working together without any kind of contrived in-story premise. It's really a tribute to Chris Claremont that he created/developed such a variety of female X-Men that today they can so easily be assembled into a coherent team without stretching the imagination or even using ALL of them.


  7. I should try more Brian Wood. I think I read a Northlanders book by him, and I reviewed a Supernatural set in Edinburgh ('Och aye, be you one of those Hunters, och, have some porage and a haggis').

    I wonder if Chris Claremont is enjoying the new book too? Hope so.


  8. He's also got me reading a Star Wars book. Which, if you know me, is patently absurd.

    My favorite thing he's done is Local (12 issues, all collected), which I recommend wholeheartedly.


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