X-Men #1 by Brian Wood – Double Review [Shadowhawk/Bane of Kings]
Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings review the first issue of a brand-new X-Men series for Marvel Comics’ Marvel NOW! relaunch.
“An awesome first issue for an all-star cast of X-Women, Brian Wood is on top form here. This is going to be on my pull list for sure.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
“A simple, straightforward story that comes together organically and naturally, with no frills and gimmicks. I just found an X-Men comic I can get behind!” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
Since the relaunch of Marvel’s entire line-up last year with the Marvel NOW! initiative, I’ve struggled to find an X-men book that I can follow along without getting bored. I’ve tried All New X-Men and X-Men: Legacy and have been disappointed with both. The former because it appears to be a continuation of previous storylines and thus requires a frustrating amount of backstory knowledge. The latter because it just didn’t interest me, being about a sort of fringe group within the X-Men. I’ve thought about reading some of the other titles, but none have really jumped out at me, which is frustrating since X-men comics are something that I really want to read. And then came the news of Brian Wood’s new title and I got excited, for a hat-trick of reasons.
One, this book has Storm, Jubilee and Kitty Pryde, three of my all-time favourite female members of the X-Men. Jubilee is a firm favourite because I’m a fan of the old Fox cartoon and she used to have a fairly key role in that series. Not to mention the whole Vampire thing that Chris Claremont had going in his own run from a few years ago. Jubilee is kick-ass. Kitty is a favourite ever since I saw her on-screen in the X-Men trilogy of movies, portrayed by the wonderful Ellen Page. And Storm, well, she’s been there in pretty much all the incarnations of the X-Men that I know of and I like her every bit as much as I like Wonder Woman.
Two, this is a female superhero book, much like Marvel’s other all-female team with its ongoing series, Fearless Defenders. Or, if you compare it to DC, with Birds of Prey. Given the whole relaunch mode that Marvel has going on, it is a fantastic time to be doing these comics, because they provide some much needed diversity within the industry (I’ve recently become a huge proponent of this and have written a couple of editorials about it as well), and they give people the choice. Choice is important, especially when Fearless Defenders has been so lackluster, at least going by the first two issues.
Third, this book was marketed as a clean slate. A self-contained series that while is set within the entire ongoing X-Men setting, backstory is not needed to any great degree. And I’ll confess that upon reading the book I wasn’t disoriented by any of the details, other than why the school is now named the Jean Grey school, and who two of the “new” characters are. I think that’s pretty much par on course, more so for the fact that my X-Men comic-fu is weak. So overall, I didn’t mind it at all really.
So, the issue itself. I’d be tempted to say that the issue starts off really epic and continues throughout, but that’s not the reality though. Brian Wood has done a great job of keeping things simple, no complications. He introduces his characters really well, whether it is Jubilee or Storm or Rogue, and he tells a story that is rich with X-Men mythology while also providing ample jumping on points for those who are on the opposite side of that fence. Reading through, there wasn’t any particular moment where I thought: “oh crap, I’m so frikkin lost!”. That was the case with me reading All New X-Men last year.
X-Men is the third of Brian’s books that I’m following right now, the other two being his super-excellent Star Wars from Dark Horse and Mara from Image. With this new book, Brian has a trifecta of comics awesomeness in his hands and he is doing on this book what he’s been doing on the others: presenting to the reader strong, confident and self-aware female characters. Whether it is any of the women in this book, or Leia from Star Wars or Mara from, well, Mara, Brian’s writing has been a definitive factor in my enjoyment.
The art on the book is from Olivier Coipel. I’ve seen his work on the first volume of The Mighty Thor by Matt Fraction, and while I wasn’t too impressed with his work there, the biggest drawback being the ridiculous pencilwork on Thor, with X-Men he has done wonders. To be quite frank, I love what he is doing here. There aren’t really any spine-breakers or gratuitous T&A shots here, just natural poses as you’d expect in a real-life scenario. Mark Morales, Laura Martin and VC’s Joe Caramagna have also chipped in with some great work throughout the book, with some great inks and colours that really bring out the details in Coipel’s pencilwork. I also love the costume redesigns that have been done by Kris Anka. I had the pportunity to listen to his guest spot on the “3 Chicks Review Comics” podcast last week and it was really fun to get all his insights into character design. He puts himself as a designer first, artist second and I love the process that he outlined for doing all the new looks on these characters. Superb job.
Overall, X-Men #1 was a really fun book that doesn’t seek to partake in any frills or ego. It has a simple title, the events the characters find themselves in are quite… natural and “simplistic” without being grandiose, and it all works together by the end. I would definitely recommend it. Looking forward to the second issue!
Bane of Kings:
Art: Olivier Coipel
#1 – Because you demanded it! The X-Women finally get their own book, from critically acclaimed superstars Brian Wood (X-MEN, ULTIMATE X-MEN, DMZ, The Massive) and Olivier Coipel (AVX, HOUSE OF M, THOR)! An old enemy shows up at the X-Men’s door, seeking asylum from an ancient evil come back to earth. Meanwhile, Jubilee has come home, and she’s brought with her an orphaned baby who might hold the key to the earth’s survival…or its destruction. Against a backdrop of what seems like an alien invasion and an eons-spanning war between brother and sister, Storm steps up and puts together a team to protect the child and stop a new threat that could destroy all life on earth!
The X-Men are my favourite superhero group in comics at the moment, and that is emphasised by the amount of X-Books that I currently have on my pullist. All New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, and Wolverine and the X-Men are the current issues that I’m collecting monthly (and bi-monthly with WatXM and sometimes ANXM), and I think that’s the most amount of titles from one ‘group/family’ that I’m following across the whole comics industry, with the exception of Batman (Batman, Detective Comics, Batman & Robin, Batwoman, Nightwing, Talon), and I think I may have added another X-Book to my pullist, for Brian Wood’s X-Men is superb.
For a title that was one of my most anticipated series of Marvel Now, it sure took a while to get here, being the most recently launched series in the not-quite reboot that is actually a reboot. The book itself opens with Jubilee, travelling towards the Jean Grey School carrying a little baby boy. We don’t know much about how they got into this situation yet, or indeed, where X-Men stands in correlation with the rest of the X-Books, for example – you’d think that at one point they’d raise the issue about having the Original Five X-Men at the Jean Grey School in All New X-Men unless these titles take place during different periods/realities, however – that’s a minor doubt, and is probably a flaw for most titles that aren’t interconnected like All New X-Men and Uncanny Avengers. The disappearance of Steve Rogers in Captain America to Dimension Z isn’t felt by his allies back on Earth, especially when at the same time he appears to be leading the Uncanny Avengers themselves as well as popping up in New Avengers.
I’m also going to make a confession – despite the fact that the X-Men may be my favourite superhero group, due to my relative new experience to comics, I’m not all that familiar with people like Jubilee, Psylocke, but due to the movies and other titles, I am fully familiar with the likes of Kitty Pryde (Who is quickly becoming one of my favourite X-Men), Storm & Rogue (Who is another one of my favourite X-Men) and this helped me into a book that isn’t particularly friendly to someone who hasn’t read an X-Book before. But I’m luckily not part of that category, and I was able to understand what was going on – it helped that this was fairly simple, and also very enjoyable to read.
It’s also important to talk about Coipel’s artwork. It’s absolutely incredible. I just love the cover art for this issue and the interior art is nonetheless spectacular. It’s fairly obvious that you can’t have a good comic without a good artist and Coipel raises this book from great, to excellent with his stunning artwork.
The book itself is packed with fascinating and powerful characters – those that I’m not familiar with, I’d love to discover more about – the action is awesome – and indeed, my only (minor) complaint is the pricetag, but whilst I’d happily pay £3.25/$3.99 for a comic this awesome, I just wish that Marvel would lower more of their titles to £2.75/$2.99, following the pattern of DC who have pretty much all of their titles at the latter price apart from the likes of Batman, Action Comics, Detective Comics etc. Even the likes of Green Lantern, The Flash and Wonder Woman are cheap – which probably explains why I pick up more DC books than I do Marvel. However, X-Men #1 is a strong issue, and I don’t really have any major problems with this book. I’ll be eagerly anticipating #2 for sure.