Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel confidently deliver their take on an all-female X-Men team that reminds us of how good it can get.
In the concluding notes to this debut issue, Brian Wood sums up the hype leading up to the rebooted X-Men. “The female only cast,” he comments, “was an attention grabber”. Which it really didn’t need to be, as the X-Men, despite the masculine title of the book, has always been quite progressive in its gender roles when compared to other comic books. As far back as the start of Chris Claremont‘s historic run, the prolific writer told us that the women in his life were far removed from the passive “girlfriend” roles that Marvel had assigned to many of its female characters prior to his 1975 debut on the book. The X-Men continued this approach throughout its long run, so it is surprising that it has taken this long to pull together this group of women together as a singular team.
Wasting very little time on exposition or laborious set-up, Jubilee is on the run from an mysterious man, bringing home a baby to the X-Mansion. Storm, Kitty Pride and Rogue head out to assist her, but discover something far more sinister at work than the return of their colleague. Meanwhile, an old foe turns up at the Jean Grey School, but things aren’t quite what they seem.
Wood eases into this book with the experience and affection of someone who has spent years living and breathing the X-Men, both on the pre-Marvel NOW version of this title and Ultimate Comics: X-Men. The fact that this is set in and around the same locations as the plethora of other X-titles and nary a Y chromosome is to be seen is an accomplishment in itself. Along with the principal cast of women, characters such as Pixie and Bling populate the halls of the school, celebrating the diversity of super-powered women that the X-universe has to offer. At the end of the day, Wood’s X-Men is an action comic, and the effortless way in which he slides Storm, Kitty and Rogue into an impressive train sequence is easily the equal of anything happening in the pages of the superb Captain Marvel.
Wood’s new addition to the roster, which he promises will stay around for a while, is Jubilee’s adopted baby. Rather than simply being a cheap plot device, the child is gorgeous and brings a much-needed softness to an outing that is otherwise big and explodey. Wood reaches deep down into the X-Men mythos, pulling in elements from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men saga and Claremont’s X-Men and Excalibur. Indeed, Wood’s affection is such that this first issue might spin the heads of some would-be newbies, assuming reader knowledge as it hits the ground running. If there’s a quibble to be had, the benefits of slim exposition also makes it hard to recommend it to an entirely new reader, but it’s a spectacular introduction regardless.
Coipel, the French superstar perhaps best known for House of M and Thor, is the other leading light in this reboot. Bringing the full set of his talents to bear, he continues to display a mastery of action sequences and layout. Yet in this book more than any other, the human element is the most important, and that aforementioned bouncing bundle of joy is drawn with the same sentiment that can be found in Wood’s writing.
With so many X-Men books already on the market, it’s always going to be a tough call as to whether regular readers should fork over cash for yet another spin-off. However, Marvel have shown faith in this as one of their flagship X-titles by assigning it two of the hottest names on their roster, a characteristic of the whole Marvel NOW relaunch. Every bit as vital, or arguably more so, than Uncanny X-Men and the umpteen Wolverine excursions, this starts a new era of X-Men with a bang.
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