Stew’s Reviews: X-Men (vol. 4)
What would you put as the Over/Under on how many iterations of X-Men #1 there have been over the years? Like, factoring in all the various adjectives, color qualifiers, and other name addendums? Uncanncy, Blue, Gold, X-Treme, and the like? How many versions of X-Men #1 have there been over the years? It’s got to be more than 20, right? I’m not even counting other X-books like Factor or Force or whatever. Just X-Men.
It seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new one. I remember just being told to get amped a few months ago because, whoa!, the X-Men rebooted as X-Men Gold #1 and X-Men Blue #1, and now FORGET THAT, the “it” X-book to be reading is Astonishing X-Men#1 (which, hell, there’s now been at LEAST three versions of that exact title alone). Look, Marvel, I can’t keep up with this. I get that you might be trying to undermine all the talk that you are burying your mutant titles, but this is too much.
Remember back when someone asked you “What issue did you start with?”, and you could say “I started with X-Men #244!” and you could have a conversation about shared history you’ve enjoyed? Now it’s “What issue did you start with?”, “X-Men #1. From 2017. But, like, not the beginning of 2017! The second half of 2017”, “You know what? Forget it”. I feel like an old man. Something something my lawn.
And that brings us to…
Writer and Artist: Brian Wood, Olivier Coipel, and David Lopez
Protagonists: Storm, Rogue, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey, Psylocke
Oh my, who is that fine looking comic book character at the center of that cover? Why, it’s Jubilee what a surprise I had no idea whatsoever wow. Yeah, that’s what you get; a dozen volumes into the redux of Stew’s Reviews, and we’re going back to the Jubilee well. That should become my shtick, I think. A review of a book featuring Jubilee, every dozen articles! That will draw in the page views.
I was excited for this book when it was announced a few years ago. This was the X-Men relaunch that featured the all female X-Men team, and that seemed like a great idea to me. Not to mention it featured some of my favorite comic characters of all time (and thereby obviously some of my favorite X-Men of all time) in Jubilee and Kitty Pryde. At that point, I had been out of the X-Men loop for ages, with the last run I had followed as it developed was Joss Whedon’s run from Astonishing X-Men #1 (see?) through #24. And that run started nine full years before this one, so I was overjoyed to have an X-title come out that I thought looked interesting and featured a lineup I dug. In theory, this book was already a hit with me.
In practice? Less so. This just isn’t a fascinating book. The first story arc is more-or-less an uninspired rip-off the the Dangerous tale from the aforementioned Whedon run, with the X-Women battling a female cybernetic being who inhabits technology and can remotely bend machines to her whim. And, honestly, Arkea is a jobber compared to Danger and is not nearly as impressive or imposing. It’s underwhelming on the whole, and is resolved in about three issues. To be fair, the Arkea story is more of a vehicle to establish the tone for the rest of the run: Jubilee has a baby that she found and is now raising, and Rachel and Storm are at odds over Storm’s handling of Arkea (Storm was willing to sacrifice the host body Arkea had possessed in an effort to stop the threat, and Rachel was not).
The fourth issue and last featured in the first collection is a solo tale featuring the main heroes of the book arguing about the Arkea incident while saving a damaged passenger plane—and it’s always better to see the X-Men actually randomly hero-ing than when their stories are just mutant-centric—while Jubilee and Wolverine have a field trip to the former’s home town. That bit is fun because Logan and Jubilee always have great chemistry pretty no much no matter who the writer is. The character-driven stuff always gets me more than the generic action-oriented bits, so I can at least say the volume at least ends on an upswing.
The characterization of the X-Men here is all over the damn place. Jubilee seems to be the featured hero here, and she has the spunk of her pre-vampiric self without much of the brooding and depression she had in her initial appearances after she turned. She’s the stand-out of the early issues, and there’s little more I will ever ask for. Aside from her, Storm is presented as the pragmatic leader of the team who will do whatever is necessary to keep her team safe, while Rachel Grey is the most empathetic of the group and ruled by her emotions. Rogue and Psylocke are pretty much just “there” throughout, and Kitty is quick-thinking, humorous, and shown as the burgeoning leader she would become in Gold while stuck in the mansion with some of the students fighting off Arkea’s machinations. In such a short span of issues, it’s hard for everyone to shine, but… it would have been nice if Betsy and Rogue felt more than shoe-horned in to round out the group.
Oh, and also? On multiple occasions, the three-letter phrase “OMG” is written as a character’s dialogue (I believe twice for Kitty and once for Jubes). What even is that? Is the character saying “Oh my god”, and Wood is too lazy to longhand that shit, or are they actually saying “Oh Em Gee”, and… Wood is STILL too lazy to longhand it? Maybe it’s just me, but WOW did those instances take me out of the story. There are certainly characters and titles where using acronyms and even emojis/pictures works for a character’s dialogue (think Impulse from the 90’s-2000’s), but it’s grating here.
Talking Point: Not going to limit this to the X-Men, but the ladies’ night theme of this series got me thinking. Take your favorite comic team (JLA, JSA, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Power Pack, whoever) and make an All-[fill in the blank] title for them you’d really go for. Maybe an all-alien JLA? Or an all-foreigners Avengers? Or, heck, just stick with the female theme; what about a women-led X-Force? What would you like to see?
I want this to better than it is, but I have the third volume of this run, too, and I can say it doesn’t pick up particularly well later on, either. It’s just rather formulaic and crying out for an injection of originality. Bonus points for the roster choices and some of the character work, but… not for much else. It’s a pretty basic X-book. But it does right by Jubilation, so for that alone, it gets +1 to its score.