10 Dec 2011

Cover To Cover: X-CLUB #1

Writer: Simon Spurrier

Art: Paul Davidson & Rachelle Rosenberg

Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: I’d been looking forward to this title for several months since spotting it during one of our regular scourings of Previews but shied away from reading it first this week having had a quick scan of the opening couple of pages and had a mental ‘Hmmmmm’ about the artwork pass through my mind. It is unfair to judge a comic based on those initial impressions and as I grow as a comic lover and expand my horizons I am trying to move away from my love of the medium being biased towards the visual over the written elements. That said, the opening two pages of action that display a flashback to World War II shenanigans did have me take pause for a little while and then come back for the read later as there was just something about Paul Davidson’s art that didn’t feel quite right.

So what happened when I did return to X-Club? Well I really enjoyed it, all of it. Diving into the world of the X-Men these days is something of a daunting task what with the vast cast of characters who could be embroiled in a multitude of missions and personal entanglements at any given moment. Even when dealing with ‘fringe’ characters like this team of scientific boffins, Si Spurrier has had to take the political fallout of Schism into account while also looking at the continued rebuilding the Atlanteans have had to do in the wake of their society collapsing. He manages to take all of these parts and wrap them up in a wholly entertaining story as Cyclops tries to use X-Club’s skills to repair the jaded reputation of his X-Men.

While Cyclops’ desire to get a PR win out of these efforts is maybe played a little too strongly it was fun to see him trying (unsuccessfully) to keep ‘the kids’ - Nemesis and Rao - from bickering amongst themselves and getting them to schmooze with the collected press, something that doesn’t come naturally to these patronizing brainboxes. Spurrier nails Dr Nemesis' delivery perfectly, the gruff exasperation at having to explain things to the gathered ‘cellwastes’ ringing out at every opportunity and the playful baiting between him and Rao could almost be taken as flirting. Keeping Madison Jeffries - a character some recent writers seem to have had trouble giving definition to I’ve noted - and Danger together also adds a few moments of fun as his attraction to the post-organic being becomes all the clearer to see. No doubt these little interactions may be developed as the series plays on and I certainly hope that is going to be the case.

So what of the artwork from Paul Davidson and colourist Rosenberg that had initially put me off? It actually grew on me very quickly indeed and Davidson has a terrific grasp of facial expressions. With Nemesis continuously sporting his face mask and hat, Davidson only has his eyes and brow to work with and the range of looks he manages to portray is fantastic. When the call to up the ante and bring out the action comes along he also manages to hold that together well and he certainly has a good handle on mutated Atlantean physiology! I should also like to give a nod in the direction of Rachelle Rosenberg’s colour work as her backgrounds and skies really stood out, especially as she seems to make a purposeful transition from daylight through to the red sky of dusk.

All told this is a great first issue and an interesting alternative X-Men story. Spurrier’s script is punchy and doesn’t delve too deeply into the science details of what these great minds accomplish which could have perhaps put a few off. Certainly there would’ve been the potential to have this spin off into meta-science principles and the deconstruction of the mutant genome in some kind of Jonathan Hickman-kinda way. Instead of filling the page with reams of sci-fi babble though, Spurrier elects to lead with character fun and it’s a triumph as a result. The mystery behind the disturbing events happening on Utopia adds entertainment as well as tension and I really am looking forward to seeing what the next four issues bring with them. 9/10

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