31 May 2013

Cover To Cover: X-MEN #1

X-MEN #1
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Oh jeez. Really? Another main X-title restart/reboot after throwing all of the numberings and longboxes into disarray just a few years ago?! More mutant hi-jinx involving the Jean Grey school? And Storm and Psylocke are going to be a big main focus part of the team? Well I’ve got Uncanny X-Men/Wolverine and the X-Men/Uncanny X-Force for all of my needs there so I think I’ll be passi.... wait, WHAT?? Brian Wood AND Olivier Coipel are teaming up to do it?? Oh that’s alright then, sign me up!

Joking at Marvel's publishing plan aside, X-Men #1 is a strong debut from the Wood/Coipel team that I suspected might start the series off in an explosive, whirlwind ‘Hollywood’ style of huge vistas, thunderclouds and tremendous fireballs thanks in the main to the participation of the French superstar artist’s flair for portraying such grand carnage visually. What we actually have delivered to us however, is a far more subtle and tense introduction to a story which will probably hand over the eye-flooding destruction at a later date. Wood starts off with the high level idea of a persistent antagonist to the X-Men over the last publishing decade, having been part of a pair of siblings at the very start of life in the universe and how the return of the mysterious ‘sister’ of that kinship could signal a devastating path of revenge and destruction.

From there he takes things straight to a very low-key, emotional and tense tone as we’re reunited with wandering vampire and former X-Woman, Jubilee, as she appears to be fleeing from a darker corner of Europe with, somewhat surprisingly, a tiny bundle (of joy?) in tow. It’s a great opening which throws personal mystery in alongside the sense of a potent threat looming and it exemplifies the way Wood seems to tackle his comic writing with precision in the delivery of the unpredictable. He pays attention to the work done by Jason Aaron in his Wolverine & The X-Men title by indulging in a little bout of powered teenage hormones within the halls of the Jean Grey school and that helps to establish just where Jubilee is running and the family that she is seeking refuge within.
From there he whips out a fun sequence of moderate confusion and peril that allows the X-Women, Storm, Kitty and Rogue to play to their strengths and Olivier Coipel to flex his pencilling muscle. I’ll admit that the resolvement of that particular predicament was not the clearest thing I’ve ever seen Coipel depict, but it looked damn fine nonetheless. And it goes a long way in a short space of time to highlight just how honed and competent these female mutants are. There’s a sense of urgency to their actions and some doubt, but little in the way of fear and it’s a great nod to their collective experience in tight spots.

From a personal perspective I'm glad to see that Rachel Grey is going to be getting more time on the page as I think she's been criminally underused since returning from her jaunts in deep space and likewise it's good to have Jubilee back in the team after her time away. The important thing will be how Wood crafts any tension and disagreements between his team of X-Women and I hope that we find them all at loggerheads at some stage rather than rolling on like some well oiled, Sentinel-crushing machine.

This truly has ‘premium X-Men extravaganza' written all over it from first page to last and comes at a time where perhaps some of those sister titles in the expansive X-range, who have been in the game for close to half a year or more, are starting to flag just a little after promising starts. The antagonists are interesting and one of them should hopefully provide this series with a needed sense of peril in this opening three-issue arc. Coipel definitely drums home that top quality feeling with his electric visual storytelling and Wood’s dialogue is punchy while the plot is exciting and full of potential. 8/10

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