It only took about 50 years for the heads at Marvel to come up with the idea of creating an X-Men book with a team composed solely of women. How many of the greatest X-Men stories were driven by the X-Women? Looking back at decades worth of stories that involved Jean Grey turning into the Dark Phoenix, Kitty Pryde going back in time in Days of Future Past, the Scarlet Witch wiping out most of mutantkind, and the recent developments surrounding Hope, it’s not unfounded to expect this X-Men book to come through with solid characterizations and epic stories.
With that said, the first issue begins with the ominous origin story of Sublime, an ancient super bacterium currently living in an infected human host, calling itself John Sublime. When Sublime first came into existence, as the story goes, it had a twin which was cast out before Sublime landed on Earth.
X-Men #1 sets up a family reunion between Sublime and his sister, and the X-Men led by Storm and featuring Rogue, Psylocke, Rachel, Kitty Pryde, and Jubilee come into contact with an infant whose presence at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning threatens to upheave all life on the planet.
It’s very reminiscent of the first Astonishing X-Men story arc that brought into play epic entanglements with the potential for incredibly large crises. The return of Jubilee to her home brings back a popular character with emotional weight, and that adds to the drama because this title is loaded with superheroines with complex histories.
Brian Wood puts together a fantastic first issue with plot threads branching out — student affairs come into play when Mercury throws the first punch at Bling. New powers for Rogue open up different plans and tactics allowing for a modern chemistry displayed by the team as it rushes to Jubilee’s aid.
It’s no origin story for the team, but it is a setup for an epic event that gives the team clout, provided it survives a possible extinction event. And if the team loses or gains a few members, it will hopefully do so with tact and development without losing its focus and gaining male teammates to muddy the mix.
Hopefully, Wood keeps his hands free from the kiddie gloves — this team deserves respect and plots that show how powerful these characters really are without resorting to stereotypes. A feminine version of the X-Men doesn’t need to be softer or safer — it just needs to be good.
Penciller Olivier Coipel, whose artwork brings to mind the X-Men days of Whilce Portacio and Jim Lee, does a fine job with a style that makes the characters attractive without resorting to dressing the X-Men in lingerie. Besides Storm, all of the action-ready characters are clothed from head to toe with only their faces exposed. Whether this is a conscious decision by Coipel and the creative team remains to be seen, and the results should be applauded for several reasons. Without relying on sexual gimmicks, X-Men #1 stands tall because of its plotting and practical character design.
While Shadowcat’s classic-styled outfit hearkens back to her character’s earlier years — it’s the most conservative costume of them all in that sense — the other suits match the personalities and exhibit function over form detailing. Psylocke finally has a look that doesn’t scream bikini-ninja, and Rogue looks comfortable in her tunic-hoodie with its trademark green. Storm, in her fashion-forward dress, looks regal, strong, and — this is worth pointing out — threatening.
The emphasis on clothing in this review shouldn’t construe any ideas that X-Men #1 is a fashion show. This book succeeds based on story, and the mentioned character design changes as well as the direction moving forward show what kind of value the creative team places on this team and its individual members.
The appearance of Arkea Prime at the end of the issue is perfect and loaded with intrigue. Her place in the Marvel universe will be determined by how well Woods develops her in this story arc, and she looks primed and ready to throw down. So far, X-Men is so good. This isn’t the Uncanny, Astonishing, or the Adventures of X-Men.
This is just X-Men. Substantial, exciting, and a sight to behold.
Next Issue: X-Men #2 Review