Ink: So, maybe you’ve heard. There’s a new X-men comic in town. X-Men #1 (2013) is the first issue of a relaunch which focuses on an all-female team of top-tier X-Men. Marvel’s been teasing a new release since 2012, and since January of this year, it’s been public that it will be an all-female team. Naturally, we over here at LGG were ludicrously excited. The comic has been out for about three weeks now, so we’ve all had time to marinate in it—if you haven’t you can buy it here—and now Lady Saika and I want to share our feels with you.
Saika: The issue opens on Jubilee, who is in Europe and has somehow acquired a baby. She’s trying to get back to the rest of the X-crew, but she’s being followed by a strange man. She calls in reinforcements once she’s back stateside, and one epic train-board chase/fight scene later, the man (revealed to be John Sublime) is in X-custody. However, rather than offering threats, he comes with a warning for the X-men: The baby is apparently not all that it seems, and dark forces from the beginning of time are re-emerging to threaten the Earth. Yikes. As far as plot goes, I think this issue sets up the upcoming conflict really well. There’s a mystery, there’s a threat, there’s a team coming together to deal with both of those things. There is also still a satisfying amount of action, which I think is important for a first issue—too much setup with no actual punching of bad guys can be boring, and has turned me off other series before.
Ink: The comic features some of bossest X-Ladies around, like Storm, Rachel Grey, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Jubilee, and Psylocke. That last one is a bit of a sticking point for me. I historically have not been a very big fan of Psylocke. A conveniently shifting ethnicity, attire which rarely varies from spandex lingerie, for a character typically written with neither the panache nor the intimidation of, say, an Emma Frost (whose lingerie costume is really no better, besides), leave her reduced to a fanboy fetish object. Besides a very few runs, she seems to be a scantily-clad psychic ninja woman whose ethnicity is alternately white and Asian with a personality best described as minimal. If this doesn’t seem like a played-out fantasy to you… well, look, Uncanny X-Force is a good exception. You can read a little about it here and here. But in this volume, while her character doesn’t get a ton of ink in this issue, she also has yet to play into any stereotypes or objectifying elements. Also, in stunning turn of events, she’s wearing pants! Not to mention she’s an unflinching badass right out of the gate, staring down one of the X-Men’s most fearsome enemies without so much as a blink. I’m looking forward to a few more years of well-written Psylocke.
All told, it was savvy of Wood to narrow the scope down to a few characters because it ensures that there’s enough space to develop each of them in the telling of the story. While characters have always been a strength of X-Men comics, the sheer number of them interferes with a genuine and meaningful exploration of each of them. For example, in New X-Men (the 2004 series), a volume that I adored, there were so many focal characters that a lot of time was spent shifting back and forth between who was going to be explored. Sometimes it was Surge, or Dust, or Pixie, or Hellion, or Mercury, or Armor, or Elixir, and the list goes on. One of the cool things about the X-series is that there are so many characters that reducing the world to 198 mutants seems like significant trimming. But we still have 200 characters to talk about, even if depowered mutants hadn’t gained new or different powers, or just flat out gotten their old ones back.
When Jubilee shows up, baby in tow (who in their right mind would give Jubilee a child?!), it raises questions about the child’s future, and the development of the child comes off as linked to its primary caretaker. Whatever obviously big things Wood has in store for this child, Jubilee’s going to be along for the ride. Rachel Grey is coming too, since she’s been made senior staff at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, which seems to imply that the Phoenix Force will somehow be involved, though that’s not to discount her as a character. Rachel is a powerful telepath/telekinetic with her own innate powers and has matured significantly throughout her long tenure with the X-men. It’d be pretty cool to see a female member of the Grey-Summers clan go a whole arc without the Phoenix Force being referenced.
Everything about the issue supports this character development goal. Even the dialogue is character-specific, not just in content, but in tone. Storm is wise, and commanding, but concerned and down to earth like the badass matriarch that she is, while Kitty and Jubilee’s speech is appropriately youthful. Rogue talks like a straight-up action hero.
Saika: Unsurprisingly, a lot of people were up in arms about the all-female team, especially leading the flagship title of the X-franchise. Fearless Defenders‘s author Cullen Bunn got a ton of crap for not including any male Defenders in his book, and that book’s small potatoes next to the Marvel Now relaunch of such a well-known title. There are a few reasons that making this group all ladies is important, though. First of all, the whining dudebros crying about ‘reverse sexism’ are cordially invited to note that Marvel’s online sales portal says that we got this title because we demanded it. The desire for this book was great enough that Marvel decided it couldn’t refuse us, which means that grumpy misogynists are in the minority here. Marvel is a company in the business of making money and they wouldn’t greenlight a series that they didn’t think lacked potential. (As it turns out, they were right to do so, as X-Men #1 was their bestselling title last month.)
Secondly, Marvel’s got a ton of superhero teams that are all male or only feature one token female. The all-female cast does something to counter that history. It’s especially notable because it’s happening in the qualifierless (not All-New, not Astonishing, just straight-up) X-Men #1—it’d be like having an all-female Avengers #1. That gets me to why calling this book X-Men #1 as opposed to X-Women or XX or something was the right move for Marvel. Calling it X-Men normalizes the casting and forces people to accept the book as, well, an X-men book. Although a separate title would have celebrated the female cast, it would also Other them, the implication being that because they are female, they aren’t X-men. Despite none of the characters actually being men, the title X-Men ties these women to the legacy of the X-men through the years and places them on equal footing with any of the male mutant heroes that have led the franchise in the past. Straight from author Brian Wood’s mouth:
“I feel like as far as the X-Men go, the women are the X-Men,” Wood explains. “Cyclops and Wolverine are big names, but taken as a whole, the women kind of rule the franchise. “If you look at the entire world as a whole, it’s the females that really dominate and are the most interesting and cool to look at. When you have a great artist drawing them, they look so amazing and always have.”—To USA Today, via The Mary Sue
Ink: Last, but not least, the art is by French artist Olivier Coipel. You might not recognize his name, but you know his work. He’s credited on both Marvel and DC and has led on titles like The Avengers, The Mighty Thor, House of M, Avengers vs. X-Men, Black Panther, and Siege.
In X-Men #1, he’s on top of his game, and his choices support the choice, by Wood and by Schaefer to make this a character-driven volume. As an artist, he understands how to draw proportion, how to represent body language and facial expressions. There’s a fair amount of differentiation of form here when compared to other comics, though after having to draw Siege, I imagine that this wasn’t that challenging. My point is that through a series of details which are subtle on their own, Coipel succeeds in giving life to six genuinely different main characters on the page. The reader will also note Coipel’s ability to change styles in the middle of an issue to support a given moment in the story. For example, when Rogue, Kitty, Jubilee, and Storm are gathered around the infant, there’s a touching sense of playfulness to the scene, in a comic where, as Saika said, action isn’t in short supply.
It’s worth a note that not only is the cover art (at the head of this post) well done, but it also, to its credit, shows the reader a team of people, not objects, and ones whose powers are much cooler than the Most Common Superpower. We noted with pleasure the sparsity of cleavage and the absence of superhero costumes that are more appropriate for a beach than for fighting world-shattering evils. It’s nice to know that the artist and the author are on the same terms as far as positive depiction of women goes. Also, big shout-out to the 80s Storm reference. I always thought she was cooler with the mohawk.
X Men #2 (2013) will be released on June 26th, 2013, and the teaser is:
The school is on lockdown…but if the bad guys can’t get out, neither can the X-Men!
Pick it up at your favorite comic shop or here online. We have a feeling it’ll be worth it.