Mr. and Mrs. X

Marvel’s X-family of titles experienced their own fresh start of sorts, in last year’s ResurrXion event. The publishing initiative, coming on the heels of the Inhumans vs. X-Men throwdown, seemed like a concerted effort to realign Marvel’s media focus on the mutants, and away from the Inhumans. In light of Marvel Studios’ spectacular failure at making the Inhumans live-action relevant, ResurrXion feels more like a precursor to the thorough housecleaning we’re now experiencing. I’ll read Death of the Inhumans for Cates & Olivetti, but I can’t help but cringe when I consider the editorial tantrum that seems to have started the fire.

Even when the “resurrXted” books segued into Marvel’s Legacy season, the titles felt diluted and stale. The art on some of the later X-Men: Gold and Blue books in particular was atrocious and spoke to a general apathy towards the mutant corner of the Marvel universe, something that the initiative was specifically trying to dispel.

In other words, Marvel’s current line-wide Fresh Start, now in its thirteenth week, couldn’t have come at a better time for the X-books. And the architects of a genuinely fresh approach to these titles are themselves rather new to the scene. After flexing his muscles on Phoenix Resurrection, Matthew Rosenberg continues to build his mutant cred with an excellent New Mutants series and the new Multiple Man mini. He’s poised to make a bigger dent, partnered with Greg Land, as the regular writer on Astonishing X-Men.

Mariko Tamaki, who penned an excellent She-Hulk-fronted Hulk title, is leading the charge with the new X-23 book, the first issue of which has immediately endeared me to Laura Kinney and her sister Gabby.

And then there’s Kelly Thompson. Fresh off an Eisner best-series nomination for Hawkeye, Thompson brought her brand of sharp, witty dialogue woven through a fun fast-paced caper to the Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire five-issue series. When a creator cares about certain characters as much as Thompson does these two off-again, on-again lovers, it shows. The follow-up is an X-book I had no idea I wanted to see, until I held that goofy cover in my hands. Mr. and Mrs. X #1, out this week, by Thompson and artist Oscar Bazaldua, is a welcome addition to the revitalized stable of mutant titles.

The bulk of this first issue deals with the aftermath of the wedding that wasn’t — Kitty and Colossus’s ill-fated nuptials in X-Men: Gold #30 — and the wedding that is. What at first seems odd, opening a series with Gambit and Rogue tying the knot and then tying up bedsheets for several steamy honeymoon pages, ends up feeling marvelously apropos. The book is “Mr. and Mrs,” after all (and I suspect they’ll drop the silly “X” at some point, since that was created during the solicitation period to avoid spoilers regarding the climax of Gold #30… which leaked spoilers anyway, and… whatever) and a good married couple sitcom should open with a wedding, if not in the first episode, than at least in the titles sequence. Before this first issue has drawn to a close, the hijinks heat up thanks to the Imperial Guard, our old Excalibur pal Cerise, and a surprising an unnecessary guest star (are we back to every goddam Marvel book needing Deadpool?)

For what it’s worth, this book seems to be in the process of establishing a mutant romantic comedy. Leave the angst, existentialism, and social commentary to the other X-books. Thompson, maybe in large part due to the way Rogue and Gambit were portrayed on the animated series, has channeled the charming soap operatic elements that were the other hallmark of the Claremont and Byrne era. Bazaldua is perfectly suited to this type of book, with a clean, fluid art style that is much more at home among 80’s pencilers like Byrne, Paul Smith, and Alan Davis than the kinetic X-frenzy of the 90’s and beyond.

Again, this is mutant-mini-team book I didn’t know I was excited to see until I’d actually held it in my hands. More exciting, however, is the thought that, moving forward, folks like Thompson, Tamaki, Rosenberg, and Tom Taylor (X-Men: Red), have the future of Marvel’s mutantverse in their hands.

July 18 | New Release Highlights | Aug 1