X-Men: Gold feels like an X-Men book. That should come as no surprise, but with Marvel’s current emphasis on huge crossovers and Inhuman conflicts, the X-Books have been left on the back burner. As a longtime fan of the most allegorical team in superhero history, it feels amazing to finally have some X-Men comics that feel like the stories of old. From page one, Marc Guggenheim is telling a classic mutant story. The team is in the middle of Manhattan, fighting Terrax, being judged by the crowd of onlookers even after saving their lives, usual X-Men stuff. That’s just it though, usual X-Men stuff has been so thoroughly disregarded that just having an issue begin like one would expect is actually a massive shock. The simplest way to explain why X-Men: Gold is so good is the last page of the first issue. The team is face to face with a mysterious threat, strange beings who reveal themselves with an immortal line, “We’re the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.”
I really enjoyed the first issues of both Astonishing X-Men and X-Men Gold, but these last few months I’ve seen a consistency in the quality of writing and art in Blue that sets it apart from the other solid X-Men books. While each one has its own roster of celebrity X-Men, Blue’s team hits at something elemental in the franchise, focusing on the original five-person roster from the seminal Kirby/Lee stories. Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman and Angel were all sucked from their original timeline in 2012 as part of the All-New X-Men title, and in Blue, writer Cullen Bunn skillfully juggles the relationship dynamics and Civil Rights commentary that are a signature aspect of good X-men stories, while also dealing with the challenges that arise when time travel and alternate universes are involved. The way all these separate facets of the current X-men universe are combined into something narratively cohesive, as well as the great artwork by Jorge Molina, makes Blue one of the most rewarding capes ‘n’ tights books I’ve read in awhile.
What makes this book stand out from the other X-titles is how the subsequent storylines reinforce the character arcs and themes introduced in the first issue. Magneto’s role as the X-Men’s benefactor is a device that’s been used before to subvert the familiar in X-books, but by pairing the historied Magneto with the team of inexperienced original X-men, Bunn has the opportunity to look at covered ground from a different perspective. Not only is the issue of trust a factor between the former foes, but whether or not people have the power to change and shape their own destiny is a huge question for all of these X-Men. While they struggle with their decision to trust the reformed Magneto, they encounter the future Sentinel, Bastion, who has also changed cosmetically, but is later revealed to have more sinisterly convoluted plans than ever before.
Growing up X-men was my favorite. I don’t know what it was about those mutant storylines, but I couldn’t get enough. Maybe it had something to do with the set of X-men trading cards that MMDG planted on my bookshelf before I was even old enough to read. Needless to say, when ResurrXion was announced I was over the moon.
Ranking a few of these was tough. In fact, after reading the second issue of Astonishing X-Men and looking back, I should have rated this higher on my list. Then again, I wanted my rankings to be based solely on my first impression of each first issue.
I’m getting sidetracked— let’s start with saying Astonishing X-Men DELIVERS. This is a classic X-men story and the first issue sets it up for success in my eyes. It has been a while since I have read anything X-men related and this particular story didn’t leave me feeling like I was missing any large pieces of information in order to appreciate it. We have the powerful Psylocke, and every telepath on the planet, being threatened by an outside force which causes her to reach out to the closest X-men she can count on.
I initially reacted with a little disbelief upon hearing that this Black Bolt series was the Inhuman king’s first solo series. Brought to life by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in the pages of Fantastic Four in 1965, Blackagar Boltagon and his compatriots have been central figures in a multitude of mighty Marvel storylines for decades. But he’s never fronted his own title? Hell, even his damn dog got to star in Lockjaw and The Pet Avengers back in ’09. Then I quickly realized, well… a protagonist who can level a building with a whisper probably won’t factor well in a dialogue-rich comic book. Or, a comic with any dialogue, really. He’s always relied upon Medusa or another member of the royal family to translate a series of stern gazes and austere gestures. And a book featuring even one of those folks wouldn’t really be a Black Bolt solo title anymore, would it?
The question regarding how much dialogue this series would contain, or how it would be handled, was just one of the mysteries tucked inside that gorgeously ominous cover to issue #1. If this was meant to fold into the current ResurrXion continuity, how might a solo book work? Wasn’t Black Bolt rocketing through the galaxy with his family, searching for ancient Inhuman secrets? Or was this going to be a flashback series a la Gamora? With the upcoming debut of ABC’s Inhumans series, was this just a substance-less ploy to generate rack awareness and promote the television property? And what about this creative team? Saladin Ahmed has good sci-fi and fantasy credentials, but this was going to be the novelist’s first comic. That could go one of two ways (see Ta-Nehisi Coates versus Geoffrey Thorne). Did Christian Ward, with a résumé of beautiful covers and amazing fill-in work on Al Ewing’s Ultimates under his belt, have the chops to fully illustrate a monthly book? And, maybe most importantly, solo series or not, were we going to see Lockjaw?
Being a part of these Marvel continuity projects can be both fun and challenging at the same time. Serving as the very part-time comics reader of the group, I sometimes get overwhelmed by the intersecting storylines and character arcs of heroes and villains I don’t know much about. X-Men though? X-Men I can handle.
While I’m pretty familiar with most of the original characters (like the rest of the group, I loved Blue and Gold), I was most excited to read some of these X-books that I was less familiar with, and Weapon X by Greg Pak and Greg Land turned out to be one the best.
Sina Grace & Alessandro Vitti
No humor whatsoever would be preferable to what passes for jokes in Iceman. And acknowledging that something is a “dad joke” doesn’t make the inclusion of one acceptable. Everything in Iceman falls flat. Dumb art? Check. Constant hamfisted reminders of Bobby’s homosexuality starting on page 1? Check. Way too much dialogue in unimportant scenes to the point where half the page is dialogue bubbles? Check. Overused devices like starting a book out with someone questioning themselves before answering “check”? Check. This book is terrible. Read anything else. – IP
This book misses every pitch. I get why someone would want to make a Classic X-man that has been retroactively written as gay more appealing to contemporary audiences, but the whole “dating-profile” device is super lame. Iceman is both literally and figuratively cool. Dude would be on Grindr or Tinder or something. If you’re gonna do it, fucking commit. Seeing Iceman go on an awkward Grindr date could be much more effective at getting these themes across, rather than traversing the typical tropes of disapproving parents and self-discomfort. After Bobby trains himself, why doesn’t he ask younger Bobby some questions about being gay? There’s an interesting conversation. And are we just gonna avoid the whole masturbating question? If young Bobby and future Bobby were to mess around….what would it be considered? Where’s that joke? – tyrannofloresrex
Collection: Iceman, Vol. 1 (January 2018)
Tom Taylor & Leonard Kirk
beginning with #19
I really like the dynamic of Laura and her clone Gabby as a team. The alien virus crash-landing on Roosevelt Island was a little unoriginal, but the fact that the virus was transmitted by an innocent child with some kind of connection to Laura, made it a bit more intriguing. I’d want to keep reading this. Also, Governor’s Ball is definitely cancelled. – hltchk
I really like Laura, but she seems to be stuck in a recycle. Wolverine built a huge fanbase off of solo books as a mentor to younger, equally deadly characters, including X-23, and it just seems really uninventive to throw Laura in the same situation so soon. – tyrannofloresrex
Collection: All-New Wolverine vol. 4: Immune (December)
Despite receiving considerably less fanfare than any of their regularly scheduled publishing initiatives, like All-New All-Different or the forthcoming Legacy, Marvel’s recent refresh on their mutant and Inhuman books has not only shown some sorely needed love to these teams and characters, but produced some wholly entertaining titles as well. The first few months of ResurrXion, rising out of the ashes of Death of X and Inhumans vs. X-Men, has given us thirteen new series or storyline kickoffs.
It’s a good time to shine a spotlight on these two venerable Marvel properties. Fox’s X-movies are still popular as hell, with current buzz building for the Deadpool sequel. FX’s Legion series was fantastic, and their network mutant show, The Gifted, looks promising. Marvel Studios has been forcing Inhumanity down our throats for a few years now, but with the highly anticipated debut of ABC’s Inhumans show this fall, the royal family finally takes center stage. Nothing against Daisy Johnson or that creepy porcupine monster that Ruth Negga turned into, but we want to see Black Bolt and Lockjaw! Continue reading Marvel’s ResurrXion Ranked
Marvel’s mutant refresh, the ResurrXion initiative, hits the eight-week mark and, with it, our first look at a younger batch of X-Men hopefuls. Surprisingly, however, we’re not getting another New Mutants book, but a new volume of that other teenage mutant title. Christina Strain and Amilcar Pinna debut Generation X #1 this week, and it’s more angst-riddled than ever. Jubilee is back, this time as a mentor, for a team of wonderfully goofy mutants, none of whom seem to have the slightest concern about one day saving the world, much less upholding Professor Xavier’s dream of mutant-human harmony.
Strain started her comic book career as a colorist, most notably on another Marvel book of young, powered misfits, Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways. She has since been honing her writing chops on a SyFy television series, and makes her return to comics by walking us into the new Xavier Institute, in classic welcome-hope-you-survive fashion.
We’re in week 7 of Marvel’s ResurreXion initiative, the mutant and Inhuman refresh that rose from the ashes of the IvX clash. And while the X-books are enjoying some well-deserved attention, they still are basically left to operate in their own arena, while the Inhumans, as the latest property darling of Marvel Studios, continue to be shoehorned into every event and cross-title storyline they can. Case in point: the new Secret Warriors book by Matthew Rosenberg and Javier Garrón. Directly connected to the Secret Empire event, Daisy Johnson, AKA Quake, rallies a team of fellow Inhumans to oppose the Hydra takeover and occupation.
As Rosenberg will admit in his afterword to issue #1, he’s a relative newcomer to comic book writing, with even less experience working in the superhero genre. But he, like many of us, grew up with Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, and all the rest of those wonderful larger-than-life members of the Mighty Marvel pantheon. His reverence shows; his enthusiasm is obvious. And fresh off the Rocket Raccoon and Kingpin series in Marvel’s recent NOW! relaunch, not to mention the outstanding 4 Kids Walk into a Bank for Black Mask, Rosenberg has pulled together a very intriguing roster for his first full-on foray into capes-n-tights team books.
Both Marvel and DC have engaged a number of prominent novelists and screenwriters over the last few years, giving these writers their first opportunity to pilot a monthly comic book series. Invariably, every one of them opens a press conference or interview with the same caveat: I don’t know what I’m doing, but I love comics and I love these characters. It’s been hit or miss for the most part; comics is its own storytelling medium, and it often takes time for a writer to ably adapt his or her voice to accommodate the differences. But once in a great while, an author really figures things out. No growing pains, no collaboration difficulties, and no real sense of inexperience. A year ago, Ta-Nehisi Coates took the reins of a heralded Black Panther relaunch and delivered one of the best superhero comics on the shelf. But he hasn’t stopped there: there’s an entire corner of the Marvel Universe that has expanded and thrived under his direction. First with a further exploration of Panther‘s supporting cast members and Wakandan folklore in World of Wakanda, and now, this week, Coates flexes his muscles beyond the homeland in Black Panther & The Crew #1.
Inspired by the orignal “Crew” story from Christopher Priest’s Panther run, Coates has partnered with Yona Harvey (another esteemed writer from a different medium quickly proving her mettle in the comics biz) and veteran artist Butch Guice to showcase street-level superheroics in a very different jungle: New York City.