There is no shortage of X-Men titles coming out of Marvel, and so, at first glance the release of yet another mutant-centric book may seem like a bit like overkill. That’s understandable until you take a closer look at the concept and team behind X-Men #1. The newest X-title comes from the mind of indie-darling Brian Wood (The Massive, DMZ, Mara, Star Wars) and superstar artist Olivier Coipel who bring together an all-female team of Xavier’s former students.
The previews for the book have featured an intriguing group of characters including Storm, Psylocke, Rogue, Rachel Grey, Kitty Pryde and Jubilee - many of whom have been redesigned in tasteful and decidedly uncomicbook ways - and all the advanced interviews with Mr. Wood seem to promise a respectful take on these much-maligned female protagonists. But marketing and good will can only take a book so far, so the question is, does X-Men #1 deliver on all the lofty promises it has made? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.”
Writer Brian Wood has crafted a wonderful piece of pop art, one that eschews the potential gimmicky nature of an all-female X-Men book. He gives the reader a rollicking, high-action, mystery story that renders the gender of its characters immaterial to its enjoyment. This is a Marvel team book at its best, as Wood wastes no time showing off his team’s varied power set.
It was exhilarating to see Rogue flying at high speeds and to watch Psylocke attempt to subdue a threat with a psionic bow and arrow. You usually don’t get this kind of action in a first issue, and its inclusion was a welcome change. Because of this there isn’t a lot of chill out time in the issue, but Wood effectively conveys a lot of our heroes’ most dominant traits through the aforementioned brisk action beats. I’m especially excited to see how he handles Psylocke, whose attitude and abilities render her unique in the X-Men universe. He also introduces to a villain whom I don’t know, but who has the potential to bring a whole new wrinkle to the Jean Grey School. The writer also proves that you don’t need Wolverine and Cyclops in the mix to construct an awesome team of mutants.
The other half of this blockbuster debut is artist Olivier Coipel. His work in X-Men #1 is as stunning as ever. Coipel is one of those pencilers able to render realistic, emotional faces while still bringing a sense of fun and style to every panel. From an action scene aboard a runaway train, to a simple conversation between old friends, the art in this first issue is simply stellar. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the gorgeous color work from Laura Martin, whose rich, diverse pallet gives the book a large part of its personality.
X-Men #1 is another standout entry in the Marvel NOW! initiative. Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel bring an immensely satisfying first offering to the table. It’s a book that is not only full of the high-flying histrionics we come to expect from an X-title, but one that promises to deliver fresh stories from underused characters. This is one of those titles that reminds us what big comic book storytelling should be, and it’s a must-buy for all comic fans.