I love the X-Men in concept more than I like their actual comics. I grew up with the animated series on Fox Kids, feeling a strong attachment to the characters and their struggles. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve found that almost all X-Men comics fail to entertain me. I feel like there’s some sort of spark missing that the TV show got right but most comics fail to capture (and no, these aren’t nostalgia goggles: I’ve watched episode of the show as an adult that I missed as a child and enjoy them quite a bit). One exception to this was Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men which I feel did everything right with these characters.
Flash forward to a few months ago when I heard Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel were set to relaunch the X-Men, focusing on team members Jubilee, Psylocke, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey, and my favorite, Rogue. I eagerly awaited this new series, which I hoped could capture my imagination. I loved issue #1, but issue #2 was, at best, mediocre. Could the final issue of the first arc recapture the high quality of the first issue and rekindle my love of the X-Men?
Our heroines race to stop Arkea, Sublime’s sister who has possessed Omega Sentinenl Karima Shapandar, from taking over the world. While Arkea infects the Jean Grey School and turns the Danger Room against the students and headmistress Kitty Pryde, the rest of the team head to a European hospital for patients with cybernetic implants, most of whom Arkea has taken over. Can our heroes stop this mad virus before it’s too late?
All right, if that plot summary above sounded weird and convoluted to you, we’re in the same boat. Frankly, the plot of this first arc is rather poor. The X-Men are fighting against a sentient virus that has taken over machines and wants to rule the world…for some reason. Honestly, we’re given very little justification for her goals, other than some vague idea along the lines of “I originated on Earth so I should rule it.” Furthermore, John Sublime is a fairly esoteric X-villain, and thus connecting an enemy to him is a poor choice for new readers or lapsed old fans.
Even if Wood’s plot is weak and hard to follow, his writing is not bad in-and-of itself. He gives the main characters well-defined voices, and it’s clear he understands exactly wh0 these ladies are based on their histories. I think he’s especially on the nose with the way he writes both Storm and Jubilee. His pacing varies from on the nose to all over the place, so I’d have to say it’s middle of the road: there are some scene transitions and time shifts I wish were smoother, and others that are absolutely perfect. The resolution of the conflict with villain Arkea, however, sadly falls into the “horrendously rushed and poorly explained” category.
Coipel’s art is the one thing about this comic which I cannot complain about. The characters he draws look great, his backgrounds are detailed and well-defined, and his action sequences are enjoyable. The art greatly enhances the story-telling, making some otherwise dull scenes enjoyable or even, I dare say, memorable.
There are a few cases in this issue, however, where I wish the creative team would show and not tell. I don’t know whether this was Wood’s, Coipel’s, or perhaps an editor’s choice, but ultimately it detracted from the comic. In one instance, Bling is set to smash down a door…but instead we’re given a blank page with smashing sound effects, which is beyond lazy. The second example comes when the students are fighting Arkea’s drones, and we’re told about Bling fighting a bunch of them, but we’re not shown any of it. Perhaps Coipel is unsure of how to draw Bling while fighting, but that’d be a poor excuse at best. Honestly, when I pay $4 for a 20 page comic, I’d damn well better get 20 pages of art, not 19 of art and one with cheap sound effects.
Overall, X-Men #3 is not a great comic, it’s not even a good comic. Regrettably, this issue misses the mark and fails to deliver what could be the best X-book on the shelves. It’s clear Wood can write well and understands these characters, and Coipel’s drawings perfectly fit these characters and the mood of the title. Regrettably, there are too many pitfalls to save this issue from being called anything but mediocre. I wouldn’t reccommend buying this issue, though flipping through to see Coipel’s art is worth your time.
-excellent art by Coipel
-great voice for the characters
-appearence by lesser-seen mutants at the Jean Grey School (Bling, Armor, Pixie, etc.)
-too much telling without showing
-poor exposition and explanation of villain’s motivation
-expensive at $4 for 20 pages of story (really 19, given the full-black sound effect page)
Brett Simon is a twenty-three year old comic enthusiast. His mutant powers are snark and pun generation.
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