Written by Brian Wood
Art by Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales and Laura Martin
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Go on. Call X-Men the "girl book." Go on. I dare you.
There's been a lot of talk over the last few years about women in comics (both as creators and as characters), but damn if Marvel doesn't put their money where their collective mouths are with this series. You've got an all-female cast of X-Men - arguably Marvel's most women-friendly team - you tie into Grant Morrison's New X-Men mythology, and you put superstar Olivier Coipel on the art?
In other words, Marvel's not simply trying to guilt you or appeal to your progressive streak for this book. No. They're just trying to make it the best damn book it possibly can be. And while there are a few hiccups in this first issue, this is definitely a strong new addition to Marvel's already robust X-Men franchise.
The big double-edged sword of X-Men is, in a lot of ways, what has always plagued this team, which is the fact that it's already assumed you know all the players involved, their powers and their histories. Brian Wood writes a team that feels not just comfortable with each other, but a team that feels like they've been working together for years - something that speaks highly of the chemistry and decades of continuity involved between these characters. Rogue's self-assurance at being able to handle a runaway train, for example, is a refreshing take on one of Marvel's increasingly more prominent heroines (along with Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch and Shadowcat), and there's a nice beat with Psylocke acting as a psychic sniper protecting the Jean Grey School from harm.
But the big curveball on this book is artist Olivier Coipel. When Marvel announced that Coipel would be working on this book - as opposed to, say, one of the blockbuster Avengers titles, or even Brian Michael Bendis's flagship X-books - I was a bit stunned. But this is proof of how much Marvel wants this book to succeed. Coipel makes most of his pages look truly dynamic, which is no mean feat considering that there's a decent amount of dialogue on every page. Jubilee in particular steals the show with her sheer expressiveness (as does her baby of mass destruction), and I really like the phasing effects for Shadowcat. That said, Coipel does occasionally bite off more than he can chew, particularly on a page where Rogue derails a runaway train - the action is so fast and the panels are so distant that it's difficult to understand what's going on. Additionally, colorist Laura Martin has a rare misfire, with much of her color palette getting dinged by distracting greens, purples and aqua blues.
Yet at the same time, those looking to jump into the X-Men mythos with fresh eyes might also read this as if it were in ancient Greek. You have to basically take it at face value that Rogue has the powers of strength and flight, because Wood doesn't spoon-feed it to you, and things like Storm running the Jean Grey School or Jubilee's recent convoluted history of being a depowered mutant/vampire/apparent teen mother aren't addressed in this particular issue. Additionally, even with Coipel on-board for this book, you do wind up feeling like there is actually more action to this book than there really is - this book is mainly exposition, but the team dynamic is written so well and the main threat is built up so confidently that it's easy to overlook.
The unaddressed question of X-Men, however, is this - no one really talks about it being an all-women team. No one in the book really even seems to notice. And that's a sort of weird, damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't kind of place that X-Men falls into right now. Does this book want to be known as Marvel's premiere women's book? Does it want to just be an awesome book that happens to star just women? However Brian Wood and Marvel answer, there will be fans up in arms, but I'm hopeful that the creative team holds enough courage in their convictions to make a stand one way or the other. Either way, if you're looking for a stylishly drawn, fast-paced team book that's strong enough for a man, but X-gene positive for a woman, then X-Men is definitely a book to watch.