Best Shots Review: X-MEN: PRIME #1 Channels Claremont & Whedon for Classic X-MEN Vibes

"X-Men: Prime" art
Credit: Ardian Syaf / Jay Leisten (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Ardian Syaf / Jay Leisten (Marvel Comics)

X-Men: Prime #1
Written by Marc Guggenheim, Greg Pak and Cullen Bunn
Art by Ken Lashley, Ibraim Roberson, Leonard Kirk, Guillermo Ortego, Morry Hollowell, Frank D’Armata and Michael Garland
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Matthew Sibley
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

In the run up to “ResurrXion,” the joint Inhumans/X-Men relaunch following Inhumans vs. X-Men, the influence of Chris Claremont’s tenure has been pertinent — that much was made clear from how the flagship books were titled X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold, reminiscent of one era from Claremont's expansive run. But having now read X-Men: Prime, the launch for this new line also feels like it’s taking cues from Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men.

As Kitty Pryde acts as the readers' eyes and ears to this brand new era, the Claremont parallels are there from the start — the opening pages recall Kitty's first appearance, from her inner monologue about dancing, to Storm’s arrival to speak with her. But like many readers, Kitty's spent time away from the X-Men in recent years, and her jumping into the deep end allows for some grounding in this introductory issue. This isn’t the only story contained within the issue — there are tastes of Weapon X and X-Men: Blue in addition to Gold in X-Men: Prime #1— but unlike other issues which serve to establish the status-quo and offer a metaphorical deli platter to sample, X-Men: Prime's stories are weaved into the fabric of the book. The first of these teases feels like an interlude which quickly establishes the tone of Weapon X and offers an enticing end, while the original five X-Men who star in X-Men: Blue find themselves more ingrained in Kitty’s story.

Unlike Inhumans: Prime #1, written solely by Al Ewing and also released this week, X-Men: Prime #1 is credited to three writers – Marc Guggenheim, Cullen Bunn and Greg Pak. While it’s normally possible to identify a weak link in anthology stories due to the nature of the stories being separate, here the whole issue feels strong. The tease for Weapon X comes abruptly, but functions better in the place that it falls than it would 10 pages later. The same cohesion applies to the art. Ken Lashley handles the majority of the issue and illustrates that he knows when panels need to be detailed in certain ways. An early discussion in a coffee shop sees the other patrons fleshed out, but a later meet-up between Kitty and another takes place in a more vivid location so he puts his effort toward the landscape. Ibraim Roberson’s art for the Weapon X section packs a sufficient punch even if the characters feel a little rigid, while Leonard Kirk and Guillermo Ortego make for a kinetic scenario in the Danger Room. With a multitude of colorists involved, it’s possible to determine distinct sections, but the structure makes this feel natural, instead of happening mid-sequence.

Which brings us to the Astonishing X-Men comparison. At the turn of the century, Grant Morrison came aboard and told a story that kicked off dealing with the threat of extinction. Not everyone moved to its rhythms to begin with, and the ones that stuck with it may have had issues with once one of Morrison's villains was revealed. Recently, the X-Men have again been dealing with the threat of extinction. The conclusion to Inhumans vs. X-Men may have soured people who read it all on trying the relaunch. Back then, Morrison was followed by Whedon and Cassaday. I don’t make this comparison in service of making the claim that this is as good as the first issue of Astonishing, but instead because they suggest a similar direction. In 2004, Kitty returned to the mansion with a tongue-in-cheek vibe about how nothing had changed while superimposed in panels recalling classic Claremont moments. In 2017, Kitty returns to the X-Mansion to get the lay of land with clear echoes of where she was first started.

Storm states, “We’ve been so consumed with surviving today, we’ve forgotten how to live for tomorrow.” As a result, everyone involved in “ResurrXion” appears to have set a direction for the X-Men, and have taken this launch issue to demonstrate it. The reason that comics readers come to the X-Men in their adolescence is because a family that’s a little strange, but welcoming is a welcome prospect. And there’s nothing wrong with being aware that we’ll struggle at times, or that the X-Men have to contend with the threat of extinction every now and again, but it’s also smart to take some time to think ahead with a sense of optimism. Which is what this issue has, and inspires. Sure, we could worry that this is too much of a tilt in the other direction, that overcompensation has gone too far, but that feels like we’d be missing the message of this issue and how warm it feels today.

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