Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Sunny Gho
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: October 16, 2019
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
“I’m done focusing on the things that want me dead - and I’m choosing to spend my days focused on the things that make me want to live.”
Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Leinil Francis Yu team up for the official relaunch of X-Men, and for those who enjoyed Hickman’s work on House of X, you’re in for some smooth sailing, as we get to see the Children of the Atom’s new status quo through the ruby quartz-tinted eyes of Scott Summers and his strange X-tended family. Similar to the previous issues of House of X, X-Men #1 doesn’t feel like an action-packed romp by any stretch of the imagination - armed with the same cerebral tendencies of the earlier series, this instead feels like both a bridge and a palate cleanser for the upcoming X-Men adventures ahead.
Ask many an X-Men fan, and they’ll tell you that Scott Summers has gotten a raw deal over the past few decades - left the mother of his child for his ex (and then cheated on said ex elsewhere), killed off early in X-Men: The Last Stand, turned into a Phoenix-powered dictator, generally plagued by his own inner demons and self-doubt… you get the picture. But even with Cyclops’ comparatively small role in House of X, you could see Hickman zero in on the character, giving him a sense of confidence and resoluteness that couldn’t help but add some steel to this X-Man’s spine.
But it’s seeing how Hickman starts to spin out the X-Men’s new status quo branching out from their optic blast-wielding field commander that might raise some eyebrows, for better or for worse. Namely, the so-called nuclear family feels like it’s getting its own set of mutant twists, as a few choice lines of dialogue show Cyclops building deeper relationships, including a deep respect for Magneto and a perhaps unsurprising connection with Magneto’s daughter Polaris. (Given that Cyclops is the closest thing to a son Charles Xavier has, Scott and Lorna have plenty in common, as the next generation of mutantkind’s leaders.) Like much of Hickman’s X-Men stories, there’s just enough normalcy amongst the weird - or perhaps vice versa - to draw readers in but to simultaneously keep them off-balance and on their toes.
Interesting, artist Leinil Francis Yu excels most at Hickman’s quiet moments, even if the brief bursts of action can’t help but feel a little static under his pen. Just like Hickman, Yu’s best moments are with Cyclops and Magneto, who have a sureness of purpose to their poses and their body language that make them seem imposing and heroic - yet the book’s front half does stumble a bit, because Yu can’t quite sell the action moments. (In particular, Magneto and Polaris have beats that probably would come across as powerful and kinetic with another artist, but Yu pulls back so much and portrays movement so inconsistently that these moments fail to register.) Luckily for all involved, Hickman’s scripts don’t necessarily rely on the action, and to his credit, Yu summons a lot of warmth for the X-Men themselves as they simply enjoy each other’s company post-mission.
There’s a level of deliberateness and world-building to Hickman’s X-Men that I think paves over any inconsistencies in execution in pacing - indeed, harping too heavily on any shortcomings in the action sequence is kind of missing the point. Given how high the stakes have been in House of X and Powers of X, it makes sense to bring things down to a simmer, especially since Hickman can act as a smooth launchpad for the rest of the X-Men series coming out over the next month. While this isn’t as radical a reinvention as some of Hickman’s previous issues, he and Yu continue the franchise’s hot streak in X-Men #1.