Written by Brian Wood, penciled by Olivier Coipel, inked by Mark Morales and Coipel
Marvel Entertainment, $3.99
Rated T+, for ages 12 and up
Given the fact that the older Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, and company’s X-Men comics have long been a breeding ground of Marvel’s best-known superheroines—Marvel never had their own Wonder Woman, but the X-Men gave them the likes of Storm, Kitty Pryde and Rogue—and the fact that there have been so many dozens of different groupings of various X-Mean into so many different teams n so many different comic book series before, it’s sort of shocking this exact premise has never come up before: An X-Men book starring an all-female line-up.
That is how the newest X-Men series, just called X-Men, with no adjectives like “Uncanny” or “All-New” or “Astonishing” was sold—an earlier teaser ad featured the letters “XX” and the name of a creative team—and that seems to be what a lot of readers and media outlets are picking up on (Even, somewhat surprisingly, CNN).
Apparently there are enough fans of the franchise’s female character, and the idea of an all-female super-team noteworthy enough, that the series has gained a remarkable amount of attention, probably beyond what’s justified by its place in Marvel’s comics line as maybe the fourth-most important of the franchise’s ongoing titles, or by the creative team of Brian Wood (the writer most recently responsible for the newest Star Wars comic, the one directed at fans of the movies moreso than “expanded universe” minutae) and artist Olivier Coipiel (One of Marvel’s better artists).
It’s almost too bad that the comic itself seems unable of living up to expectations its audience apparently has, or justifying the amount of attention its getting—it’s essentially just one more X-Men title, albeit a very well-drawn one.
The particular line-up of heroines consist mostly of more popular X-ladies that would be familiar to even casual comics readers, thanks to their appearances in the movies and many cartoons: Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pryde and Jubilee. There’s also Rachel Summers, the daughter of alternate future versions of Cyclops and Jean Grey, and Psylocke, although it might be difficult to recognize that last one: She’s only referred to within the comic book in a single instance, and that is as “Ms. Braddock.” She also has a brand-new costume.
Wood doesn’t really go to any great lengths to introduce these characters—who they are, what their powers are, how their powers work—nor does he explain why this particular group of characters are forming a sub-team within the wider legion of X-Men characters, or what might set this title apart from any others within the Marvel Universe. In our universe, at least, we know the answer to that—they’re all women.
Well, sorta. Wolverine, who has inherited the late Professor X’s role as the headmaster of the X-Men’s school and the leader of the team, is mentioned, as is Beast, who appears in the background of a panel, his back to the readers. As far as the first issue establishes, these are the X-Men starring in this particular title because they are the ones who happened to either pick up the phone when Jubilee calls asking for help, or to be there when John Sublime, a relatively minor X-Men villain from a millennial run on the comics by writer Grant Morrison, appears at the school to surrender and ask for their aid in fighting his sister.
One suspects that any feminist enthusiasm for the all-female super-team endeavor might be challenged fairly quickly by several factors, including the fact that the primary creators are all men (Colorist Laura Martin is the only woman involved in a creative capacity), the plot of this first issue involves the team taking care of a baby (and the brewing of a brother/sister, survival-of-the-fittest conflict) and Coipiel’s art isn’t any less male gaze-y than that of any other Marvel artist.
Perhaps its unfair the judge the book for being just another X-Men book, of course, particularly if that’s what it was created to be (And, make no mistake, it really is just another X-Men book, albeit a particularly well-drawn one), but it’s nevertheless disappointing to see Marvel and some worthy creators score a great deal of attention for seemingly trying something new, only to deliver the same old thing after all.
I’m fairly certain the book will read much better in its collected version though, and should do just fine on library shelves in that final format. As a serially-published, monthly comic book-comic, however, there’s little incentive to follow this one over, say, All-New…, Uncanny…, Wolverine and the…, Astonishing… or any of the many other books with the words “X-Men” or the the letter X in the title that Marvel never seems to have any shortage of.