Saturday, July 10, 2010

X-men #1 - Mutants vs. Vampires Equals Awesome

It's a rare and beautiful thing when you see any comic with a #1 label for an issue. It's an especially beautiful thing for an X-men comic because it conjures up images of the classic Chris Claremont and Jim Lee #1. You know...the X-men #1 that sold over 8 million fucking copies. It was a rare collection of circumstances, but damn it if it wasn't awesome. That X-men #1 set the tone for an entire era of X-men comics and kicked so much ass most fans still can't sit down. So obviously any other X-men #1 that comes out has a lot to live up to. This past week even with Second Coming not over yet, the first X-men #1 in two decades came out. It's been hyped since C2E2 and it's being penned by a the legendary Victor Gischler.

Wait what? Victor Gischler? The Deadpool Corps guy? How the hell did he land this gig? If you're not confused you damn well should be. We're talking about X-men #1 here! The last one was penned by a comic book legend, Chris Claremont. That guy wrote X-men for over a decade and penned some of the most memorable stories in X-men history! This guy's only notable X-men work includes Deadpool Corps. Not to knock the guy, but with other big names like Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Chris Yost, and Jeph Loeb you would think Marvel would try to tap some other names. After all, wasn't that part of what made the last X-men #1 a success? It does indeed baffle the average reader. But let's forget about who is writing this thing at the moment and focus on the story. That is what's important, right? It shouldn't matter who writes it.

The story does indeed take place after Second Coming. It doesn't spoil any big revelations other than Bastion is defeated, the X-men are still on Utopia, and the mutants that lost their powers on M-Day did not get them back. In that sense it really can't carry over any of the emotion or overall awesome that such a huge event brings. If anything, it seems as though this story could probably take place before Second Coming and still work. That's a big problem, but again let's try to give Vic the benefit of the doubt here.

The first scene brings back an old and familiar face who hasn't been involved with the X-men in a while: Jubilee. She still doesn't have her powers, but she's still the same lovable young girl fans know and love. She's just out having lunch with Pixie on a beautiful day. It seems so peaceful. Then a guy wearing what looks like bondage attire. Hey, this is still San Francisco so that kind of thing doesn't turn as many heads as it would if you were in Bumfuck, Texas or Wassila, Alaska. Yeah, it's going to be that kind of day.

Nobody takes notice of the guy. I think everyone is just assuming he's on his way to a kick-ass party on Castro street where he's about to become bitch of the decade. But the guy seems less interested in being the bitch and more interested in doing the fucking. So he just walks up to everybody who are just enjoying their lunch and blows himself up. Yeah, he's a suicide bomber and not looking for 72 virgins either. It's so remarkably contemporary that Glen Beck himself is probably off somewhere crying.

Cut to Fox News for some fair and balanced coverage...nah, just kidding! Go right to Utopia where Cyclops, Wolverine, and the X-men are taking this shit in. Now it's not clear at this point if this is just another religious wacko looking to terrorize a city that Nancy Polosi calls home or if it's something more exotic. Since it's X-men we're talking about here, it's something more exotic.

But the immediate concern isn't the bombing. The big concern is Jubilee, who was unlucky enough to get stuck at ground zero when the guy blew up. Only instead of being burnt to a crisp, she was splattered with blood and given a few mild injuries. That would only be gross if she didn't describe the guy as having exploded as soon as he was exposed to the sun. Thankfully, nobody asks the stupid question as to who or what this could be. Because if it takes more than three seconds to make a vampire link, you're either the victim of an impromptu lobotomy or you've been in a cave for the past five years with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears. Between True Blood and Twilight, you have no excuse.

There's no subtlety here. The vampires make their big entrance into the X-men's world. While they're figuring this shit out, a very non-Twilight creature emerges from the bay. Again, the people are remarkably calm when they see this thing. I guess the folks in San Francisco are hardened to this shit, but that doesn't stop a few people from being stupid enough to confront this beast because it's clearly no Edward Cullen.

While this bloodsucking asshole is making himself at home, the X-men get a nasty revelation from their science team. Jubilee has been infected by some exotic virus. That suicide bomber wasn't just trying to spread terror. He was trying to spread a virus the same way Tommy Lee tries to spread Hepatitis. Now she hasn't gone full vampire yet, but the prognosis isn't good. The virus is progressing rapidly and nobody knows what hell it's going to do to her. Whatever it does, it seems pretty clear that Jubilee is up to her neck in shit.

While Jubilee is becoming her own little Outbreak monkey, the vampires are gathering and already they look tougher than anything Twilight or True Blood can churn out (with the possible exception of Godric and Eric Northstram from True Blood). There aren't many of them and they're all being lead by that Doomsday look-a-like that emerged from the bay earlier. They seem to have been targeting Jubilee. They know what that virus is going to do to her and they're licking their chops, eager to see her join them. You know a group is creepy when they're eager to get a teenage girl to come to them.

Since Wolverine and the rest of the X-men don't take kindly to people who fuck with their friend, they go out to investigate. It doesn't take long for them to find out that vampires have established a presence in the city. They encounter a rough pack of familiars (who if you haven't seen the Blade movies are non-vampires who for whatever reason help them out) and break into an innocuous building. There, they encounter their first bloodsucker. It turns into a decent fight scene, but not quite as epic as you would expect for a book titled X-men #1.

It's some nice vampire action and it looks like more is brewing. Back on Utopia, Jubilee seems to know what she's in for and not liking it in the slightest. Being the stubborn teenager that she is, she tries to fight it. She actually goes outside and tries to sit in the sun when she knows she's about to become something that dies when exposed to sunlight. Even without her powers, Jubilee is still pretty fucking tough. But she's clearly changing. She snaps at Dr. Rao and is getting more fucked up by the second.

While she's trying to tough it out, Cyclops is learning more disturbing news about the virus. For one, it's not contagious. So that means they won't have to lock Jubilee up in a sealed chamber, which is kind of disappointing because you know she wouldn't go without a fight for that. He also learns that the virus is affecting her brain. It's going to start giving her cravings in the same way a pregnant woman craves bizarre shit every so often. She seems well on her way to joining the Twilight and True Blood crowds and not in a good way. But hey, at least she won't fucking sparkle.

Before more can be revealed, Wolverine calls in and reveals that they've found something pretty fucked up. Apparently, that suicide bomber wasn't the only one. There's a whole fucking place that seems to be manufacturing these assholes on an industrial scale. So that means that this blast wasn't just a one-time thing and Jubilee wasn't the only target. It sets things up nicely for a much bigger conflict.

So before I give the final score let me get this out of the way. This issue is good. It's a solid beginning to what could potentially be a great arc. The whole premise of mutants vs. vampires just breathes awesome. Me being a True Blood fan, I love the idea and I would love to see how it unfolds. That being said, this issue seems a wee bit out of place.

Like I said earlier, this is an X-men #1. That's what's on the cover. But seriously, this thing doesn't even come close to measuring up. It involves only a small part of the X-men, the plot is very narrow and focused, and it doesn't seem to be affecting any of the other more established X-titles. With a title like X-men #1 you would think this shit would be a bit bigger in scale. But it isn't. You could probably put this issue as the beginning of a new arc in Uncanny or X-men Legacy or even New Mutants and it would work just as well. Hell, you could just call the title Mutants vs. Vampires and that would work perfectly! It feels like an utter waste of an X-men #1 and a major downgrade compared to the Claremont/Lee #1. I get that the circumstances are different here in 2010, but an X-men #1 is so rare that a story like this just seems like an insult to the label. It's like saying your dick is huge before you fuck only to reveal you're no Ron Jeremy when you step up to the plate.

Were it not for the label on the cover, I would give this a much higher score. But given the context this title takes place in and the fact it is utterly irrelevant to the rest of the established titles, I can only give X-men #1 a 3.5 out of 5. It's a decent comic and a nice way to get vampires back into the Marvel Universe, but it simply wasn't right to call this X-men #1. It's a slap in the face to Chris Claremont and Jim Lee and fans who still have fond memories of 1991 will be painfully underwhelmed.


  1. Lovely review, it made me laugh at quite a few occasions.

    But concerning the issue of enumerating the book as #1: does the number on the cover really matter that much? As an example, if the common numeral system was base 8 instead of base 10, Uncanny X-Men #500 would have been Uncanny X-Men #764. The number one is just the common starting point for enumeration and holds no significance in this regard besides personal opinion. Wich, of course is what you expressed. So, ingore my previous question, what I'm actually interested to know is: how would you grade this issue if you completely disregarded the fact that it's a #1 issue?

  2. I say it does matter. When you put a label like that on a comic, it sets the bar pretty high considering how books like the Claremont/Lee X-men 1 did. It does hold significance in the sense that a #1 means that this is the beginning of something new. But all this began was some new arc that could just have easily been a mini like Phoenix Endsong or Deadly Genesis. Other #1's do something that really encompasses the breadth of it's universe. This did none of that. In fact, it barely used any major X-men characters. It's still a good story, but it's just wrong to give this title something like X-men #1.

    Thanks for your support. I do appreciate it and hope to review more in the coming days.

  3. Yes, I see what you mean, and I do respect your opinion. But what I'm qurious about is: what if. What if this story _had_ been a miniseries or just an arc in one of the pre-existing titles? How would you rate the story on its own merits?

  4. No offense taken, my friend. But if this story was a miniseries as was the case in Deadly Genesis, I would give this a solid 4.5 out of 5. The problem is the label these stories carry DO matter. When you call something X-men #1 it has with it certain expectations. You can't call something the greatest book ever made and expect that to be enough. Same here with X-men #1. You can't call it that if it doesn't fit the context. You can try, but it certainly makes it difficult to score when it fails to live up to the label it's been given.

  5. Agreed, it's just that to me, personally, it doesn't matter, I just don't find it relevant. I certainly noticed how much Mavel hyped the launch as well as the story with several previews and teasers. But I just take that for what it is - commercials. I guess I'm just a bit jaded in that department.

  6. Oh I know all about being jaded. Have you seen my rants on the latest issues of Second Coming? If I were any more jaded, I would have a "handle with care" sticker slapped across my forehead. The whole Hope/Phoenix/Jean plot has really left me cynical about X-men comics and when someone has the audacity to make X-men #1 that barely feels any more than a mini, I take it a little more harshly than I probably should. Again, that's just me. The hype for this issue didn't bother me so much as how it was presented. It shouldn't have been given the title X-men #1 and it really doesn't flow well from the events of Second Coming. That only leads me to believe that both events are underwhelming at best and disappointing at worst. Lately with Marvel, it seems best to assume the worst.

  7. I am a huge fan of Jubilee, which helps in my appreciation of this issue. She is written pretty spot-on as far as her character is concerned, although I am upset that she is still described as a teenager. She should be in her mid thirties if aged real-time right now... in the comic verse, she should be around 20-24 years old. I did like the action and use of characters- however, I was upset that Logan didn't interact with Jubilee.. being her surrogate father and all.
    Also, since the issue is labeled X-Men #1, I feel that it did a piss poor job at introducing any of the characters. #1 issues are supposed to be a jumping on point for new readers. There are no narrative bubbles, power descriptions, or information on any character histories at all within this issue. It felt as if it were written for people who already know all of the characters... when, in my opinion, should never be the case of the first issue in any series. Take, for instance, Generation X #1. It is a beautiful issue- I'd probably give it 5 out of 5- any new reader would instantly understand the background and powers of all of the main characters... that and the writing is just superb.
    I'm hoping that within the next few issues, this series develops a cast-breakdown page.

  8. I love Jubilee too and I'm glad she's back in the comics and all, but I agree that this was not an appropriate place to bring her back into the fold with an X-men #1. I also agree that #1's should be great jumping on points. That's how it was with the Claremont/Lee #1. This one doesn't even have much of a recap page. If you didn't read House of M or Second Coming or Utopia you would be lost. Plus, how many old school fans are going to recognize Pixie?

    I would have a lot less to complain about if this issue was not labeled X-men #1 or written by some guy who I only know as the Deadpool Corps writer. It just feels cheap and uncalled for. I'm still going to follow this story, but I really don't like how they billed this series. It feels bland if not contrived. This would work much better as a mini and leave the X-men universe that much more uncluttered.

    Thanks for your insights, Kevin. Your comments are much appreciated.


  9. I dropped comics about 7 years ago I think, and was interested in this brand new #1 issue since I was around for the legendary Claremont/Lee#1 and I *wanted* to see a fresh new X-Men #1.

    Then I find this weird pixie girl, and a doctor who is NOT dear Hank and this woman who at first I guessed it was *maybe* Cecilia Reyes (is she still around?)but I saw she was probably Indian. None of these characters was introduced at all, their powers, their motivations; that's quite a turn off for a new reader or a long lost returning one such as myself. I don't even know their names and THIS is a No 1!

    And then, wolverine again, man. Sometimes the x-men universe feels like there is a black hole and in its center lies the wolverine, sucking everything to him. Could we get a rest from the furry Canadian?

    Also I decided to pick this issue (and consider going back to collecting) because Jubilee is in it; she was he reason for me to start reading comics as she was targeted to young teenage females back in the 90's (which I was) and she holds a soft spot in my heart forever, and I'll be utterly pissed if she turns out to be used as some kind of plot excuse. I can only hope for the best.

  10. if this book involes vampires wheres blade the vampire hunter?

  11. He's in later issues. He also shows up in a few tie ins. Google it! I'm not bullshitting you.