BY MATT TUCK
Have you ever wanted to see the X-Men combine into their own Power Rangers-style Mechazord? Me, neither, but someone at Marvel thought it was a good idea. At least the issue is salvaged by solid art and an intriguing new villain.
Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Pepe Larraz
Once again, the X-Men get another first issue. Of course, this is Marvel, and the House of Ideas is all about keeping things fresh and new, so they restart practically every title after about 30-50 issues whether it’s necessary or not. It’s become such a regular part of the Marvel way that I’d wager it is a company policy at this point. Personally, I like the “legacy” numbering because it gives a feeling of continuity and history and is much less confusing for collectors. Take the conclusion to Donny Cates' Venom run. Am I buying Venom #35 or Venom #200? Pick a number, Marvel.
The idea behind X-Men #1 is that the mutant nation of Krakoa has planted a giant Krakoan tree in the heart of New York City, dubbed “the Treehouse” (because Cyclops always wanted a treehouse growing up, which he reminds us of twice in the story). Apparently, Marvel’s New Yorkers love it, and the now-friendly Cyclops will even pose for selfies with tourists if they ask him nicely.
One of the unintentionally funnier moments of the story is the interview with the Daily Bugle. Cyclops meets Ben Urich at the base of the Treehouse, and Duggan inserts rather clumpy dialogue to remind readers that Ben is also a part-owner of the newspaper despite that fact having nothing to do with this comic whatsoever. But that’s not the funny part.
Here we have a respected journalist conducting an interview that basically consists of Cyclops saying, “Yep, it’s a Treehouse. You're welcome. See ya later, Ben Urich.” And then Cyclops goes back inside and complains about answering questions. It’s so absurdly written that it’s hilarious.
Cyclops then goes about his business commanding the new team. Granted the X-Men, particularly since the mid-1970s, have represented the underrepresented, it makes sense that the new team would be diverse. The lineup checked all the diversity boxes Marvel could throw at it to the point that it felt like a focus group of non-comic readers chose the members.
Dialing Cyclops back to his early days, he seems awkward in his friendly new role after decades of making him the most despised X-Man. Then we’ve got Marvel Girl/Jean Grey still sporting her impractical 1960s outfit (maybe someday, Jim Lee’s cool ‘90s costumes will come back en vogue). Rounding out the team are Rogue, Polaris, Synch (who has a serious man-crush on Forge) and Sunfire.
While the X-Men are happier than ever in their new clubhouse, a giant alien robot-thing invades New York...because why not? From there, the X-Men stop being the X-Men and become just like every other superhero team.
The new X-Men spring into action, and Polaris builds what’s basically a giant robot suit of her own. Each X-Man controls a piece of the massive suit with his/her signature power. They then worked together to pilot their Mechazord/Voltron/Jager to defeat the alien-robot-thing in a series of action panels and dialogue straight from the Silver Age. Duggan even found time to let us know that this new brand of X-Men beat the monster so quickly that the old guard of superhero teams, the Avengers and Fantastic Four, didn’t even have time to get to the scene.
To top it off, the entire battle saw the different team members patting each other on the backs.
By the end of the comic, we are introduced to a new adversary for the X-Men, Cordyceps Jones. His horror-themed aesthetic is great as he appears to be some sort of fungus shape extending from the decayed corpse of an astronaut. Why an alien fungus monster would have the last name Jones (or any last name, for that matter) is beyond me.
Cordyceps Jones is reminiscent of Mojo. He uses the X-Men for sport, running an alien gambling ring that places wagers on whether or not the mutants can survive an attack orchestrated by the clientele.
Aside from the bad name, Cordyceps Jones has potential. That character and the artwork saved this comic from a total cornball disaster.
WHERE’S CLAREMONT AND BYRNE WHEN WE NEED THEM?
The first issue of the even newer “all-new, all-different” X-Men aimed to take the team back to its superhero roots from the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby era from the 1960s. As much as I love Lee and Kirby, that’s not a compliment. Their version was so bad that it stayed on the chopping block for years. It wasn’t until Len Wein introduced the new team with an edgy attitude who didn’t get along that the X-Men became the premiere team in all of comics.
The “aw shucks” campy approach fell flat in the ‘60s and very nearly killed the franchise altogether. What makes Marvel think it will work any better now?
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.