In one of the more ironic title choices, the adjective-less X-MEN #1 sports an all-girl team. The erstwhile mutant-turned-vampire Jubilee returns to the Jean Grey School…with a baby in tow. And what’s more, she’s been followed by one of the X-Men’s greatest foes: a foe who wants nothing but the help of the merry mutants. What is the significance of the infant? Why does this villain want it? What secret eons in the making threatens Earth this time? And is the all-female cast just a lame gimmick to sell issues?
All I know is I bought the baby variant again, and we’re going to talk about it.
So we’ve got X-Men that are Uncanny, Astonishing, Ultimate, All New, and lead by Wolverine. But we haven’t had a straight up X-MEN book in a while…until now. I would honestly hate to be an X-Men fan these days, since I didn’t even refer to any of the spin-off books like the Uncanny X-Force or what have you. Makes sense why Marvel would think this book would need a draw of some kind, and putting the X chromosome into the X-MEN seems like as good a move as any.
Certainly made for a good baby variant cover.
X-MEN #1 begins with an object from space crashing to Earth, as all good comics do. Three weeks later, Jubilee takes a plane from Bulgaria to the US with a baby in hand and a stalker at her back. For those whose experience with the character ends at the 90s TV show, Jubilee is a vampire these days. It all goes back to House Of M, a storyline where the Scarlet Witch did a thing (for lack of a better word) that depowered almost every mutant around, including Jubes. In between then and Avengers Vs X-Men, when the effect was reversed and mutants started popping up again, she became a vampire and has been so ever since.
I would ask why she hasn’t gotten her mutant powers back by now, but then that’d mean she’d have the power of both vampirism and razzle dazzle. Marvel probably wants to avoid giving fuel to the obvious jokes.
The one following her is John Sublime, an ancient sentient microorganism with the desire to see the mutant race destroyed or contained due to their resistance to Sublime’s body control. Also he apparently masterminded the Weapon Plus program (of which Weapon X is one iteration). Here though, he arrives ahead of Jubilee and the baby at the Jean Grey School…and surrenders. He reveals that being his greatest enemies, the X-Men are the best qualified to help him stop his “sister”, the organism Arkea that Sublime forced off planet at the beginning of Earth life. She’s grown strong, and has returned to conquer Earth.
So what’s the actual team roster here? Going by the covers, the group will be composed of Jubilee (obviously), Rogue, Psylocke, Storm, Shadowcat, and Rachel Grey, plus one baby. And perhaps this betrays my own ignorance when it comes to the modern X-books, but I had to look up the name of Rachel Grey because despite seeing her in the few other titles I read, I had no idea what she was called. Up until now she’s just been that red-headed woman with the facial tattoos. As of now she’s that red-headed woman with the facial tattoos that just happens to be the child of an alternate future Cyclops and Jean Grey. So basically nothing has changed.
What do you want from me? Unlike my brother, I was only ever nominally an X-Men fan up until very recently. One of the only series I read was Grant Morrison’s X-Men run, convenient since Sublime was a villain in that series too.
The creative team I think did a great job all things considered, though it’s not easy introducing such a large cast to new readers and get the ball rolling. Look at that list above: nine characters including the infant, and roughly half the page count must, by necessity, be devoted to either Jubilee plus baby or Sublime. Which is not to say the others don’t get some time to work with. So writer Brian Wood can certainly be said to have done his level best.
Meanwhile, I’ve heard penciler Olivier Coipel described as having made the art dynamic, and I tend to agree. Too many times in the past have I seen comics with technically superb art, but which looks more like a static image of people posing than a depiction of living movement (looking at you, current run of the Justice League). I would be remiss, too, if I failed to mention how expressive the characters are. Jubilee in particular looks absolutely adorable as an impromptu mother (and before anyone asks, she found the baby in an orphanage).
Although that just made me deeply question when I first read X-MEN #1 whether Jubes was still a vampire, since she’s walking around in broad daylight and shows no physical signs from what I can see. I only assumed she still was because the cover depicted her as such.
On the one hand, I’ve been trying to shake as many ongoing titles from my pull list for a while now. On the other hand, X-MEN #1 is annoyingly good in that regard. It’s one fault comes from the fact that a certain amount of prior knowledge is needed about the characters because the issue kind of throws readers into them. But it’s a minor point and one that should have no bearing whatsoever for existing X-fans. I know it makes me want to read more, and I’ve mostly shied away from the X-books.
And if reading (the oft forgotten) Generation X hasn’t made me a fan of Jubilee, this comic surely did.