With all of the recent attempts for a junior-X-Men-team book to come and go over the past few years (a new "New Mutants," "New X-Men: Academy X," "New X-Men," and "Young X-Men") it seems that Marvel has officially thrown in the towel and gone back to what they think the readers really want: an almost-complete reuniting of one of the "classic" line-ups from "New Mutants." Zeb Wells has now brought together eight of the nine members of the team created by Chris Claremont (with Wolfsbane still banished to "X-Force").
In other words, it's taken nine months to put back together another trip down nostalgia lane. To be fair, I think Wells has done the best job one can with an assignment like this. The book hasn't reverted to a carbon copy of those old Claremont/McLeod/Sienkiewicz issues, after all. Wells may have been handed a distinctly uninspired cast, but he's continuing to move forward with their stories as told by many writers over the years, and creating his own soap opera of personalities to try and liven things up. He's also got a nice sense of humor that shines through in his scripts; Wells' take on Warlock, for instance, is a little different than writers like Claremont or Louise Simonson, but he still finds just the right moments with the character to make you laugh. He's made Warlock funny without making fun of the character, and it's a balance that few others have landed upon. And while Wells' take on Cypher's powers is one that fans speculated on for years, there are those small shining moments (like Cypher's interaction with Magma) that show Wells' originality.
Wells is also finally following up on C.B. Cebulski's "X-Infernus" story that had brought Magik back into the fold of the X-Men, after her turn as villain in "New X-Men." Wells isn't afraid to lay out on the table exactly what's going on with the character, and it's actually a big relief to see someone do just that. For a character whose history is thoroughly convoluted, it's felt up until now like past writers weren't so much trying to keep things a mystery but instead ducking the question on what was happening. Wells has carefully connected all the pieces together, but in a way that should still entertain new readers as well as satisfy those who have read this far.
Paul Davidson appears to have taken over the art chores, which is a mixed bag. Some pages look just fine, like the splash of General Ulysses walking out of the portal with his men, or how Davidson draws Warlock as a combination of strange and funny looking. On the other hand, almost all the characters seem to just have a variation of length in their otherwise flat, identical, lifeless hair (they should try some conditioner) and there are some surprisingly bland expressions grafted onto a lot of the characters. Hopefully with time we'll get a little more pep into the cast; I'm not sure what it means that the most interesting looking humanoids in the book were two supporting cast characters wandering in from "Uncanny X-Men."
If Marvel is insisting on winding back the clock to a "classic" line-up of "New Mutants," at least Wells is the writer helming the book. As much as I'd rather have seen his talents on a new group of characters, with a trail of poor sales figure leading up to this point, I suppose we'll have to take what we can get. The concept may not be stellar, but Wells makes it fun none the less.