I'm not really certain when I first came into awareness regarding Hank McCoy. I think it may have been an old issue of "Avengers" or maybe even "Defenders." I do know that when I first encountered Hank McCoy, it was as the fun-loving, blue-furred, monkey-man Beast. I found the Beast to be a compelling character after reading "Marvel Team-Up" #124, written by J.M. DeMatteis and penciled by Kerry Gammill. That story made a deep impression on me, both as a Spider-Man fan and as a person.
That "MTU" appearance highlighted and summarized the conflict of the X-Men in the span of one single issue. People were different, and some people hated others simply because they were different. Different or not, however, people all had a need to love and be loved, a need for acceptance, and special abilities, interests or knowledge that makes each person unique and special.
Picking up this special, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, especially since that "MTU" moment still shines so brightly in my memory. The special takes place in the early days of Hank McCoy's young adulthood, placing us right alongside the soon-to-be super genius as he receives his test results. Singled out by his peers in the classroom for his less-than-commonplace appearance, Hank carries the demeanor X-Men fans have long admired, as he tries to stay "normal" and "grounded" in a world that is anything but normal.
His gal-pal, Jennifer Nyles, receives the score Hank probably should have (she got a straight A to Hank's B-minus) and proceeds to chastise Hank following class. These are the details Carey plugs into an otherwise mundane mutant origin. Hank didn't explode into a blue furball, he didn't sprout wings, turn into ice or incinerate the building with an optic blast, but he does display abilities beyond his peers on the football field and in his tussle with the comedic villain, the Conquistador.
Carey has a firm grasp of why people like Beast, and he displays it quite nicely throughout this title, right up until the entrance of Professor Xavier. The reaction from Hank's parents when he saves them is almost absurd, but it does follow the line of thinking put in place for his folks from virtually every appearance of them.
Woodward's style is unconventional, and slightly jarring in its "painted photorealism". Some of the character poses come across as specifically photo-referenced (check the lineup of the football team) and slightly jarring, but in other places, this method portrays slices of life straight out of the character's actions. The panels are not necessarily composed around the character, but rather follow the character through. The painting style used is not a hardline acrylic or oil, but carries an almost ethereal watercolor quality to it without the looseness of watercolors.
Overall, this book is largely enjoyable, but to me, it also felt largely forgettable. I am not certain this was the best vehicle and/or time for such a project, but Marvel has their reasons for releasing this when they did. For fans of the Beast, this book is a great read. For fans of the X-Men in general, there might be better ways to invest the $3.99 this week.