The revamped "Blue and Gold" X-Men of the early 1990s was really my first discovery -- and thus first love -- when it came to superhero comics as a teenager. So it was with true excitement that I reached for Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel's "X-Men" #1, a comic I have been waiting for someone to create for nearly 20 years.
Wood juggles old fans and potential speculators with ease, writing a comic that never talks down to the reader and yet establishes the characters and a nicely detailed plot (and villain) with perfect clarity. For new readers the final panel may be a slight head scratcher, but since all will likely be explained/revealed in the next issue, it shouldn't be a big leap to hang on until next month.
The character voices are sublimely on point, feeling three dimensional and real, but effortlessly so. It's a fairly large cast to pack into one issue, especially considering the two "antagonists," so it's impressive that Wood is able to juggle all of this, give each character solid panel time and include a handful of great cameos to boot (fellow ladies of X: Pixie, Mercury and Bling all make small appearances). Wood's affection for his characters is evident on the page, and I feel excited about where we're headed with them, even beyond the intriguing opening concept. Also exciting are the themes already emerging in Wood's take on this book -- technology as a threat, invasive but necessary; making your own family; coming home for strength; and the subversion of expectations. All of these aspects tie together into a perfect blend of human and hero in this first issue, setting the stage for so much more to come.
The much talked about baby is, quite frankly, great. While I understand why fans were skeptical or concerned that a book of "lady X-Men" would have a child in it, the execution makes absolute sense and is handled beautifully. In fact, if anything it's high time one showed up in a "real world" way, considering that women and babies are most certainly tied together in life and the X-Men shouldn't (and wouldn't) be immune to that situation. Also, it must be said that Coipel draws an adorably sassy baby.
Coipel's art is nothing short of stunning. The same way Wood embraces and celebrates individual characters, Coipel does too, finding personality and voice for each lady from the way they walk to the clothes they wear. The characters also look deliciously and definitively different, as they should. In general, Coipel is an exceptional fit for Wood's stories, in that Wood tends to do a nuanced mix of the incredibly personal and the bombastically epic and Coipel also excels at this combination, with the issue gracefully bouncing around from small character moments to furious action without ever stumbling. Laura Martin's colors are a realistic and almost subtle palette that pops exactly when it should, lending even more weight to the human and heroic aspects already emerging.
All in all, Wood and Coipel have delivered the definitive superhero relaunch with "X-Men" #1. Teeming with powerful, fascinating characters, enticing action, a smart villain, high stakes and stunning visuals, "X-Men" #1 is on the short list for best superhero book of the year, and in a year full of strong contenders, that is no small thing.