Brian Wood, Matteo Buffagni, Gerardo Sandoval, Paul Mounts
X-Men continues to be a beautiful book. I don’t think there’s been a single issue that I’ve not enjoyed the art on. Terry and Rachel Dodsons’ covers, this one in particular, are just gorgeous, showcasing a cast of diverse ladies ready to kick some the Future behind. The villain, who’s call sign is the Future, has stolen one of their own and the art team of Matte Buffagni and Gerardo Sandoval do an excellent job of balancing the action and the drama of the gathering for the final battle in this fourth installment of the Bloodline story arc. The next issue will bring the finale and the exit of Brian Wood, to be replaced by Arrow’s Mark Guggenheim.
I’ve had my issues with this comic in the past but if Wood’s done anything with this particular story, he’s made me a fan of Jubilee the way the 90′s X-Men animated series run never could. As the kid of the group, the character always annoyed me with her forced hipness and obvious attempt to give the kids watching a vessel in which to place their little imaginations. But after finding baby Shogo in a destroyed building, she’s really been elevated in status as far as I’m concerned, finally bridging that gap from child who needs to be rescued to young woman who does the protecting. The way she nurtures that little boy and the way the rest of the X-Men rally to support her really exemplifies what the team has always stood for: family. I think more than many of the Marvel books, the cast of mutants have each others’ backs the way only family can. They are linked by genetics, their very x-factor, and it drives them to be their very best.
The dichotomy of this sense of family and the militaristic elements of this series is well-balanced. Many members of this team have martial backgrounds and their ability to divide and conquer is easily an asset in this series. It’s almost ironic that such a huge sticking point was the leadership of the X-Men, since each woman is an effective leader in her own right. Issue #16 has them split up into different teams to attack the Future on multiple fronts, bringing the fight to his doorstep in a way that the villain couldn’t have counted on. Even as he holds Jubilee captive, sure that Storm would trade the unknown baby for one of their own, the X-Men use what they know of the outcome of a battle whose course might have been changed with the variable of Kymera, an X-Man from the future brought into play during the All-New X-Men Battle of the Atom storyline. Kymera’s presence changes the entire face of battle, and the last panel featuring her casts doubts on her intention for the group. Her view of how this exchange of X-Man for infant is clearly different than Storm’s. I’m interested to see how this all plays out in issue #17.
I know I’ve said that I’ve been close to dropping this series before but I’m starting to become glad I didn’t. What’s kept me going has always been the sheer potential of this book. If I’d been asked to pick my ideal female X-Men roster, I wouldn’t have picked half this crew. Storm and Psylocke would have been easy picks, but Monet, Rachel Summers, and Jubilee are quite the engaging cast. Since I only really came back to comics around 2011 after a near-decade break, I know that there’s history brimming beneath the surface of these ladies, their fascinating exchanges implying layers of plot to be explored that I’m very eager to dig into. I can only hope that Guggenheim’s run will take a little break to do some deeper character development.
I also hope that there will be more of Psylocke turning the students into little war machines. I don’t know how I missed it, but there’s been a great subplot among the students as they straddle the line between teenager and adult. And it’s interesting that this is happening during a story that has made me appreciate Jubilee’s new-found maturity. Hellion comments on the need to graduate and while he obviously meant for himself and the rest of Psylocke’s small team, I can’t help but feel that it’s appropriate for Jubilee’s growth.
I’m just pleased that hanging onto X-Men over the long haul. I have been genuinely delighted at the direction the story has taken and I think the new writer has been given the tools to really turn this book into a consistent winner. I give this book a very enthusiastic 9/10. My only complaint is that when things don’t go his way, the Future becomes painfully whiny.