If Grant Morrison and Joss Whedon proved anything in their respective X-Men runs, it’s that a little bit of Wolverine goes a long way. Unfortunately, the character’s enduring popularity ensures that Marvel is rarely content to deliver just a little Wolverine. The First X-Men represents Wolverine mania at its most damaging. Its attempts to make Wolverine a more integral part of the formation of the X-Men is misguided. The First X-Men becomes just one more poorly executed X-book that mucks about with an increasingly convoluted franchise continuity.
Where issue #1 busied itself downplaying the role of Xavier in the conception and formation of the X-Men, issue #2 does the same for Magneto. I can’t help but resent the implication that Xavier and Magneto only became interested in human/mutant relations because Wolverine scolded them. The same for the notion that a fear of Wolverine was the impetus for both the creation of Weapon X and the Sentinel program. It damages long-standing characters in order to build up another that really needs no more time in the spotlight.
But even ignoring the continuity quagmires this book creates, the characterization in the book is extremely spotty. Sabretooth’s presence is downright perplexing, as I can’t ever recall a time when the character was so pleasant and accommodating to his fellow mutants. He reads like an entirely different character. If not quite as pronounced, Magneto suffers from the same effect. The new additions to the X-Men franchise, from Holo to Yeti to Adam, are extremely bland and generic, doing little more than filling archetypal X-Men roles. The dialogue is also frequently grating and over-written. I’m not sure how large a role Christos Gage is playing in the scripting process, but the series offers none of the charm of his Avengers Academy and X-Men Legacy work.
Nor does the artwork do anything to help the story. The First X-Men is further proof that Neal Adam’s style hasn’t aged very well. His once phenomenal sense of perspective is diminished. Characters are extremely stiff and robotic, and most are stuck sporting the same open-mouthed expression of surprise throughout the issue. The inking is also problematic, lending every surface a harsh, jagged edge that is a far cry from Adams’ refined line-work of old.
The best that can be said for The First X-Men is that it doesn’t simply dump a handful of X-Men: First Class movie elements into the franchise, as many were expecting. Its problems are uniquely its own.
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