X-Men Prime #1
Cover Price: $4.99
Story Pages: 30
Release Date: March 29, 2017
Collected in: X-Men Gold v1: Back to Basics
Other Pages to check out:
- Inhumans Prime #1
The past few years the X-Men have enjoyed a certain persona non grata status at Marvel, which is believed to be because Marvel doesn’t own the film rights to the franchise (Fox does). The Fantastic Four have shared a similar fate, but unlike the X-Men Reed Richard’s team wasn’t popular enough with readers to force Marvel to continue publishing them through it. The X-Men have a sizable fan base which brings in a decent revenue stream each month so the books continued, however they have been a shell of their former selves. There was an ill-advised attempt to replace the X-Men with the Inhumans over the last few years, but it never garnered much traction with fans and was put to rest earlier this month in the conclusion of the Inhumans vs X-Men crossover. It certainly didn’t help that the Inhumans in the comics were completely different from the Inhumans presented in Agents of SHIELD — although the classic Inhumans will be getting their own 8-part television mini-series later this year.
With X-Men Prime #1 we see a return of one of the classic X-Men structures that most fans will be at least passingly familiar with: the Gold and Blue squad. This originally formed in the 90s when the X-Men were at their most popular, and just coming off of Chris Claremont’s legendary Uncanny X-Men run. Of course the books weren’t called “Gold” and “Blue” back then, but the teams within the books were called that (at least for a little while). Weapon X will also be relaunching, and the cult-favorite Generation X makes its first appearance since 2001. There are also some secondary books in the works starring some of the X-Men in solo roles, but given the track record of those books (at least when they don’t have “Wolverine” in the title) I wouldn’t hold my breath for any classics to emerge from there. I am prepared to be surprised, though. In regards to X-Men Prime #1 we are only concerned with X-Men Gold, X-Men Blue, and Weapon X. And even of those only X-Men Gold really gets much paneltime in this issue.
Since this is being pitched as a ground-up relaunch of the X-Men it is best to go into X-Men Prime #1 as an introduction to the new status quo for lapsed readers, such as myself. I was a huge X-Fan in the 90s and 00s, but fell off the books around the time Avengers vs X-Men came to an end a few years ago. So while I have had a vague sense of what the books have been up to in recent years I’m certainly not up to speed on all the details. X-Men Prime #1 makes it clear that it isn’t going to concern itself overly much with the events of the last few years, and instead is treating this as a new beginning. I am 100% behind this approach, although I’m not sure how fans of the recent direction will feel about it. Hopefully relief that we can put all this behind us.
Although this book is meant to launch three titles this is really a story for X-Men Gold, with X-Men Blue and Weapon X only getting brief nods. With that in mind I am functionally going to treat this as X-Men Gold #0, then, and approach it from that perspective. As an introduction to the Gold team this works pretty well, so long as the only members who interest you are Kitty Pryde and Storm, and a tiny bit of Colossus. If you are curious about what Nightcrawler, Old Man Logan (who does make an appearance in the Weapon X section, just to confuse things) and Rachel Grey are doing on the team then you’ll just have to wait until next week. As an introduction to the current status quo of the various teams, though, it works well.
The bulk of the issue is dedicated to bringing Kitty Pryde up to speed with the current X-Men status quo. She has spent the last year or so off in space with the Guardians of the Galaxy (the less said of that the better) so she makes for a perfect point-of-view character to follow. A little less clear is why she is now meant to lead the team moving forward, but she’s a good a choice as any. The X-Men have always treated leadership as a role you move in and out of for some reason, but that has still always struck me as an oddity in their books. Most organizations don’t treat leadership as a position to be taken in turns, and there have definitely been some odd characters in the leadership role before.
Speaking of odd leadership choices, the book’s one push for the X-Men Blue squad reveals that Jean Grey will be the leader of that group. Out of the original X-Men it has been pretty firmly established over the years that there is only one character who has much in the way of leadership skills, which is Cyclops. X-Men Prime #1 at least tries to explain why Storm (another natural leader) is stepping aside for Kitty, but the Blue team members have apparently just decided that Jean is the leader arbitrarily. In fairness it does seem that there is something weird going on with the other four team members in terms of their thinking, but for now the justification of Jean-as-leader is lacking. We’ll have to see how well it is handled over in X-Men Blue.
The last bit to cover here is the introduction of the next Weapon X book, which features Lady Deathstrike for whatever reason. Her role is to be captured and be inducted into a Suicide Squad-style covert ops team working for… somebody. This isn’t the first time the X-Books have shoehorned in this plot, and it rarely goes well as a storytelling device. That won’t stop them from trying over and over and over again. The roster of team members is decent, although there is still that confusion about why Old Man Logan is both here and on the Gold team. Also, why would they think no one would notice that Logan was missing? He’s one of the most easily identified mutants on the planet, and knows pretty much everyone. I understand why the’re including him for commercial reasons, but the in-world justification is non-existent right now.
The art in X-Men Prime #1 is a mixed bag. Each section of the book devoted to the various new titles is done by a different, and it results in a grab bag of art styles. The X-Men Gold team makes up the majority of the book, and it is a very scratchy style that isn’t entirely appealing to me. The X-Men Blue segment has a more traditional superhero look, which makes sense given the team is made up of the original X-Men. Lastly is the Weapon X section, which is meant to imitate the style of Greg Land, who will be the lead artist on that book. Mr. Land has been a polarizing artist for the past two decades or so, and the fact that he has been bumped from the core books to the second tier title is telling. I generally have not had much of a problem with his work, while acknowledging that there is a significant amount of uncanny valley going on with his character’s facial expressions. I can certainly understand where the general disdain for his work comes from, though. It isn’t his work here, though, and I think that the Weapon X sequences in this book are probably the best offered. Everyone will have their own opinions on it.
X-Men Prime #1 is ultimately a good introduction to lapsed X-Men readers or those looking to jump in for the first time. There is a feeling of optimism to the book that the X-Books have not felt in some time. That said, however, there are many points that it is lacking in. The continued wheel-of-fortune style leadership is problematic, and most of the characters we want to learn more about aren’t present. There are some interesting subplots being setup, although I question whether re-exploring Kitty and Colossus’ failed relationships, again, is all that wise an idea. On the other hand, if you are banking on 90s nostalgia then there are certainly worse subplots to choose from.
The bottom line here, though, is that X-Men Prime #1 is a $5 title, which makes it a little harder to swallow. There are things of interest here, but in terms of longterm plot points I have to imagine everything of note will be covered again in the individual titles upon their own launches. There simply isn’t enough meat to this story to make it something to recommend to most audiences. Unless you’re a completionist I’d probably let this one slide for now, and if you really want to read it down the road it’ll be available in the first X-Men Gold tradepaperback. It’s not a bad start to a new era, but it is also not a book that stands on its own.