Or – “The First Shots Of Marvel NOW?”
Since the announcement a few months ago, I’ve heard a lot of noise about how this series doesn’t make sense in continuity. For me, given the existence of an immortal mutant with memory implants and large gaps in his history, this is an example of the rare retcon that makes PERFECT sense, especially with the current Machiavellian take on Charles Xavier. The story of the First X-Men is finally being told, and your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Previously, in The First X-Men: Charles Xavier grew up utterly alone, one of the earliest mutants in Marvel history, with an abusive father, a jerk for a step-brother, and premature baldness. His one true friendship came with Erik Magnus Lensherr, another powerful mutant, but one whose agenda hides a more ruthless mind than Charles’, and a belief that the ends will always justify the means. Bits and pieces of their story have been told over the years, but this is the newest take, which means (by the Barney Stinson rule) it will become the best. But how does the man sometimes known as Logan fit into their history?
DATELINE: “MANY YEARS AGO…”
So, I have no idea when this story actually takes place. And that’s just fine with me, honestly, leaving it in a nebulous time seemingly before the Age of Marvels. The story opens with Logan (thankfully calling himself Logan, rather than retcon his lack of identity, something we’ll get to later) showing up in Dallas as a favor to an old friend. Gage and Adams do a really good job with Wolverine’s character here, keeping him from coming off as an enormous Mary Sue, with the mystery spiraling out of the old friend’s lost mutant son. I’m reminded of nothing so much as the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film, as he pulls his pseudo-brother Creed in as the first recruit for his newly acquired mission, and even the use of Sabretooth (a character I generally care nothing for) doesn’t throw the issue off. Granted, a good dose of Neal Adams art makes up for a multitude of sins, especially as regards the oddball pairing of Logan and Creed. One short, dark and intense, the other loud, blonde and constantly sneering, the characters play very well off one another both storywise and in terms of art…
AN INTERESTING CONTRAST.
After a momentary bobble that makes me think their next recruit is a mutant prostitute (thankfully, she’s not, though she does use her powers to give people their dearest wishes for cash), the fanged furies end up at Oxford University to try their rap on another recruit: a college-aged Charles Francis Xavier. Though you’d think this might create additional timeline issues, it works perfectly fine for me, as I imagine the current Professor X as around 55 or so, putting this story somewhere in the realm of the early 80’s. This realization also makes me feel very, VERY old. Xavier is preparing for his wedding to Moira MacTaggart, and wants no part in Logan’s battle (though it’s almost certain that he won’t make it all the way through the five issues feeling that way). The writing makes this moment feel perfectly natural, with Wolverine even putting one over on the very young Xavier, and the inversion of their traditional roles is actually enjoyable. I imagine that hardcore X-Men fans might not share my enjoyment, but there’s nothing in the issue that damages my enjoyment of Giant-Size X-Men #1, so I’m fine with it. The issue even ends with Logan looking up another mutant, one Erik Lensherr.
THE BOTTOM LINE: NOT A TRAINWRECK…
There are a number of things in the book that I don’t care for, mind you. Logan’s use of samurai swords and bone claws in tandem feels very fanboyish for me, and as much as I like Adams art, there are some hair issues to be had here. Wolverine’s trademark swing-wing ‘do is weirdly blocky, and Magneto’s appearance makes his locks seem cast out of fiberglass. The usual mutant rules are in play (the female character has illusion powers, the token minority hero gets the worst beating of the issue, while everybody with a healing factor is super-awesome) and a flashback to young Sabretooth comes across as very facile, positing yet another abusive X-parent. The First X-Men #1 does a large part of it’s job very well, positing the existence of a secret X-team before the previous secret X-team, and does so without yet creating problems in the timeline, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. I may not be the target audience, but I can tell you that if you’re avoiding this book sight unseen and you’re an X-fan, you might be doing yourself a disservice, as it’s an ably-done and mostly benign sort of retcon.