REVIEW: The First X-Men #5 (of 5)

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Or – “Do We Really Need The Secret Origin of EVERYTHING?”

The announcement of this miniseries was met with varying enthusiasm, balancing excitement about Neal Adams return to the X-characters with trepidation that there’s so much X-Men product out there, and the quiet worry that he’s no longer the Neal Adams that he used to be.  Five issues later, and The First X-Men project is in the can, but how does the last issue measure up?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

FirstXMenCoverTHE FIRST X-MEN #5
Writer(s): Neal Adams & Christos Gage
Artist: Neal Adams
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in The First X-Men:  Everything revolves Wolverine, as usual, but this time it’s by design.  The Canadian mutant known as Logan has come to the realization that the world is changing, that more mutants like him (and his blood-brother Creed) are coming.  To that end, he has pulled together a band of mutants in concert with United States Government to try to build a place where young people can learn how to live in concert with normals and use their powers.  Sadly, a creature known as Virus has thrown a wrench in the works, and now wants to steal his body to use as an immortal shell to wreak havoc on the world.  It will also accept Sabretooth’s body, however, and is willing to let them fight to the death to figure out which is stronger…

VISUALLY INTERESTING, WITH ONE EXCEPTION…

This series has been pretty cool to look at, with a lot of the hallmarks of old Neal Adams (including hair that looks like buildings, thick eyebrows, and jawlines that would cut diamond) and a few of the hallmarks of 90s Neal.  The villain this issue, Virus, is one of the latter, a freakish creature with a huge smiling mouth that wouldn’t look out-of-place fighting Captain Planet, and the visual really undermines the issue.  He’s meant to be a horrible monster, controlling Creed, but it’s just too hard to take him seriously.  Creed and Logan fight, and finally overcome Virus, but the creature uses its dying breath to control Creed into viciously slashing his love interest Holly.  Overcome with rage, Creed blames Logan (giving us the origin of their ongoing enmity) and races off to find help for his girl.  Logan realizes that it IS all his fault, and angrily tells off his students (giving us the origin of Wolverine’s old loner mentality.)  He single-handedly fights off a cadre of Sentinels that have been sent for his team, slashing at them with samurai swords as the building burns down around him…

THERE’S SOME PRETTY TOUCHING STUFF IN HERE, TOO…

Kudos to Gage and Adams, though, for the amount of real emotion that they are able to inject into the Creed/Holly relationship, as he races off to the hospital, steals a car and saves her life.  It’s wonderful to see the relief on Sabretooth’s face as he hugs her, and then they ride off into the sunset…  and get married…  and have babies… and live happily ever after.  Sitting on the porch after a happy lifetime with his mutant love, Sabretooth sports a wonderful smile, and then Holly breaks my heart by asking:  “It’s been a good life, Victor, hasn’t it?”  My response as reader was the same as Creed’s when I realized this was a construct of Holly’s mental powers, and the moment where we return to reality and she dies in his arms is tough to read.  Things wrap up quickly as Logan meets Fred Duncan, who worked with Charles Xavier in very early issues as FBI liaison to the X-Men (giving us the origin of that), Bolivar Trask creates a better mutant-hunter (the origin of Master Mold), Logan’s former ally Magneto muses that the idea of a team is sound, but he prefers a “brotherhood” (blah blah blah Evil Mutants), while Creed swears to Logan that he will make sure that Logan never has a happy relationship again.  The issue ends with Charles Xavier opening his School for Gifted Youth, forever changed by the lesson he learned from the mysterious Wolverine.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A LITTLE TOO PAT

Retroactive continuity is a fickle beastie, and this issue shows us exactly why.  I like that they have finally given a reason that Sabretooth keeps killing Wolverine’s endless supply of wives, but it just seems unrealistic that immediately after that oath is sworn, Wolverine is approached by agents of a mysterious program called Weapon X.  So much backstory and continuity, from half a dozen different places, is stuffed into this issue (and the series as a whole) making it less a story and more a reverse-engineered device to fill plotholes.  There is some surprisingly good drama to be had here, and it always looks good, but given the shifting nature of X-Men history, this book is answering questions that don’t really matter anymore, and in at least one case, answering questions that HAVE ALREADY BEEN ANSWERED in previous books.  Much like ‘Wolverine: Origin’ and ‘Punisher: Born’ a few years ago, it’s a book with a built-in obsolescence, an expiration date that reads “Good until somebody says different.”  Still, that’s not necessarily enough to overcome the parts that works, leaving The First X-Men #5 pulling a slightly-above average 3 out of 5 stars overall.  I don’t know that this tale really needed to be told, but at least they did a good job in the telling…

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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