REVIEW: Ultimate Comics X-Men #1

Posted by under *mixed, Comics |

Continuing the onslaught of new books for the month of September, this week sees the return of Ultimate Comics X-Men to Marvel’s relaunching Ultimate line. In the spirit of all of these new books (both from DC Comics’ “New 52″ and beyond), we’ve been trying to showcase as many as we can in a what is a truly remarkable time for comics. Ultimate Comics X-Men #1 is a book I would have passed on otherwise, and I’m a serious X-Men fan. Writer Nick Spencer and artist Paco Medina introduce a dramatically new status quo for the mutants of this world here and as first issues go, this one puts a lot on the table.

Spoilers regarding everything you thought you knew about the X-Men will follow.

The issue opens with a shocking and personal illustration of what it means to be a mutant in the current Ultimate Universe and quickly turns to a public revelation of how people came to be mutants. Rather than their power and abilities arising as a product of evolution, the world is told that mutants are the product of an experiment on the part of the United States government. I’m fairly certain this isn’t the first readers have heard of this, but it is clearly news to the people we’re reading about. The result is hysteria, rioting and the requisite “fear and hatred” of mutants along with a healthy dose of skepticism about how much world leaders knew and what responsibility they have to their people. It’s an interesting twist that could have a lot of story potential.

Ultimate Comics: X-Men #1 covers a lot of ground and updates us on the status of a handful of familiar names from the world of the X-Men. While the names are the same for these characters (and in a few cases even the names are changed), the histories, personalities and circumstances these characters find themselves in couldn’t be more different from their Marvel Universe counterparts. The most significant deviation is the Wolverine we’re presented with. Instead of the Logan we’re accustomed to reading in that role, we see his son Jimmy who appears to be as brash and impulsive as his father but also tall and blonde. From his brief appearance, I’m not any more interested in this Wolverine than the original, but he does typify the new Ultimate line. While no one gets a lot of panel time, I am intrigued by this version Kitty Pryde and the path she’s walking though I am not a fan of her current costume design.

Paco Medina’s pencils with Juan Vlasco’s inks and Marte Gracia’s colors look great on just about every page. Medina is a real talent and it’s clear Marvel agrees in having him launch a new X-Men series in both 2010 and 2011. His X-Men work is really all that I’ve seen from him and it’s hard to find fault with it. While no particular images stand out here, I’m impressed with how he’s able to move from prisons to press conferences to rioting in the streets with ease. The final page with the only real X-Men team we see here leaping into action is very inviting and leaves you wondering what impact their return will have.

Kaare Andrews regular cover art for this issue looks great. I particularly like the contrast of light and dark as well as the limited color palette. Marvel chose to cover the image with opaque polybagging once again which I don’t like for these new launches. In recent books where characters have died it made more sense to me, but it’s not something I find inviting. Andrews’ image for the book should be what people see to draw them in, not a white bag with a yellow “X” on it. Thankfully the images turned in by Mark Bagley and Paco Medina for the variant covers to issue one don’t suffer the same fate, but I doubt those versions of the books made it onto store shelves given their relative scarcity.

Ultimate X-Men is another title to be available on the same day in both print and digital formats. I honestly love that I can add a link here and anyone interested can have a copy of the book almost instantly. Unfortunately, while the last pages truly caught my interest, I’ve stayed away from the Ultimate Universe for a long time and I don’t think I’m ready to buy back into it. Ultimate X-Men #1 takes some familiar elements from the Marvel Universe and presents them in some shocking new ways, but I’d almost rather this was a completely new concept than anything bearing the name “X-Men.” In some ways, it’s easier to rebuild the Ultimate Spider-Man brand by introducing a new hero under the mask. The choice to fundamentally change the nature of mutants tries to serve the same purpose here, but it doesn’t resonate with me even though I’m interested in the point of view character, Kitty Pryde. I’ll make it a point to stay more informed about Ultimate X-Men than I have in the past, but I won’t be subscribing to this title based on issue #1.

Read more about September’s Other #1s on MyLatestDistraction,
and follow this week’s reviews below.

Dark Horse’s Buffy Season 9 #1 / more coming later this week

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