Marvel promises resurrection, a resurrxion if you will, for their X-Men line of books, but “X-Men: Prime” is more like another ‘R’ word: Rebirth.
Written by Marc Guggenheim, Greg Pak, and Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Ken Lashley, Ibraim Roberson and Leonard Kirk with Gillermo Ortego
Colored by Morry Hollowell, Frank D’armata and Michael Garland
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
RESURRXION BEGINS HERE!
In the wake of their war with the Inhumans, the X-MEN are at a crossroads. Where do they go from here? Luckily, one beloved X-Men has the answer to that question: Xavier’s dream comes full circle as KITTY PRYDE returns to the X-Men, ready to lead them in their mission to protect a world that hates and fears them. The next chapter of the X-Men’s saga starts here!
“X-Men: Prime” feels like it was written for a reader like me. I’m a lapsed X-Men reader, interested enough to follow the general machinations of comics via the circuit of websites and online community, but not enough read everything. That lapsed status is a byproduct of two factors: price and storytelling. “Prime” sets things up towards fixing the latter while the former continues to thwart my desire to dive into multiple Marvel ongoings in floppy form.
The allusion to this being rebirth-esque, isn’t meant to be some pithy articulation of a current buzzword. “Prime” and “DC Universe: Rebirth” function in very similar ways. The former lacks the crisis level implications and overall meta-apology, these aspects, however, are the glossy superstructure that wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t care about the base story being told within it. Both stories at their core are about the power and importance of relationships.
One of the main functions of all the prior Geoff Johns Rebirth stories is to act in recognition of the stories itself; the good, the bad, and the ugly. This isn’t a judgmental evaluation of recent events, rather a sincere actualization of continuity. A recognition that all stories matter (even the ones you might not like are loved by someone else). It is only through that recognition of the past, that a better future can be forged. So too does this issue’s bevy of new X-series writers (Marc Guggenheim, Greg Pak, and Cullen Bunn) and artists (way too many to list) turn to the past in order to dream up a more heroic future for the X-Men. Each handling a segment dealing with their own forthcoming series while.
Much like Wally West, Kitty Pryde wonders through an X-Mansion and world that is familiar yet different, she’s been out of the loop guarding the galaxy. In the fallout of their “war” with the InHumans and finally out from under yet another extinction crisis – this time in the form of a literal death cloud – Storm is considering leaving the team she led. As if, her exile from the X-Men city state will please the gods and bring their favor to them again. A noble, classic, gesture but with the status of “X-Man” acting as synonym for mutant, leaving is never much of an option. The X-Men, are the mafia in that way.
Storm passing the mantel of leadership to Kitty Pryde is another indication of the overall generational shift/growth the Marvel universe is going through. Kitty effectively represents the third generation of X-Man, first appearing in “Uncanny X-Men” #129, before fulling joining the roster with the iconic #139 cover hoping she survives the experience. She has survived and grown, and if anyone is a byproduct of that modern and postmodern history, it’s Kitty. Making her the perfect vessel to wonder the Mansion and see the potential for melding old and new ways together.
That Claremont era of X-Men laid the foundation for the series to operate as an eternal soap opera by making the X-Men more than a team, but a family. They played baseball together and Wolverine barbecued. One of the most touching moments as Kitty walks the halls is seeing a trio of young mutants play a game of basketball, and argue over what constitutes “cheating”. It’s a little moment, told in 3 panels and a single page. But it echoes the Morrison era, that shifted the emphasis from family into a more outwardly functioning school and place of mutant cultural production. So even as things change, they don’t really.Continued below
Crediting specific artists in this issue is difficult since Marvel’s credits did not provide specific pages, but whomever did the color work on that page did an excellent job. With the Limbo sun setting, the page is blanketed in warm reds and oranges interspersed with the well-defined blacks but overall light line work making everything almost blend together. It’s an effect the evokes a nostalgic screen dissolve. The implication of a nostalgic dissolve gives way to the comic version in the form of a half page spread articulating Kitty’s history with Colossus, Piotr Rasputin. It’s not all happy, but it’s theirs. Everyone, even the new kids, seems to be taking a moment to just interact and ruminate on their shared experiences together. A brief respite before the work begins anew.
“Prime” is unanimously female centric title, setting up its two marquee titles “Blue” and “Gold” to be run by women, which maybe a first. In the case of Kitty in “Gold”, older male leadership (Prof. X, Cyclops, Wolverine) is literally all dead … for now. While the now permanently time displaced Original Five, turn to Jean Grey the Younger for leadership now that they appear free of fates clutches, and the patterns of their future selves. This version of Jean Grey seems ready to fight the Phoenix Force and not be damseled in the process. Even Lady Deathstrike, gets a moment to reorientate herself into something resembling an anti-hero, but more importantly an independent operator. Even as her dark past comes calling on her once again in the pages of “Weapon X.”
With this litany of writers and artists, there was the fear this would feel like the paid version of the free “ResurrXion Free Previews Spotlight.” While the art style isn’t unified, using Kitty as the predominant means to segue in and out of each titles segment brings a sense of cohesion to this book. Yes, it’s setting up three other titles but it’s also telling a story about Kitty Pryde wondering if she wants to get back in willingly. It’s doing what comics do best, tell story while trying to make you buy three more.
“Prime” is the first X-Book that feels like a proper one in years. This is not meant to slag the previous creative teams and their stories, some of which are continuing into this new resurrxion era. More a commentary on the status of X-Men and story world those titles existed in. The promise of post-“Secret Wars” was a fresh start, yet the X-Men found themselves stuck in 2 years’ worth of yet another extinction crisis. While that trope has been a staple for the last decade and a half of X-books, with the X-Men so decentered and disparate it lost that familial, community, texture that makes standing in the face of that threat manageable. Other than “All-New Wolverine”, a title insulated from most of Marvel’s big happenings, the X-Men didn’t really feel like themselves.
That sense of loss is made text by one of the writers (I want to say Guggenheim) as Kitty remarks how “rudderless” everything feels. But that stops now, in a beautiful double page splash uniting the three segments of the book. Kitty gives everyone their mission statement: be the X-Men, be heroes that “protects the world and our own.” This is only one book, but like “Rebirth” it’s also acts as a promise for what’s to come and it’s one I hope they make good on. It’d be nice to read the X-Men again.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – The X-Men have a compass pointing north, now lets hope they survive the experience.