I mentioned that I had high hopes for this series in my review of the “Uncanny X-Men” collection which served as the launching pad for it. Now that I’ve read through this first volume, I can say that my expectations were mostly fulfilled. Writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Espin deliver an entertaining, if familiar, tale of Hope and the world’s newest mutants adjusting to their new lives.
This being a superhero comic, “adjusting to their new lives” involves flying to Tokyo and throwing down with the last of the “five lights.” Kenji Uedo is the young darling of the Japanese art world and his mutation pushes an already unstable mind over the edge. As he begins to do his best imitation of Tetsuo going out of control at the end of “Akira,” Cyclops and Hope are at odds as to either take him out or find a way to stabilize him. Much bio-organic madness and wanton destruction of Tokyo ensue.
Like “The Birth of Generation Hope,” the old-school “X-Men” fan in me likes this story for doing something we haven’t seen the series do in a long time. Having Hope and the rest of the “four lights,” Idie, Gabriel, Laurie and Teon, work together to take down Kenji serves up some decent action, but functions better as a way to flesh out these characters. Bits like seeing Teon briefly deliberate between “fighting” and “mating” while freeing a Japanese schoolgirl from Kenji’s mass and Gabriel beating up Dr. Nemesis after the latter has the former demonstrate his powers in an embarrassing (yet funny) way show that there’s more to these kids than simply being mutanity’s last hope. I’m certainly more interested in their fates after reading this volume and Gillen provides lots of good one-liners to liven things up.
Of course, even though something hasn’t been done in a long time doesn’t mean you can just trot the routine out for show. Gillen can’t really escape the fact that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a young mutant’s powers go wildly out of control, but he does have the advantage of having a much different landscape to play in. That’s probably best demonstrated in the final issue where Hope lays out her terms with Cyclops for finding future new mutants.
More problematic is Kenji himself. As an artist whose mutation has gone out of control, he winds up delivering some painfully overwrought and emo dialogue about his current situation. Now it’s pretty clear that this was how Gillen intended it to be, so I can live with it as it shows you his state of mind in this chaos. Much less acceptable is how much the first issue takes from “Akira” without any acknowledgement of its theft. Gillen has stated in interviews elsewhere that this was also intentional, and there’s a good idea behind it -- Kenji is acting like Tetsuo because that’s the only way his mind can process what’s happening to him. But it’s not acknowledged anywhere in the book itself, which defeats the whole purpose of the idea.
Art for the first four issues comes from Salvador Espin, and it’s perfectly acceptable. He’s not a very flashy artist, but Kenji’s appearance is suitably gruesome, the characters are pretty expressive, and the action flows just fine. Then Gillen’s “Phonogram” partner Jamie McKelvie shows up to do issue five and then I start wishing he could’ve done the whole book. Maybe it’s that his style isn’t suited for bio-organic throwdowns, but this single-issue character study of Hope matching wits with Professor X, Magneto, Emma Frost, and Cyclops is perfectly suited to his skills.
Things also end on a good sense of forward momentum as Hope and her team head out into the world to locate other new mutants. I should also mention that this momentum is something that’s built throughout this volume as each issue does a good job of feeding into the next. While this volume tells a complete story, it still ends in a way that leaves you wanting more. Missteps aside, this is still a good start for the newest “X-series” and I look forward to seeing what its future holds.