When you do something 500 times, chances are pretty good you've done it well. From Stan Lee to Chris Claremont to Ed Brubaker to Matt Fraction, Marvel has done quite well by their most Uncanny of superhero teams. The X-Men turned 500 last week, and with it came a new beginning, different yet all to familiar to longtime readers.
The heroes everyone wants are here: Cyclops, the mild-mannered boss-man; Wolverine, the hard-edged maverick; Angel, the winged avenger; Storm, the African weather goddess; Colossus, the metal man; Beast, the blue-furred genius; Nightcrawler, the elf; even psychic former super-villain Emma Frost is still here. All in all, not much seems to have changed with this super group; aside from changing coasts (trading in dreary Westchester for hip San Francisco) there isn't much different about this new group.
But things are quite different: for one, the local government is absolutely in love with them. The mayor happens to be quite smitten with Warren Kenneth Worthington III (Angel) and she's openly embraced the X-Men to make their homes on the west coast. They've spared no expense building a new headquarters that makes the Xavier School look like a basement studio, Angel's vast sum of loot paying the way easily. This is indeed a whole new beginning, no more "To me, my X-men" lines, just a real team, pulling together for one another, caring for one another as people and a diminishing race.
The Mayor has news for the team. Apparently, Japanese filmmaker Kingo Sunen (who first made his appearance way back in 1977 in the Eternals futuristic movie in San Francisco. Casting former mutant The Blob, Freddie Dukes, in the lead role (the unrecognizable Dukes is portrayed as a "weight loss guru") series) wants to film his new sci-fi film in San Francisco to use the Dreaming Celestial he's obsessed with as his backdrop for the movie. Which is fine. Until it's revealed that another artist, one Guy deMondue, has decided to create art due to the recent mutant influence and bases his art on decommissioned Sentinels.
That's right. Sentinels. Remember when I said some things were very much the same?
It leads the team to attend the art unveiling, where there are more X-Men fan boys than at your average national convention. Every one's dressed up as Marvel Girl, Professor X, Banshee, Angel and Psylocke, and the heroes fit right in. (Interestingly enough, no Wolverine costumes are shown, yet there's one woman dressed up as Mystique. Hmmm) This is until an old villain returns from the dead and wreaks havoc over everything.
It's a fantastic new beginning for this team, thanks much in part to the writing. I love both Brubaker (Captain America, Daredevil) and Fraction (Invincible Iron Man, The Order), and their excellent work at making this new start both simple and complex all at the same time. They're not going to make it easy for the X-Men to settle into their new homes, and you just know they had to take from personal experience for the fan boy convention sequence. The writing in itself would make the book fantastic. But with beautiful pencil art by Greg Land (Ultimate Power, Birds of Prey) and Terry Dodson (Wonder Woman, Songes: Coraline) and colors by Justin Ponser (X-Men: Phoenix Endsong) sealing the deal, it's hard not to immediately add this title to you new favorites pile.
Am I gushing enough? I'm so enamored with this title, my complaints almost have no real merit. There's one person who shows up at the end who I felt I should know, but don't because I hadn't paid too much attention to the X-Men universe until recently. It's a small thing, and his story will likely be fleshed out later in this run, but it's disconcerting that I should feel a sense of foreboding, but only if I knew who this character was supposed to be. Also, there's not enough X-Men in this story. Except for cameos by Cannonball and Pixie (Pixie??) no secondary X-Men are shown. No Warpath? No Hepzibah? No Iceman?? Shame, shame! Bring these characters back into the fold! I want more mutants, damn you!
Despite these minute transgressions, X-Men 500 is exactly what they've been hyping so much about these last few months. It's a new beginning, a new hope, and yet familiar enough to attract old and new fans alike. Buy it. You won't regret it.