“Primer, Part 1 of 3”
Writer: Brian Wood
Pencils: Olivier Coipel
Inks: Mark Morales & Olivier Coipel
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Coipel (regular)/Arthur Suydam, Joe Madureira, Milo Manara, Skottie Young and Terry Dodson (variants)
Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
Brian Wood’s return to the world of Marvel’s mutants was a surprising but intriguing development, especially given the all-female lineup for this new title. And since I’m a fan of his writing and Olivier Coipel’s distinct style and figures, I looked forward to delving into this latest iteration of X-Men. I found something in these pages I didn’t expect at all: disappointment. Though the narration boasts a lofty, intelligent tone, the story is rather impenetrable, and Coipel’s artwork, though attractive, is confusing, failing to convey vital information. What defines this series more than anything else is the fact all of the characters are women, but characterization, how these women interact with each other and the weird world in which they find themselves… Wood barely touches upon these elements. This feels like a failed opportunity, but maybe the creators can capitalize on it in future issues (but I doubt I’ll stick around to see them).
Jubilation Lee, better known as the X-Man codenamed Jubilee, makes her from way Bulgaria, on the run from a mysterious stranger, and she’s got a baby in tow, no less. Just as she nears the X-Men’s base of operations in Westchester, disaster strikes, and she’s convinced the man who’s been tailing her is responsible. Fortunately, her sister mutants arrive to save the day. Meanwhile, the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning gets an unexpected — and unwelcome — visitor, who has a dire warning for the stern, angry heroines who are on hand to meet him.
There’s a lot to like about Coipel’s artwork here. I enjoy his lithe, slender figures. The women aren’t overly buxom, and the younger girls actually look like… well, younger girls. I like the confident, punk Storm and the grim look he brings to Psylocke. But here’s the truth of the matter when it comes to the art: I don’t know what’s going on. The opening scene — featuring Jubilee and the baby making their way through an airport and onto a plane, as an impossibly handsome guy follows them — is quite confusing. At first, I thought Mr. Machismo was Jubilee, somehow disguised with a holographic device or something. We never really see him following her; they’re never both in the same panel in the airport and airplane sequences. It’s only a few pages later when the script clears up the pursuit that I got what was meant to be conveyed in the artwork. We’re also told there’s a critical moment when one train is barrelling toward another, but it’s not clearly demonstrated in the visuals.
That being said, the plot contains unnecessary elements that distracted from the story. Jubilee’s ability to get a baby she basically absconded with on an international flight makes no sense, and why she’s in Bulgaria at all is never made clear. Furthermore, the X-Men’s appearance on a moving train seems to garner no reaction from other passengers. In fact, those passengers seem to disappear altogether once the costumed mutants board the train. And here’s the thing: there’s no apparent need for Bulgaria or for the train. It would have been simple for Wood to sidestep those obstacles to logic and write around them, to replace them. Also confusing was the placement of telepathy word balloons in the scene during which a one-time antagonist sets foot at the X-Men’s school for mutants. They make it seem like he’s the one broadcasting his thoughts, making for another jarring moment of confusion in the book.
It’s unfortunate Wood’s script knows the reader is well versed in all things X. It assumes the audience knows who John Sublime is; there’s an indication in the script he’s appeared before, but I’m completely in the dark about who he is. It assumes the audience is familiar with lesser-known members of the team, such as Psylocke, Jubilee and Rachel Summers. The interaction among the mutants — especially with everyone’s reunion with Jubilee — was a letdown, because the dynamics seem terribly superficial. One of the heroines uses the phrase “OMG” (I think it’s Kitty), and I just don’t buy it, especially in the dire atmosphere established at that point in the story. Kitty seems thrown back in the role of junior X-Man rather than the confident headmistress we’ve seen her grow to be in All-New X-Men.
The image of Jubilee carrying a baby piqued my interest. I thought it would be interesting to see a teenage (or newly adult) superhero having her hands full with a newborn, but the revelation it’s not her baby dashed my hope for a grounded, character-driven subplot. It would have been interesting to see the other women of the X-Men trying to help the younger mutant, all while realizing none of them really have any experience with motherhood. Ultimately, what might be the greatest sin here is an X-title starring an all-female cast of heroes somehow manages to revolve around the only two male characters in the book. The women spend the entire time reacting to the baby boy and the lantern-jawed beefcake baddie. 3/10
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