By Chris Sims, Chad Bowers, Alti Firmansyah, Matt Milla, and Travis Lanham.
If you’re like me, you probably find yourself feeling nostalgic for the magic time known as the ’90s when LA Gear Lights where the coolest shoes ever and X-Men ruled the comic and cartoon landscape. While Marvel has no current plans for bringing back the magic shoes that light up and make you the center of all social circles, they are launching X-Men ’92 after the successful run from the Secret Wars title last summer. Since this title was announced many people waited with baited breath, because currently Marvel is not exactly known for producing top quality X-Men titles, but this book could be different.
This book is so full of promise for future great story arcs and character interactions that it’ll have you humming the opening theme song from the ’90s cartoon by the end of the book. The X-Men are back as we once knew and loved them and in this continuity we get to enjoy them stuck in the full 1992 fashion. Most of the success from this book can be attributed to the writing team of Chris Sims and Chad Bowers. The book picks us where X-Men ’92 from Secret Wars left off with Headmaster Professor X left weakened from his battle with Cassandra Nova, leaving the rest of the X-Men tasked with training and developing the new classes at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and handling any threats handed to the X-Men team. The book follows the apparent first day the school opens to teach new mutants and how the Dean of Students, Hank McCoy handles the responsibility. All this is happening while a new threat comes and knocks at the door of the mansion that causes the X-Men to come together. Every member of the X-Men team gets some time in this story and it truly shows the reason why people connected so much with that cartoon: each character has a distinct relatable voice that is valued and contributes to the success of the overall team. The X-Men group is stronger together than apart. The writing team hits a big home-run with the group dialogue and interactions like giving Rogue her southern charm and macho swagger, Gambit and his nearly indecipherable dialogue in his classic Cajun accent, and Storm (as team leader) making bold proclamations at the bad guys while floating above combat conjuring some threatening weather. There’s some hinting at the blossoming relationship between two X-Men in the issue, which brings some fun dynamic to the team. The only real deviation the writing team took away from the classic 1992 team was the removal of Scott Sumer (Cyclops) and Jean Grey (Marvel Girl or Phoenix) and the addition of Elizabeth Braddock (Psylocke) and Bishop. It is not clear what the motivations of this intentional swap are, but we can only hope it will be addressed and paid off on in future issues.
If there is any fault to be found in this issue, it is with the inconsistency in the art throughout. The art is by relative newcomer Firmansyah with colors from Milla and lettering by Lanham. The art in some pages is great with lush details, like the first two-page full classic combat scene, but is lacking in others. The opening combat splash pages were a great endeavor that has the X-Men in full combat mode against some foes that really shows great details in every character amidst the flurry of activity. It also plays on our memories of the opening sequence from the FOX cartoon which was not unnoticed, but still appreciated. As the book continues the action panels feel hurriedly organized and are hard to follow. There is little attention to the background art, so characters are not popping off the page like you would expect with the great care and attention that went to the classic coloring and shadowing that went into the character art. The X-Men team is quit big, so another challenge the art team had was trying to give each X-Men member an action panel, but instead of focusing on individual characters there was a full plethora of characters in action panels each vying for the reader’s eye. With the time and attention the writing team is giving to each and every X-Man, it would have been nice for the art team to give that same voice with the art really showcasing some individual X-Men.
This book may need some time to breathe and get some better balance between the art and writing. There are going to be some challenges when you have a team this big, and attempting to create nostalgic memories for X-Men fans from the 1990’s while also attempting to give each member their moment in the sun. With the shake-up from the classic team we know and love, it is going to have a fresh and new dynamic that will really give a new twist on some classic X-Men moments. This book deserves a few more issues to work out some creative kinks in terms of art pacing, layouts, and background details. The writing is so strong and wonderful it can only improve as the characters are continually shaped and fleshed out over the coming arc, we just have to hope the art keeps up with the pacing set by the great storytelling.