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X-Men: Season One

Review

X-Men: Season One

written by Dennis Hopeless, illustrated by Jamie McKelvie

Admittedly, the X-Men franchise is by far the most convoluted and baffling comic book franchises in history with its continually rotating cast, retcons, new teams and splinter factions. Caught in a seemingly never-ending nightmare, the X-Men and its umbrella books are often written at such a level to indoctrinate a highly specialized and narrowly focused, loyal fan base, as opposed to engendering open and welcome storylines that invite new audiences to become fans. Thanks to the three main films, a spinoff focusing solely on Wolverine, and the recent reimagining of the 1960s origin story, First Class (not to mention the five-year-running Saturday morning animated series between 1992 and 1997), it is safe to assume that the majority of X fans, tangential interlopers into the Marvel Universe, and those outside comics fandom know the team's roots and are well-versed in the sometimes turgid plot developments that dictate the X-Men's world.

"McKelvie's crisp, clean and minimalist line art brings such a youthful liveliness to the pages that readers cannot help but be encapsulated by the world he has created."

The timing and release of X-MEN: SEASON ONE is somewhat odd, as is identifying and defining a target audience. Although the Marvel machine is nearly in full-gear for the upcoming Avengers film and hints of the rebooted Spider-Man franchise have emerged, Professor Xavier and his team are relatively inconspicuous in this media saturation. Beyond cinema, the X-universe was already relaunched in late 2011 with Uncanny X-Men #1, composed of a team that bears little to no resemblance to the one depicted by writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Jamie McKelvie here. Stranger still is that Marvel includes the first issue of the new Uncanny X-Men series as a follow-up to X-MEN: SEASON ONE, and taken as a whole, the two could not be more unrelated in terms of story, concept, look and feel. In fact, apart from being comics about mutants, the two titles have little to nothing in common. Yet, even when viewed and assessed in a vacuum of these circumstances, X-MEN SEASON ONE is an anomaly.

Structurally, X-MEN SEASON ONE is constructed around juxtaposed sequences of the present and the past. Although this approach allows Hopeless to pace his story well and smoothly transition between key moments, some readers may find the actual story absent. In the beginning, Hopeless identifies key time shifts, which allows readers to reorient themselves. Later in the story, though, this technique is suddenly jettisoned and may result in confusion for some. At the core of Hopeless's narrative is team building, yet little to no character development is accomplished; and, instead, the author relies entirely on the cultural baggage and knowledge-set audiences bring to the graphic novel. In essence, Hopeless counts on the nicely packaged mutant metaphor explored in the films to do the heavy lifting in X-MEN: SEASON ONE.
 
Hopeless deserves credit, however, for centering his focus squarely upon Jean Grey. X-MEN: SEASON ONE unfolds primarily with her in the center of the events as she interprets them. Often, Jean is either cast as the mere love interest in the well-worn triangle with Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Logan (Wolverine), or as a force of such destructive power that to see her come alive as a normal, everyday common teenager is refreshing. While it may be difficult for some readers to distance themselves from Jean's cinematic portrayals or various comic incarnations, Hopeless does a remarkable job of bringing vitality and freshness to the character. Additionally, unlike many writers who begin a project anew with longwinded expository narration that simply rehashes the well-trodden paths of those who came before them, Hopeless opts to jump directly into the story. Lastly, Hopeless shows his prowess at concise and witty dialogue in crafting sequences as well as the internal monologuing of Jean. Moments such as the pizza scene or Iceman snowballing Magneto may be few, but they are indicative of Hopeless' efforts to make the story something more than it is.
 
McKelvie's crisp, clean and minimalist line art brings such a youthful liveliness to the pages that readers cannot help but be encapsulated by the world he has created. His style calls to mind Cameron Stewart's in its similar fluidity and sharp, bold lines; and this is due, in part, to the inking of Mike Norton. Their rendering of Jean is simply beautiful, and McKelvie definitely has a command of the female form and facial contours. There are some awkward moments, however, when McKelvie moves beyond the emotive comfort zone afforded the genre and attempts to portray fear, shock, or surprise.

If X-MEN SEASON ONE was a launchpad for either an ongoing series or, more desirably, a truly free experiment with these characters, then Hopeless and McKelvie have delivered, especially considering the open-ended conclusion. But when audiences turn that page only to find the 2011 relaunch and no promise of a Hopeless-McKelvie X series, the $24.99 investment may seem too much. It is unfortunate because both creators hint at the originality and talented voice and vision that could be. More important, though, is the innovation they have both shown on their creator-owned endeavors.

Reviewed by Nathan Wilson on April 27, 2012

X-Men: Season One
written by Dennis Hopeless, illustrated by Jamie McKelvie

  • Publication Date: March 28, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction, Graphic Novel
  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Marvel
  • ISBN-10: 0785156453
  • ISBN-13: 9780785156451