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April 7, 2014 / Jett

X-Men Vol.1: Primer Review

For the first time in the franchise’s 50-plus years of existence, the latest edition of the X-Men team doesn’t have any actual men in it. Not only that, but the likes of Storm, Rogue and Jubilee aren’t the faces of a spin-off faction of the X-Men; they are the X-Men. If that doesn’t make a statement about gender roles in comics, I don’t know what will.

From a distance, this may appear to simply be a gimmick. One that allows them to either go overboard with the sex appeal or preach the gospel of girl power. However, if Vol.1: Primer is an indication of things to come, then this iteration of the X-Men simply wants to win you over with a quality superhero story for anyone to enjoy.

So the obvious first question is, “Where did all the X-dudes go?” Well, they’re still here. Beast and Wolverine make appearances at different times, and there’s never any indication that the others have disappeared. Nor do they at any time have the women go out of their way to form an all-girl alliance. Things are elegantly handled in a way where stuff goes down, and it just so happens that this particular group of X-Men are available to help.

Help in what exactly? Well, two mysterious events occur concurrently that kick things off. One, Jubilee returns to the group after a long absence. She’s not alone though, as she’s brought along with her an orphan baby she saved during her travels. Also showing up at the front steps of the Jean Grey school is villain John Sublime. This time though, he comes to the group in need of help against an even larger threat. Turns out, both events are related and a battle to save the Earth from an alien being begins anew.

The X-Men as a unit really shine in this story. Each character is established as being strong and important to the mission at hand while working great together as a team. I don’t have any predisposed knowledge of John Sublime or how he relates to this new threat, but the conflict between this iteration of the team and the enemy proved to be entertaining throughout. In particular, Jubilee stands out by demonstrating how much she’s matured as a person since she debuted as a plucky teenager many years ago. Sure, the fact that much of this maturity is brought out by her being a mother figure to a baby may raise some eyebrows among some rights activists. However, the portrayal of that is not heavy-handed here, nor is she even the only Marvel universe character right now taking care of a tiny tot (see Captain America #1).

As part of Vol.1: Primer, you get the first four issues of the series, as well as a reprint of X-Men (1963) #244, where Jubilee makes her debut. Not only is this a fitting inclusion due to the early focus of Jubilee, but the events that took place in that issue are even referred to in X-Men #4 when Wolverine and Jubilee reminisce about her younger days. Quality wise, I don’t think this particular era of the X-Men holds up, but it’s neat for what it is, and worth it alone for the part when the ladies go into the male strip club.

When you take a step back, the thought of creating an all-women X-Men team makes a whole lot of sense. Women have been an integral part of the X-Men universe since the beginning, and as characters, many of them have been some of the smartest, most talented and powerful beings that exist in that world. They’re brought to life here in a way that brings them to the forefront through a great story and great art that stands on its own without being overtly sexy or preachy. This is just a quality X-Men book that is highly recommended for any comic fan.

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