Book of the Month

Book of the Month – X-Men: Season One

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

128
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.4
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 0.0%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
X-Men_Season One_HC
Story by Dennis Hopeless
Art by Jamie McKelvie with Mike Norton
Colors by Matthew Wilson
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Julian Totino Tedesco

Size: 136 pages
Price: 24.99

SCENE: San Diego, 5th Street – July 19th, 2011

We open as the iFanboy crew is walking down the street in San Diego after just arriving from all over the country.  We zoom in on one of our main characters: RON (Mid-thirties [but looks younger], handsome, sideburns) as his cell phone rings.  He pulls it from his pocket and answers and listens to the voice on the other line:

RON: “What’s that? Marvel is doing a modern origin retelling for the X-Men? Jamie McKelvie is drawing it?”

END SCENE

And I think you can have an idea of what came after that.  A blur of jumping in the air, tweeting and generally getting psyched for the idea of a self contained graphic novel telling the origin of my favorite characters by one of my favorite artists.  This Book of the Month review of X-Men: Season One has been in the making for over 8 months and here we are today to sing the praises of Jamie McKelvie, along with writer Dennis Hopeless as they tackle a book that seemed to have as many opponents as it did supporters upon being announced.

You see, these “modern retelling of origin” books always get a bit of backlast from numerous areas. Some die hard fans don’t want the classic origins of the characters they love to be tampered with, much less updated.  Other people have a problem with the idea of going back to the 1960s classic origins of Marvel characters and doing a modern retelling because the classic characters don’t map directly to the characters in the comics of today (i.e. in X-Men: Season One, it’s the original 5 X-Men as teenagers, who in current continuity are adults). Right out of the gate Hopeless and McKelvie had people gunning against them, with the challenge of putting together a graphic novel that tells a story that both entertains old, dedicated fans AND is new reader friendly, as that’s really the whole point of this Season One initiative from Marvel Comics.

After sitting down and taking in X-Men: Season One, it became very clear and apparently early on that Hopeless and McKelvie had nailed, on both levels.  As a long time fan of the X-Men, it delighted me to see an updated version of my favorite characters’ beginnings.  As a media type person who’s constantly making recommendations to readers, new and old, I’ve struggled for years with the question, “I want to get into the X-Men, what should I read?” Finally Marvel as given me a book that I can answer with.  X-Men: Season One gives a new reader everything they need to know about the X-Men, mutants, and the world they exist in.  Now, could a new reader go from X-Men: Season One straight into the current continuity of X-Men comics? Probably not (although I’ve always been a proponent of “diving right in” but regardless), but they sure have more familiarity with the world of the X-Men than they would otherwise. Could they go right to Dark Phoenix Saga from here? You know what, with a bit of added info from a friend in the know, I think so.

The story itself begins with the arrival of a young Jean Grey to the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters as she joins the other 4 students, Cyclops, Iceman, Angel and Beast. It’s the classic lineup and Hopeless did not miss a beat with tackling each of these iconic characters. Each student is unique with their own set of personality traits, strengths, weaknesses and issues. Cyclops is younger, so he’s in the process of becoming the great leader we know he will be. Angel is rich and vain, but longs to connect with someone. Iceman is young and inexperienced. Beast is the most advanced of them all, in brains and emotions.  And Jean Grey is cautious and unsure of these new abilities she has.  Add in Xavier, in his most headmaster-y mode and Magneto, the ying to Xavier’s yang, forcing the young students into conflict on behalf of the mutant race.

There were many subtle touches that I just delighted in reading as the graphic novel developed. Quick little flashbacks to characters to understand their personal origins (I wish there were more!) worked great to quickly give characters context.  The over-arching main plot of these young X-Men coming together and the introduction of the threat of Magneto is handled with ease through a series of smaller stories that each have importance and help propel the main plot.  As an X-Men fan, I loved seeing little nods and hints to classic X-Men comics of the 1960s, most notably the clash with Magneto at Cape Citadel, but other smaller touches like the boys vying for Jean’s attention leading to the budding romance between Jean and Cyclops, fighting Unus the Untouchable and Iceman facing off alone against Magneto were exactly the type of nods to the past that a classic X-Men fan could appreciate, without getting in the way of the story.  While at the same time, Hopeless is able to add to the X-Men mythos by fleshing out more of the complex relationships that were handled pretty clumsily in the early 1960s in the original comics.

Artistically, what else can I say about Jamie McKelvie other than, “I TOLD YOU HE WAS GREAT!” I’ve been singing McKelvie’s praises for years now and with each project he continues to prove me right.  With X-Men: Season One, McKelvie teams up with Mike Norton on background and Matt Wilson on colors, putting together a art team that may just be one of my favorites of all time. The range of art on this book from character acting in conversations to the action sequences, McKelvie shows how much progress he’s making as a sequential artist.  A single characters facial expression can get the point across and the kinetic energy in every panel helps the story immeasurably.  I knew McKelvie was good, but as I read this, I couldn’t help but think about how well rounded he’s become handling the subtle quiet moments along with the bombastic explosions all with the same level of consistency. What’s even better is that these kids look like kids. Sure they have power and are fighting older, more experienced mutants, but you really get the feeling that they’re teenagers and that’s no easy feat, both McKelvie in representation and Hopeless in characterization should be praised for this important touch.

I really defy any of the early detractors to these Season One books to complain about this book.  In one volume, we get introduced the core characters, the world they leave in and if after reading, you’re immediately moved to want to read more, then there’s something wrong with you. X-Men: Season One lays the groundwork for what could be a whole new generation of X-Men fans, and if you ask me, that makes this book a complete success.

Ron Richards
Kind of a slam dunk for me, personally
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. JDC JDC says:

    I’m not an X-Men fan at all, but I got this because I plan to buy all the first wave of Season One OGNs, and I loved it. Didn’t feel lost at all and McKelvie’s art is gorgeous. Even the “teen drama” elements were well done.

    • JSAkid JSAkid says:

      Glad you liked it, and as we know everyones entitled to they’re own opinion and just out of curiosity, how can you not like the X-Men “at all”? They are among the most diverse and original group of characters and conceptualized origins I have ever seen in comix. maybe also read my post a cpl comments down before you reply, and again not judging and glad you liked it, especially not being as X-Men fan. I haven’t read it but do love the X-Men and am considering picking this up.

  2. jackietam jackietam says:

    ALRIGHT! GOOD JOB RON! I’M GLAD YOU TOOK MY SUGGESTION! FANTASTIC!!11!

  3. Aw man….this was terrible.

    All I’ll say is that if you want a GOOD X-Men story to start on I suggest you get either:

    Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol. 1 (HC or paperback)
    Essential X-Men vol. 1
    Or just ANY X-Men book with Stan Lee on the credits.

    Cause those old, 1960s stories are much more enjoyable then this slop. The characters in Season One are unlikable, the story treads the same ground we’ve seen a billion times, and McKelvie’s art just isn’t impressive in this volume. (It’s not bad, but it certainly isn’t his A-material) Trust me on this one, this is a book you should be avoiding. (Along with Fantastic Four and Daredevil Season One)

    • JSAkid JSAkid says:

      X-Men are original and classic as they come for me and i am bias cause they are ultimately the title/titles I’ve read the most from as a whole. I love the characters, the original oppression/outcasts “anyone who felt left out” (Stan’s words) angle and the plethora of great villains. i haven’t read this or any season one and thought the art looked crisp and think this would would be a cheaper and shorter way for new readers to jump on with the X-men and then if they like it, for more they’ll have to buy current issues or go back and get what you recommended which in turn is a great set up by Marvel marketing wise cause these act as teasers and one shot stories ultimately. X-Men: First Class could do what this book does as well.

  4. LuckyLouie13 says:

    Great review! I personally enjoyed the hell out of this. I’m currently reading the Fantastic Four: Season One graphic novel and it’s good as well. I was thinking of picking up the Daredevil: Season One but I may hold off for a bit. I like the idea of the whole “Season One” initiative. People need to realize that not everyone has kept up with, in some cases, over 500 issues of continuity. It’s intimidating for people to get into comics with those kinds of numbers on the cover. At least these books are giving people some insight to the origin of these characters and a way to break into comics.

    • If you want to jump in on these characters then why not go with the classics? Why do we need the billionth retelling of X-Men or Fantastic Four? There’s a reason Marvel hit it big with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

    • oblivious247 says:

      The X-Men weren’t exactly a success under Stan Lee.

    • jackietam jackietam says:

      @TNC Cause it’s dated. Sure it might be great, but it was great back then. The writing is overwrought in the typical Stan Lee “everyone explaining what they are doing and thinking”. The art is decent but for the modern – non comic book – reader it’s archaistic

      If the purpose of the Season One OGN is to try to bring the classic origin stories that is somewhat relate-able to the modern non comic book reader audience, then Marvel achieve that in this ONG.

      Hardcover comic book fan needs to understand these OGN are not for you. They know you read the classics. They know you read all the stories and know all the character inside and out. This is for everyone else. The “civilians” – who want to know but don’t. And now the can.

    • @jackietam: I know they’re not for me, but then again they wouldn’t be for Ron either since he’s uber-fan. But he loved it.

      Maybe Lee’s run is a bit outdated but I think this OGN will be outdated just as quickly. The versions of these characters are pretentious, annoying, and just plain unlikable. They fit this generation and soon this generation will get pushed aside for another and then what? Make another wave of Season One books for them?

      My point is that this series isn’t needed. If they want to introduce fans to these characters then push the classics that are already out there. Why not push Jeff Parker’s run on First Class? Or Loeb’s Daredevil Yellow? Or just any of the dozens of classic Spider-Man stories? A retread of these origins just aren’t needed, especially when most of these characters have been in the pop-culture lexicon for fifty years and counting.

    • jackietam jackietam says:

      @TNC Just because I said the stories weren’t written for the hardcore comic fan, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t enjoy it. A good story is a good story.

      I agree that this OGN become outdated soon – but not as soon as you think – but like it or not, hardcore comic book fans need to keep in mind – this OGN might be someone’s first comic book he or she has ever read. We need to try to bring in more in this media as much as possible. You can argue that this is not good representation of what X-Men origin stories could be and that’s fine. But as I said it before, classic Marvel stories written in the 60s aren’t going to appeal the general public.

      If this OGN in the next 10 years become outdated for this current generation (which is me) that’s fine. Then Marvel needs to roll out another batch of Season One (or something similar to that) in order to get more civilians in the comics. If it doesn’t work, oh well it happens. At least they made an effort. If it does, then fantastic. Good on Marvel

      You can say this story was badly written or the art wasn’t your likely, but to say this OGN is not need is a mistake, especially with the fact that there has been a slow and steady decline of comic readers.

    • oblivious247 says:

      Lee’s run isn’t just outdated, it’s poorly written. I like a fair amount of his stuff, but his x-men was horrible (damn near unreadable) and many people would agree with me on that.

    • KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

      @oblivious247: I agree with you on that. I’ve slowly been working through the books on that 40 Years of X-Men DVD that came out several years ago.

      Getting through the Lee/Kirby issues was a lot harder than I expected (I just skimmed the art on a few issues), and the Roy Thomas stuff was hard for me too up until Neal Adams showed up.

      I haven’t read Season One, but I think part of the reason superheroes have endured is that they can be reinvented for a new generation. The concept and the core character traits are what matter, the rest is pretty malleable.

  5. Ilash Ilash says:

    Man, that’s some pretty art. Not so sure about the story though…

  6. good choice I got this for my birthday and really dug it

  7. filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

    The art on these books is too… “normal” for my taste. I mean… it’s more descriptive than suggestive. It’s certainly very well done and competent but it’s almost like looking at photo stills.

    There is a lot of detail but no real complexity. What you see is what you get. To me it’s not evocative at all. This is very competent graphic storytelling but comics? Dunno.

    It looks like it’s some editorial choice doing these “Season One” books like this. It’s like if Marvel is trying to introduce new readers not only to the characters but to graphic storytelling altogether. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but certainly it’s not for me.

  8. If Marvel were serious about introducing new readers then they wouldn’t be charging 25 dollars for 136 pages.

    • PraxJarvin PraxJarvin says:

      Especially when a full third of that is a reprint of the latest Uncanny X-Men #1.

    • StoreGuy says:

      YUUUUUUUUP! Big, big complaint about this. 100 pages of original story, 36 pages of a story that only features one of the characters featured in the first story. So basically, that’s .25 cents A PAGE! That’s like buying 10 single issues. Except here you barely get 5 issues worth of story. It’s bad business. I know the FF one had a more logical page count, but I didn’t hear as many comments about that one.

  9. LucasEwalt says:

    I don’t think this line of books is a bad idea… I just really don’t understand the titles. Did they go with “Season One” because “Year One” is too closely associated with DC? Or does DC actually own the rights to that phrase or something?

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      I guess that Season One will sound more familiar to the general public because of TV shows. Since they are targetting new readers it makes sense.

  10. Neb Neb says:

    Glad to see folks are enjoying this. As for me, I’m avoiding all of these as they hold no particular interest for me. If I see them at the library, I might check them out, especially this one as I’m a fan of McKelvie’s art.

  11. Yes! I loved this book and so far haven’t heard much praise for it.

  12. Hornhead Hornhead says:

    It’s a given that I’ll love the art but I’d like to hear peoples thoughts on how it compares to Jeff Parker’s First Class.

    • wangman31888 wangman31888 says:

      more angst / teen drama and less fun, but still solid

    • StoreGuy says:

      In general my customers have been saying it’s not as good as first class. (One customer went so far as to say “Hopeless is more than just the name of the writer.”) More or less, the jist is “The art is great!”

      What’s really interesting is that hot on the heels of this book, Marvel is rereleasing John Byrne’s The Hidden Years. Doesn’t exactly send a clear message “Here’s Season 1, a totally new standalone story. Oh, and here’s a trade featuring the same time, kinda, but… uhh… well, set in the 70s and is designed to bridge a whole bunch of continuity.” Can a new reader be blamed for being confused with these two things being out within a month of each other?

  13. wangman31888 wangman31888 says:

    Is marvel using these Season One books to give new, up and coming writers a shot at something big? Cuz i haven’t heard of any of them

    I could just be ignorant, though

  14. JokersNuts JokersNuts says:

    Haven’t read it, but it looks interesting. It still takes place in the 60′s right? Magento IS still a survivor of the holocaust right?

    I’m a bit skeptical on why they have branded it “Season 1″ Comics aren’t Television series, and really shouldn’t be thought of as such.

    anyway, anything that gets people into X-Men and reading comics is ok with me.

  15. Funcrusher Funcrusher says:

    Yah, dunno about this what with stuff like Flex Mentallo recently released. I’m glad to heat the season one books can be good. I’ve got my eye on the Hulk one, mainly because of Fowler.

    • Funcrusher Funcrusher says:

      hear*

    • JSAkid JSAkid says:

      I know right, with the release of deluxe Flex Mentallo (a Grant Morrison story I don’t have) and other great stuff these season one’s don’t seem as interesting as I wanted them to be but do like seeing fresh takes on classics now and then, especially in one shot/non-continnuity books. I really want the Ant-Man one cause its the obscure story in the bunch you wouldn’t think would be in this line up and don’t see may stories focusing on him period.

    • Hermgerm Hermgerm says:

      Check out Avengers: Mythos, JSAkid.. There’s a cool Ant Man/Wasp story in there. You’ll dig it.

  16. Hermgerm Hermgerm says:

    I gave this hardcover to my 9 year old nephew. Instant fan. Now he’s bugging me about all thing X-Men. Marvel accomplished what they set out to do with this Season 1 retelling, i.e. creating a new generation of fans. We should all do our part to spread some comic book love among the young ‘uns.

  17. MisterKyleW MisterKyleW says:

    I loved this. I would love if they kept going with it. It’d be awesome if they used this as an opportunity to tell a complete standalone series about the X-Men that had a beginning, middle and end.

  18. mrlogical mrlogical says:

    I enjoyed this, though thought it was a touch light on content. And throwing in an issue of Gillen’s Uncanny at the end seemed like an odd choice–if you were new to the X-Men and read this book, going to a story that features none of the characters from Season One except Cyclops and going from McKelvie art to Greg Land must be disorienting on many levels.

    Also, I was struck by how the blurbs on the back of the booked seemed to be damning it with faint praise. Jason Aaron says Dennis Hopeless is going to be great one day and right now he’s “paying his dues”; someone else says they’d watch McKelvie draw the phone book, or something to that effect. Both work as praise for the creators, but do not suggest any enthusiasm for the book itself–”he’ll do great stuff once he can get past go-hum projects like this that are necessary to build a reputation”/”well I’d look at anything he’d draw, so I guess I’ll look at this”. Neither are awful quotes alone, and I don’t doubt that they weren’t meant in a backhanded fashion, but taken together, it makes me think at least that an editor should’ve gone back to the commenters for a second pass on those quotes.