Monday, March 19, 2012

X-Men Season One, or, Why I Love Superhero Comics

X-Men Season One
Story: Dennis Hopeless
Pencils: Jamie McKelvie
Colors: Matthew Wilson

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for an origin story. Give me the last of a dying race, a radioactive spider bite or (one of my favorites) a millionaire playboy stranded on a deserted island forced to master the bow and arrow to survive, and I’ll ask you where to sign.

What is it about seeing someone who’s extraordinary gain that important little “extra?” I’ll get to my answer to that question, but first: X-Men Season One.

This is a fun comic. The story of the first team of X-Men has been told before, including in a recent major motion picture, but this story feels fresh. It feels young. I’m guessing it feels kind of like Lee and Kirby’s first X-Men comics felt to people in the 60s (before the weight of 50 years of continuity was eagerly heaved over the shoulders of that first, little, scrappy X-men team).

At its most basic, this is a story we can all relate to because it’s about a bunch of teenagers finding their place in a world where it feels like they don’t have one. I don’t care if you were a jock or a nerd or whatever in high school, you felt like that at least once. We can relate, but at the same time, it’s so much more fun than your usual coming of age tale because this one is about a guy who can shoot laser beams out of his eyes and a girl who can throw rocks at a T-Rex with her mind, among others of course.

Dennis Hopeless meticulously develops the characters in this comic, but it feels effortless and light. The dialog is true to life, quirky and fun. You come to root for the X-Men without too much convincing.

But for me, that feeling of youth and eternal hope was conveyed mainly through the art of Jamie McKelvie. This guy can straight up draw. The lines are clean enough to eat off. The action scenes are kinetic. But what really gets me are the faces. You can say so much with a glance and in many cases McKelvie tells us everything we need to know about how a character is feeling in a single panel.

The way Jean bites her lip during an awkward conversation with a potential love interest.

The disappointment on Warren’s face after a badly handled social situation.

The way Bobby stares at the beautiful Scarlet Witch as she passes by.

The reason it’s fun to watch all these human moments being played out by the X-Men and their caped and spandexed brethren gets at why superhero comics are great.

They feed our imagination and give us something to aspire to, no matter how extraordinary it might seem. It’s right there within our reach because all that separates us from them is that little “extra.”

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