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'X-Men: First Class - Mutants 101' is a charming rewrite of the past
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘X-Men: First Class – Mutants 101’ is a charming rewrite of the past

Parker clearly loves the characters and the lore and Cruz’s pencils give a fun, cartoony feel to the book that fits just perfectly.

Everyone remembers some of their first comics, and X-Men: First Class were some of my first X-Men comics. Having read a slew of X-Men comics and becoming completely engrossed in that world and those characters in the years since, X-Men: First Class only aged better.

Let’s face it: the original X-Men comics are hardly Stan and Jack’s best work. When you read them, you can just kinda tell their hearts aren’t in it. It’s hardly their Fantastic Fouris what I’m saying. There’s a reason the X-Men kind of floundered as a concept before Chris Claremont famously retooled the series and made them the comic book superstars they are today. X-Men: First Class lives in this in-between where it tries to retell the Stan and Jack era with new stories, but also uses concepts we now know about the X-Men to be true because of Claremont’s additions to the lore.

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X-Men: First Class tries to honor its Silver Age roots, telling mostly contained single-issue stories that are really lighthearted, yet the writing never drags on. Each character feels more defined in their own personalities here than they were in those ’60s books, with their voices being drastically different from one another as well. Jean’s the powerhouse with a temper, Bobby’s the jokester and the baby brother of the team, Hank’s the smart but fun-loving guy (boy that’s changed over the years, huh), and Warren’s the rich, cool guy with his head in the clouds.

This book was written in the 2000s, far before Bobby Drake came out as gay, yet the characterization he has in this title is read far differently with that knowledge in hindsight now. The Bobby-centric issues have him always trying to impress someone, whether it be his family or women. If anything, he’s actually over-enthusiastic about flirting with women and wanting a girlfriend — but he’s not particularly good at it and the story knows that. Bobby’s actions here read both as him overcompensating because he’s deeply in the closet and trying to convince everyone (including himself), and also as him purposefully going after girls that are unavailable or will say no.

Some of the best parts of these issues are the yearbook segments, where each character writes on their yearbook and gives their thoughts about the cast. Everyone’s voice is so distinct and it’s such a cute, creative way to invite us into the minds of these characters. Even the handwriting fits each character, and it’s such a great detail that captivated me even as a child reading these for the first time.

Jeff Parker really understands each character’s voice and First Class feels constructed to honor the goofy Silver Age stories, while also being fit for a modern audience. There are several times the story itself references something from the original run, showing that Parker did his research and has a strong love for the characters. No, the book isn’t uber plot-heavy or world-shaking, but it doesn’t try to be. It’s just a fun read that tells the O5 X-Men’s story in a fashion that’s far easier to digest for modern audiences.

The book is self-aware and knows how to have fun with itself, joking about certain conventions of Silver Age X-Men but clearly from a place of love. The name “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants” is so great and goofy and Silver Age that of course, Bobby keeps pointing it out in a cute, funny fashion whenever someone brings them up. It’s just fun and so clearly written by X-Men fans, for X-Men fans.

One thing Parker does, which I adore, is that he points out quite a few times how lonely the X-Men are for Jean at times as the only female member. Her friendship with Wanda was constructed in this series and it’s always made a lot of sense to me — let’s face it, the original X-Men comics didn’t care about Jean much and the books back then were very much a boys club because of the times. But Jean and Wanda’s friendship makes sense. They’re two young women surrounded by men constantly and want to reach out to each other for some companionship. There’s no question Jean loves the X-Men, just like Wanda loves Pietro, but them finding commonality in each other is really sweet. That friendship especially makes sense when you think about how both women go on to be very powerful beings who have struggled with coming to terms with their awesome power.

I do wish this was a thread more titles picked up on, having Jean and Wanda interact in positive ways and bringing back this idea. There’s a lot of cool ground to explore with these two ladies, their similarities, and their history.

Parker also has Susan Richards mentor Jean in one issue, showcasing yet again that Jean does want some female friends (and she’ll get one in Storm once she joins the team in Giant-Size, as we know). Seeing Sue be a key player and just be a mentor for her is really sweet, especially with that lens on that this is the Silver Age and the Fantastic Four were Marvel’s darlings at the time. It’s really sweet, and Jean deserves more of a spotlight like this in these retellings than what she got in the original stories.

X-Men: First Class is a great read for fans new to the series who want to learn more about the early years but are intimidated by starting with ’60s comics, but it’s also a great time for fans who have read the old comics and want to see that dynamic modernized a bit. Parker clearly loves the characters and the lore and Cruz’s pencils give a fun, cartoony feel to the book that fits just perfectly.

'X-Men: First Class - Mutants 101' is a charming rewrite of the past
‘X-Men: First Class – Mutants 101’ is a charming rewrite of the past
X-Men: First Class – Mutants 101
X-Men: First Class is a great read for fans new to the series who want to learn more about the early years but are intimidated by starting with 60s comics, but it's also a great time for fans who have read the old comics and want to see that dynamic modernized a bit.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
The characters feel like themselves
The book is fun, charming, and self-aware, honoring its Silver Age roots but making a story digestible for modern audiences at the same time
Jean's increased focus on wanting female companionship and how she bonds with the women in these stories is so good
8
Good
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