You really can’t go wrong with the X-Men. There are many lineups and crazy combinations of everyone’s favorite mutant heroes, yet there is especially enduring appeal to the first class of X-Men to study under Professor X. Today, we get a digest collection of “hidden stories” that showcase their adventures and struggles. We see Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast, and Marvel Girl as the originals in “modern” adaptations of their classic tales. Before they became legends, they were students.
This trade paperback is the second of its kind; the first is X-Men First Class: Mutants 101, which features the original volume of X-Men First Class with its eight issues and the First Class Special they had to follow up. Luckily, those issues were fan favored enough to merit a second volume that ran for another 16 issues, a special, one-shots, and a miniseries. The First Class line of comics was a great way for Marvel to introduce fans to a less complicated version of the X-Men with several done-in-one stories that were fun without high-stakes risks.
Jeff Parker has found his voice for each character, and he has his stride down. In issue #1, Jeff plays with the idea of Jean Grey being the only girl on the team, so she gets to “job shadow” the Invisible Girl from the Fantastic Four; I love the way these two school the boys on their teams by showing just how amazingly powerful they are. What is also fun from that issue is how modern relationships are played with back in that “era.” For example, Scott Summers is jealous of the Human Torch getting close to Jean. Seeing how much the guys recognized how valuable a team member Jean is to their mission was terrific.
That issue was a significant step towards showing how this group of teens formed a team. As the volume progresses, we get adventures where each character finds moments of self-doubt and can overcome it with perseverance or help from the group. I like that these stories don’t override what existed from the original Marvel Age of stories, but instead add to those eras. Jeff Parker does a great job of taking those stories from the 1960s and adding them to story elements from 2008 without feeling out of place or unnatural. He plays the teenage struggle perfectly, and the X-Men adapt very well to that subject matter. These stories hold up nicely for a 2022 audience (though the lack of smartphones everywhere is a little jarring if you think about it).
The art team consists of Roger Cruz, Julia Bax, and Eric Ngyuen, and their styles are consistent. Cruz and Bax are very similar in art style and layout approach, which is great as when you’re reading the stories, you won’t get distracted by the change in the artist. Eric Ngyuen is a little different in their style, but the adventure with Man-Thing works to help showcase this is a different adventure with a little more edge. The Marvel Girl/Scarlet Witch and other backup adventures by Jeff Parker and Colleen Coover are great to end an issue with lighthearted fun.
If you’re a fan of the X-Men Evolution cartoon series, teen drama, or the original X-Men lineup, you will enjoy this trade paperback collection. These digest trades are perfect recommendations if you want to give a teenager something to read that will entertain them. This First Class collection is a great way to remind us of the joy of comics and why we have bonded with these characters in the manner we have. Jeff Parker and the team managed to add to their struggles as people instead of reminding us they’re outcasts as mutants.
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