Did we really need another X-Men book? Particularly one that focused on the original 1963 team? Marvel has tried to do this before and failed with less than spectacular results. The creators either tried to be too faithful to the original stories or tried to make those X-Men “kewl” and “Imagey,” you know, all angsty and full of big muscles and lots of lines. When Marvel tried to do this again with X-Men First Class, it just seemed like another tired attempt to just repackage an old concept as something new for an aging comic audience.
I guess that may end up being my mistake.
Issue #11 introduces The Continuiteens, a group of comic fans who, while living in the Marvel Universe, know the future because they’ve received future Diamond shipments from our world. When the Fantastic Four are in the Negative Zone and the Avengers are fighting in the Pacific, the Continuiteens use their knowledge to keep the world safe and on track. They fix potential continuity errors, such as when Spidey villain Mysterio absorbs energy from the Nexus of Realities and starts bending and breaking the space/time continuum. And when there’s no other heroes left to call, The Continuiteens call the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters and the X-Men.
This comic is about comic fans as much as it is about the X-Men. Jeff Parker nicely balances telling an X-Men story with a story about fandom and many of our own secret desires. Who of us (and by “us,” I mean longtime fans of any sort of hero story whether it be the Lone Ranger, the X-Men or even the X-Files) hasn’t dreamed about being the heroes we enjoy. The characters of the Continuiteens are the best of those dreamers and fans. As Parker writes them, they’re the ones who never “grew up” or lost their love of their childhood characters. And for them, their beloved characters are real. It’s fun, touching and very, very meta.
Parker’s story works on two levels– there is the X-Men story throughout it that, while a bit weird, functions well as an X-Men tale, featuring them facing off one against a Spider-Man foe. While the story does veer off occasionally into off-kilter tangents, at its heart, it is a X-Men tale, featuring mutants in a world where they’re the minority even as they’re heroes. The story of the Continuiteens, of the fans, contains the best parts of this issue. Almost every panel contains a joke about fandom and its love affair with the object of its affections. But it’s not laughing at them; it actually celebrates the fans and their love of comics.
In fact, Parker has almost written a Silver Age tale here, the type much more at home at DC than at Marvel. While Marvel’s Silver Age was mostly made up of stories about growing up and learning responsibility, DC’s much older character went through a Silver Age where anything and everything was possible. There was a tongue-in-cheek aspect of them (and possibly there still is in the best DC stories) that Marvel has never quite captured. Marvel has been good at poking fun at itself but has never really embraced the lighter aspects of the stories that they could tell. It’s funny that thanks to Jeff Parker, they find that ability in one of their flagship titles like The X-Men that’s spent decades trying to be “real” and “relevant.”
Nick Draggota and Colleen Coover’s artwork make this actually look like a comic book. It’s got all of the importance of an important, world-shattering story as all the classic Marvel villains show up to threaten NYC in a great re-creation of John Romita’s Bring on the Bad Guys cover. And when Galactus promises to spare NYC if the X-Men bring him Spider-Man, you can almost believe that Stan and Jack are behind this comic.
X-Men First Class #11 contains an original concept in the Continuiteens that works well within the concept of the original X-Men. The story has fun with fanboys and fangirls without ever getting mean or putting them down. If this issue is a good example of Parker’s approach to this series, it’s good to see that he’s not taking this too seriously and that he’s not slavish to the “integrity” and “importance” of the X-Men.
X-Men First Class #11
Written by: Jeff Parker
Drawn by: Nick Dragotta w/Colleen Coover
Colored by: Val Staples
Lettered by: Blambot’s Nate Piekos
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