“X-Men” #3 appears to wrap up Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel’s first storyline on the recently re-launched title, as Sublime and Arkea’s conflict comes to a head in a hospital, while the Jean Grey School is still under attack by a computer infection. But in reading this issue, it feels like things have slowed down a bit, and the question remains on if this story is really over or if this is just the first part of a longer arc still ahead.
What’s odd about the pacing in “X-Men” #3 is that it feels like it’s all over the map. There’s no problem with using an entire page for sound effects lettering on a black background, for instance, or to show Pixie releasing a dangerous object far away from the school. Contrast that to the end of the issue, where Rogue and Storm are discussing Rachel’s objections in a manner that would make you think we’d had a page or two of her debating (or afterwards, dissecting) a decision on how to stop Arkea. The problem is, it’s actually just a single panel (and six words at that). It feels like there’s a page or two missing, and that perhaps the earlier pages could have been better utilized to help with the overall flow of the comic. The end result feels very slow for most of the issue, and then suddenly there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it conclusion as the two-page wrap-up occurs.
Even with a slightly slower and different pace, there’s still a lot of fun to be had in “X-Men” #3. The scenes with Bling in the Jean Grey School are a riot; so many of the actual students (that aren’t part of the core group of characters in “Wolverine and the X-Men”) have fallen to the wayside as of late, and it’s nice to see Wood not only dusting them off but actually using them in entertaining and attention-grabbing ways. Jubilee’s musing about the future of the baby she “adopted” from the hospital is great; it’s a very humanizing moment for a character that’s been ill-served as of late. In general, Wood’s big strength in “X-Men” is how well he deals with all of the characters. It’s a mixture of big names and obscure characters, and it’s great that he allows as many of them shine each issue as possible.
The launch of the new “X-Men” series was delayed slightly so that the book’s wouldn’t have to immediately jump into fill-in artists, and it was a smart decision. The art in “X-Men” is gorgeous, some of Coipel’s best to date, and this issue is no exception. It’s easy to notice some of the surface details that make “X-Men” #3 look so good; the smooth lines, the gentle curls of hair, the strong facial expressions to bring Wood’s script to life. There’s a lot more going on here, though. Everyone has a different body type under Coipel’s pencil, for instance. Compare the slight frame of Kitty Pryde to the more solid one of Rogue. When the army of Karimas appear, it would have been easy to just use a computer to duplicate the character over and over again, but instead Coipel takes the time to put them all at slightly different angles and make it feel more natural while still keeping the similarities between one and the next. Even something as simple as Sublime talking to Arkea while wearing a blazer and with his hands in his pockets (instead of a more traditional “preparing for battle” pose) comes across great; Coipel draws Sublime so relaxed and nonchalant that it makes that scene all the stronger.
“X-Men” #3 is a fun issue overall, but it does feel a little scattered in places. Still, it’s definitely above average, and all in all “X-Men” has proven itself with a good first story outing. In a market which isn’t afraid to unleash a glut of titles with the same teams or characters, it’s a relief to have a new book starring the X-Men still feel interesting and with a strong voice. Good stuff.