Three issues into Brian Wood and David Lopez’s run on “X-Men” and my biggest complaint is that Marvel NOW! might end up bringing their work on the title to an end. For a book that never seemed to have much of a purpose, “X-Men” #32 is another example of how to take a slightly random title and make it work.
Helpfully set pre-“Avengers vs. X-Men,” Wood’s story in “X-Men” #32 nonetheless still hits some of the ideas that have been brewing and leading up to the big crossover. Focusing on a team led by Storm, “X-Men” #32 dwells on secrets being kept from fellow teammates and the growing mistrust among the X-Men’s ranks. It almost makes me wish this story had actually come a few months earlier than “Avengers vs. X-Men” began, but at the same time it’s a nice respite from “Avengers vs. X-Men” invading every other Marvel title.
As for the plot itself, it’s engaging and reminds me in some ways of what the earlier remit for “Astonishing X-Men” had felt like. We’ve got a race of proto-mutants (an early evolutionary branch off of the homo superior gene tree), genetic memories being passed down through offspring, big crazy science and even a gentle reminder that this is a global story where not every character will magically speak English. Wood’s story feels big and crazy and important, full of large ideas that want to burst out and spill into other titles. It’s also nice to see him unafraid to pull in other characters as needed; with such a ridiculously large roster, it makes sense that other X-Men can get tagged in at a moment’s notice.
David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez almost always turn out good art, and this issue is no exception. They’ve got a tight control over the viewpoint of the reader when Colossus and Storm have their confrontation — forever zooming in closer on each character as the discussion gets more tense — and it creates an extra level of drama to the scene. While there’s not much “action” in the issue (aside from Psylocke’s opening pages as she vaults through the woods), the images pulled out of the genetic memories are off-kilter and creepy, helping to sell that moment as feeling dangerous and gripping the same way others might use a fight scene. They’re a good choice for this story and I’d like to see Wood and the Alvarezes collaborate more down the line.
I don’t know if, post-Marvel NOW! we’ll have more “X-Men” comics from Wood and Alvarez. I hope so, for our sakes. They’re a good team and in just a couple of issues they’ve turned the flagging, forgotten title in the X-Books into one that I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment. This has been a pleasant surprise.