“Young X-Men” is a book that’s trying hard, but not quite managing to come up with the goods. After last issue assembled the team, this one puts them straight to work. Credit to Guggenheim for immediately getting into the meat of the story after a fairly slow opening issue, but unfortunately it comes across as almost too quick — we see these characters fail to take down the New Mutants in a simulator once, with the lesson being that they should “work as a team” before they’re immediately separated into small units and shipped off to have a stab at fighting the real deal. Not much scope for working as a team when you’ve been divided into smaller units, is there?
All of this can be partly forgiven, of course, if all is not what it seems. Cyclops is acting incredibly out of character, and his speech about X-Men being forced to kill in these desperate times is wholly unbelievable being delivered to the younger kids he’s gathered – Cyclops already HAS a team to do the murdering, dirty work, and it’s called X-Force. There’s no way he’d burden these children with the same remit.
Cyclops also tries to tell the kids that Magma, a “human volcano” is one of the weaker members of the New Mutants when compared to Sam, who is a “human cannonball”. Excuse me, what? Cannonball beats Volcano? To say his reasoning doesn’t ring true is something of an understatement, but what’s worse is that it’s hard to tell whether this is bad writing or foreshadowing of some kind. Is this Cyclops a Skrull? I almost hope that he is, but given the lack of any advertised “Secret Invasion” tie-in, one has to wonder.
There are several other things that aren’t really up to scratch â€” some storytelling problems leave me fairly unsure of what Ink’s new tattoo is supposed to be doing â€” it appears to give him super-strength, but… how? Likewise, Blindfold and Ink take down Moonstar but in such a way that I’m still confused over how exactly they did it. Is it Blindfold using telepathy? If so, there’s no visual cue to point to that, nor any specific dialogue that suggests as much. If that wasn’t enough, the attempt to write dialect for the more regionalized “New Mutants” characters is just painful to read. “Youah”? “Verra”? Even spoken aloud, I can’t find a way to make them sound like the words they’re supposed to be.
It’s not a complete failure as a book – the fight scenes featuring the former New Mutants are mostly quite entertaining, and it’s still ambiguous as to whether they have genuinely become a threat or not. Magma makes some fairly violent threats which would seem to support what Cyclops has said, but when you look at it from the perspective of Moonstar and Magma, the Young X-Men have simply attacked them, without reason, while they went about their daily business. It seems very likely that the kids are being deceived.
The one immediate hint that anything is wrong comes shortly after Blindfold and Ink have taken down Moonstar, as Ink attacks Blindfold, apparently confirming her precognitive notion that there was a traitor in the team. Unfortunately, with the agenda of all the characters fairly ill-defined at the moment, you can’t begin to speculate what that might mean for them in a wider sense.
It’s clear that “Young X-Men” needs to sort itself out, and quickly, if it wants any chance of carrying on the momentum it was afforded by Messiah Complex. One more issue, and it’s officially out of the grace period. Let’s hope Guggenheim makes it count.