It wasn’t until I finished reading the fifth issue of “Young X-Men” that I think the big problem with the comic was finally clear; after five months I still didn’t feel like I “knew” any of these characters. And that, when you compare “Young X-Men” to other mutant “team” books in the past, places it well below the line.
Over the years we’ve seen all sorts of books debut that use a variety of existing and new characters; titles like the current “X-Factor,” “Generation X,” “Excalibur,” “Exiles,” and so forth. The one thing that all of them seemed to have was a strong sense of character that came across almost instantly to the reader. It didn’t matter if you’d never read the published-in-the-UK “Captain Britain” to almost instantly get a feel for Captain Britain and Meggan over in “Excalibur.” The same was true for having skipped the introductory story for “Generation X,” where Scott Lobdell made sure new readers could still jump right in.
Frustratingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case with “Young X-Men.” The characters who already existed are coming across so poorly that it actually worries me that Wolf Cub and Blindfold (in particular) had appeared in a comic before this, because they’re both so one-note that it makes you wonder why Marc Guggenheim isn’t doing something interesting with them. The only cast member that seems even remotely interesting after five issues is the brand-new Ink, and that has more to do with his betrayal of the rest of the members than anything else. (Although to be fair, if I’d been stuck with these duds, I might have betrayed them too, out of hope that they’d be replaced with someone more interesting.)
It certainly doesn’t help that Guggenheim is piling on the characters for this first story. Five regular teammates, plus a sixth skulking in the wings waiting to join. Donald Pierce cackling maniacally off in the corner. And then there’s Cannonball, Sunspot, Mirage, and Magma all guest-starring. With eleven main characters, it’s easy to see why things are getting a bit crowded. Maybe the first story could have done with a few less people, saving this for once we got to know them a little better?
If there’s ever any doubt that something has gone wrong, it’s when you get to the end of the issue and we finally get the long-promised “in this issue, a Young X-Man dies!” moment. Because really, do you care about which character is dead? I’ll admit it, the biggest reaction I found was a shrug.
“Young X-Men” isn’t a bad idea. There’s certainly potential in the book, and I suspect next issue will be establishing the new status quo for the characters. But right now, it’s too flat and lifeless. Guggenheim’s normally much better than this (his ensemble-cast comic of “Resurrection” does a great job of touching on lots of characters in a single issue), so hopefully he’ll start shedding the large numbers of guest-stars and focus on one or two characters and make us care about them. Right now? It’s a big pot of blandness, and that’s the worst thing possible. A bored reader will soon become an absent reader, and I’m on the verge of that right now.