Brahm Revel kicks off the second title in Marvel's revived "Marvel Knights" line with an all new X-Men story that finds Wolverine, Rogue and Kitty Pryde in a backwoods southern town, searching for two endangered mutant teens. Revel's story is a fresh breath of air for the beleaguered X-Men, who are still struggling out of the muddled "Battle of the Atom" event. Although the issue doesn't offer anything "new" or different quite yet, "Marvel Knights: X-Men" #1 carries great potential with its interesting group dynamic and clever artwork.
Ravel's dark, shadowy art style fits the book's atmosphere to a T, ultimately creating what Rogue appropriately calls "another world." A sense of imminent, otherworldly danger lurks in his bold lines, appearing especially in the woodsy, night-shrouded setting. His incorporation of sound effects into the scenery is fantastically inventive; in one panel alone, a loud party blasts across the page with music notes and skulls and crossbones for an instantly recognizable depiction of rock music. This isn't the only clever machination in the book, where Ravel squeezes in metaphorically charged panels like a soda pop billboard riddled with bullet holes. Although at first glance his style appears carefree, the amount of detail in the backgrounds, like posters on the wall and a cabin ominously filled with dangerous tools and children's toys, shows the effort and thought that went into the book. Additionally, Christiane Peter's occasional bright colors -- especially in the scenes where Krystle's powers come into play -- set up an excellent contrast to Ravel's thick inks that light up the issue in key areas.
After all of the post-"Schism" drama so ubiquitous in recent X-books, Ravel's story is a refreshing aside from the politics and in-fighting among the mutants. Cyclops' rebellion gets one mention before it's quickly pushed aside; the issue, blessedly, focuses more on the plot than catty jabs. The team Revel selected gels together organically and their decision to go makes sense in one way or another: Wolverine out of his stubbornness and typical fondness for children, Rogue for her insider knowledge of small southern towns, and Kitty as diplomat to balance them out and approach the new mutants. The new characters, like new mutant Krystle, get just enough page-time to give the reader a grasp of the character without entirely removing the focus from the X-Men. With some intriguing twists, eerie open-ended questions, and a great cliffhanger, the issue strikes a good balance between the characters, plot and artwork.
Brahm Revel has the start of something great with "Marvel Knights: X-Men" #1. With its setting entirely removed from the Jean Grey School and the introduction of several new characters, the issue feels like an updated version of Joe Queseda and Joshua Middleton's "NYX" series, albeit this time with more focus on longtime fan favorites. "Marvel Knights: X-Men" is the darkly fun side story the X-Universe sorely needs right now.