I remember reading “Uncanny X-Men” when the Wolverine and Jubilee pairing first started up. At the time, some fans were saying it was just a recreation of Wolverine and Kitty Pryde, but it always felt like a different dynamic to me. Jubilee and Kitty were both headstrong characters, but there was a certain edge to Jubilee (a combination of caustic and false bravado) that made this new duo a fun one. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a little over 21 years since that initial team-up, but you know what? Kathryn Immonen and Phil Noto show that it can still work.
Of course, Immonen is inheriting a Jubilee who lost her mutant powers, but (thanks to last year’s “X-Men” #1-6) is now an unwilling vampire. And no, Jubilee isn’t adjusting well to it. It’s that combination of rage and loss and confusion that Immonen writes here that makes “Wolverine and Jubilee” work so well. Immonen’s a writer who likes to dig into the minds of her characters, and this comic is no exception. She does an excellent job of bringing across Jubilee’s plight, making sure to never present it as something that one would easily adjust to.
And so, with all that in mind, we get a day in Jubilee’s new life, with well-meaning people trying to reach out even while others on Utopia are less than convinced that Jubilee should be trusted, much less still on the island. Using some of the B-grade characters like Rockslide, Armor, and Pixie is a smart idea; it gives Immonen a wider slate on which to create her story, and it’s a good reminder that with so many mutants on Utopia that we’re going to see more than just the most famous X-Men members. They’re also less defined, so when Immonen tries to make a point about Rockslide’s personality, there’s more room for her to help flesh out the character.
The star is still Jubilee, though, and in many ways this issue is a classic downward spiral, with each new development taking another step down. Considering she starts the day in a cell, you’d think it could only get better. Immonen cleverly dresses up the series of events by nicer settings with each one-a trip to the gym, a friend wanting to hang out, a chic hotel bar-even as things get worse. When the setting (the maze of container shipments at the Port of Oakland) finally shifts to match Jubilee’s new low point, you realize just how Immonen’s tricked you into thinking that things might get better.
Phil Noto’s an artist whose work I’ve always liked in the past, but it’s clearly been a few years since I’ve seen him work in comics based on how surprised I was by the changes to his style In the past I was used to a slightly more jagged, rougher finished product, but that’s not the case here. Instead it’s soft and graceful, but no less beautiful. The woman Jubilee meets in the bar has just the right level of class and sophistication to play her part, for instance, and it’s fun to see people in the gym actually dressed for, well, the gym. Clothes in general are well-thought out here; it’s nice to see (for example) Pixie in a hoodie and pants instead of her X-Men outfit. I found myself appreciating all of the smaller details here as well, like the sculptures and wood panels in the hotel bar, or the spike of the Trans-American Pyramid in the San Francisco skyline.
This is a smart-looking book, and I’m curious to see where Immonen and Noto are going to take it from here. There’s a lot of set-up in this first issue, but it’s such a pleasant set-up that you barely even notice until it’s over. So far, my only real complaint is that we’re getting this as a mini-series. Of all the 9000 other X-Men spin-offs out there, one with this creative team would sure be nice.