Let’s get the obvious parts out of the way first. Yep, this isn’t the first or even second “X-Men” #1 we’ve had. (And never mind that the second “X-Men” series has morphed into “New X-Men,” then back to “X-Men,” before its current title of “X-Men: Legacy.”) And yep, it’s managed to be published before the conclusion of “X-Men: Second Coming,” meaning that people who squint and read between the lines know at least a few minor parts of that story’s conclusion. Oops.
Now, with all that said? Well, “X-Men” #1 is only the third comic I’ve read written by Victor Gischler, and I’m glad it’s far more interesting than “Deadpool Corps” #1. It’s in many ways a standard, by-the-numbers X-Men story: characters out on the town, villains plotting against them, X-Men regrouping and investigating. (Last week’s “Death of Dracula” was stronger still, making this a slight comedown.) If it wasn’t for one curious fact, this would be a reasonable but slightly unmemorable debut issue.
Throughout this first issue, Gischler tries to keep the word “vampire” out of the issue entirely. At first you might think it’s a stylistic decision, but the more you read, the more it looks like Gischler is trying to surprise readers that the bad guys in this first storyline are vampires. Now, never mind all of the advance publicity about this being X-Men versus vampires. Or the variant gatefold cover including a vampiric Jubilee, to say nothing of master vampire hunter Blade. But the fact that last week’s prequel issue featured nothing but vampires? You’d think that was a big giveaway.
Even once you remove that from the picture, though, Gischler trying to be coy about the vampires in this comic comes across as talking down to his audience. It means characters have to speak in sentences like, “No, she has not transformed into what you’re thinking,” or allusions to former vampire storylines like, “considering your history.” When the final panel at least mentions Dracula, it just feels like disdain for the readership, as if they couldn’t have figured it out up until that point. One of the things I’ve liked about Matt Fraction’s run on “Uncanny X-Men” is that he’s not afraid to let some things remain unsaid and have the readers stop and pick up all the information given and put it together themselves; he has enough respect for them that they can figure it out. For Gischler’s “X-Men” to succeed, he’s going to need to stop doing the opposite and give his readers some credit.
On the bright side, I’ve liked Paco Medina’s pencils ever since I saw them on a short-lived “Suicide Squad” series, and this is probably some of his best work yet, alongside Juan Vlasco’s inks. Characters have a slightly angular construction while still having smooth edges, and some of the early reaction shots (like a stunned Jubilee after the attack in Union Square) look great. Cyclops in particular is cast perfectly from a heroic mold, with the strong jaw, solid body, and determined face. Wolverine in his costume, likewise, comes across as a powerful looking character; the image of him, Angel, and Pixie in the warehouse is excellently drawn, the three of them each having just the right body types to compare and contrast how Medina approaches them.
“X-Men” #1 has a so-so story, but you’ll stay for Medina and Vlasco’s art. Hopefully Gischler will add in a little more strength to the next issue. While I’m not convinced there’s any need for a third monthly X-Men title (especially now that “X-Men: Legacy” has shifted to a combination of older and newer characters with Rogue at the center), there’s some potential here.