Young X-Men #8

Story by
Art by
Rafa Sandoval, Roger Bonet
Colors by
Jose Villarrubia
Letters by
Dave Sharpe
Cover by
Marvel Comics

This is a perfectly fine comic book. The art, by Rafa Sandoval and Roger Bonet is clear (and dynamic when it needs to be). The coloring may be a bit spotty, with an attempt at lighting effects that makes everyone look a bit pasty, but the overall appearance of this comic is slick and well-presented. The dialogue is a bit goofy at times, with lines like, "Yo, Jesus. You've got powers now, man, remember?" and "I like the M-10, homes. Dependable," but it flows smoothly and helps move the story along. The plot is actually the best part of the comic, with the Young X-Men team doing a little investigation into a mutant tattoo artists and the gang-bangers who may have been granted tattooed-on powers.

But all of it adds up to exactly what I said in the opening: a perfectly fine comic. It's almost exactly what you'd expect a comic titled "Young X-Men" to be. It's younger mutants acting like junior members of the X-Men. It even echoes some of the events in the "Uncanny X-Men" series, as the former Young X-Man known as Ink -- who thought he was a mutant, but it turns out his tattoo artist was the one laying the super-powered ink on him -- runs into some trouble with the Hellfire Cult. The Hellfire Cult seems less frightening here though. This must be the junior varsity Hellfire Cult members. It wouldn't be fair, otherwise.

Marc Guggenheim knows how to tell a story, and though this series began with a reversal that didn't quite work: Cyclops was revealed to be the nefarious Donald Pierce, and he was using the Young X-Men for, get this...evil! Cyclops wasn't really Pierce, of course, it's just that the guy the Young X-Men knew to be Cyclops was actually Pierce in disguise. So, of course, the real Cyclops was more than happy to take these youngsters under his wing and give them a home in San Francisco with the rest of the big, happy mutant family.

I'm not sure the first six issues of this series make a whole lot of sense. But issue #7 did (as it explained that one of the members was, gasp, not a mutant. And, as I mentioned, that not-a-mutant turned out to be Ink). And issue #8 makes sense too, as a pretty straightforward investigation (with some "Law and Order" jokes, since Guggenheim has written for that show too) into the possibility of a gang of super-powered latinos. It's all well and good and it ends in a fight scene, but the problem in this series has to do with its characters.

Perhaps Guggenheim is drawing upon reader's prior knowledge of these Young X-Men, but except for de-facto leaders Sunspot and Dani Moonstar (from the original "New Mutants"), I hardly know anything about the team members. Anole's return to the team seems like it's supposed to be a big deal, and he plays nicely off Rockslide, but we don't learn much about either of them in this comic, or in the series so far. The same is true for Dust, and the ultra-mysterious oddball known as Greymalkin. And, for that matter, we don't really know why Sunspot and Dani Moonstar have so eagerly taken leadership of this team. And we don't know why we should care about the outcast Ink, who has acted like a jerk, betraying the team in the first story arc before sort of redeeming himself and then quitting.

It all feels like a hyper-compressed batch of character traits meshed with a decompressed story. It's not a bad comic book. It just hasn't fully developed its world yet.

If you're looking for old-fashioned mutant drama without a whole lot of continuity nonsense, this might be the X-title for you. It doesn't explain a whole lot, but things move forward in a straightforward manner from point A to point B. There's not much depth here, but if all you want is a perfectly fine comic about a bunch of young mutants having ancillary adventures, you can't go wrong with "Young X-Men."

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