Young X-Men #1-3

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Penciled by Yanick Paquette
Inked by Ray Snyder and Kris Justice
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Over the past five years, Marvel’s been seeming to struggle with what to do with the concept of a junior class of X-Men. We’ve seen a new New Mutants, followed by two pretty different takes on a New X-Men title. Now it’s being altered yet again with Young X-Men—perhaps a name change to hearken to Marvel’s MIA hit Young Avengers. With this latest attempt, though, I’m not sure this is the right direction to take.

The X-Men have disbanded their school, sending their students packing. A few young mutants, though, are being approached by Cyclops to become part of a new squad of X-Men, operating in secret. Their first mission? To tackle the old New Mutants. And if that isn’t dangerous enough, the psychic on the team knows that one of them will die at the end of their first mission.

Marc Guggenheim has chosen an odd mix of characters for Young X-Men—some from New X-Men, another from Astonishing X-Men, and some new creations rolled into the mix. It’s a curious cast in part because there don’t seem to be any real hooks to connect them to each other via personality. Each character feels almost like they belong in their own little bubble, no real interplay existing between them. It doesn’t also help that Guggenheim has promptly thrown in several of the old New Mutants—Cannonball, Sunspot, Mirage, and Magma—into the mix as well, adding in more faces to an already crowded story. I can see why Guggenheim is doing this, taking the still-available early faces of New Mutants as well as their first villain and having their spiritual successors go up against them. It feels like a bit much, though, with four New Mutants and Donald Pierce all running around in a book where we’re still getting to know some of these characters. (Although really, Guggenheim should probably be thankful that other writers had laid claim to Wolfsbane and Karma, or this would be truly out of control.)

What we do end up with here are barely defined single-trait personalities running around in the book. Blindfold, a prophetic character who under Joss Whedon’s scripts made the whole ominous-and-mysterious nature down pat, comes across as someone who alternately has the sentence structure of a three year old, or is just a pouty twelve year old. New character Ink and old background character Wolf Cub are both wearing the stereotypical hothead banner, while Rockslide seems to have drawn the wisecracking role out of the hat. Even Cyclops seems out of character here, although there are some hints that his actions are at least part of a bigger storyline. The end result, though, is a book that seems to just lurch from one scene to the next.

Yanick Paquette’s art is solid and consistent, which is a must for Young X-Men. He’s got some characters better under his thumb, like Ink and Dust, who come across as strongly realized and visually interesting to the reader, with a clean and smooth line. Ink in particular is going to be a visual challenge to draw constantly, with all of his different and deliberate tattoos, but Paquette seems to be up to the challenge. On the other hand, Rockslide and Blindfold look like they aren’t quite there yet; Blindfold’s hair and blindfold look very flat and almost fake, while Rockslide never seems to quite hold together as a humanoid character, that line between odd and believable not quite there. It’s a little frustrating to see guest characters like Mirage coming across more smoothly and visually interesting than the members of the actual cast,? but hopefully that will change with additional practice on these new characters.

After three issues, I still don’t feel like I have a handle on Young X-Men. Their purpose seems incredibly vague, and I get the impression that the creative team themselves are having the same problem that I am. Hopefully things will come together soon, because there are a lot of weak spots on display here. This could be a really fun and interesting book, but right now it just feels like a bit of a jumbled mess. This creative team has proven to be much stronger on other books they’ve worked on; hopefully things will correct themselves soon.

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