Written by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman
Drawn by Anzu
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey
X-Men: Misfits is the second of two manga-influenced comics from Del Rey that feature characters licensed from Marvel. The first, Wolverine: Prodigal Son felt squarely aimed at boys and influenced by shonen comics, with Wolverine going through tests of skill and becoming a master of martial arts even while he’s unable to fight the battles of friendship. X-Men: Misfits, then, is more of a shojo comic and aiming towards female readers. With Kitty Pryde being the only female student at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, she’s the belle of the ball even while she is torn between two different camps of boys. Sounds an awful lot like all sorts of shojo comics out there to me.
I think that Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman really nail the idea of turning the X-Men into a shojo comic. I could just as easily see Kitty as the lead in a Yû Watase comic like Fushigi Yûgi, where she’s nervous about not only her abilities but the circumstances that she keeps getting dropped into. Unfortunately, that does mean that early on Kitty is less of a hero and more of a doormat. The boys of the Hellfire Club walk all over Kitty, and it’s hard to cheer on someone who lets herself get so abused. It’s a slow burn for Kitty here, and it’s not really until the halfway point that we start to get some signs of her gaining a bit of independence and backbone. Once she does, though, the book becomes much more interesting. After all, it’s hard to have an interesting love triangle if two of the three involved don’t interact with the third, but the potential for there to be an emotional conflict in future volumes is there by the end of Volume 1.
In adapting the X-Men into a manga-inspired form, Telgemeier and Roman have far too much fun with shifting around traditional characters. I like that they don’t fall into the easy trap of making the original X-Men now the teachers and anyone since then the students. Instead it’s a mix and match; Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, and Havok are teenagers alongside newer characters like Pyro, Gambit, and Forge, while Beast, Storm, and Colossus are all on the teaching staff. Or rather, characters with those basic power structures and names are here; Telgemeier and Roman make sure that it’s more than just dropping characters into a slightly different setting. So while concepts still exist, the execution is fair game for the changing. I think that’s actually where the story of X-Men: Misfits excels; the group of "Hellfire Club" students having some of the teachers in their pocket makes their dominance over the school that much more acceptable, for instance, and seeing the Cyclops & Havok relationship play out in a different manner than the comics is actually more entertaining than the original.
Anzu’s art is in the same delicate, almost ethereal style that a lot of shojo comics use. It’s a look that isn’t always to my taste, with wispy lines slowly draping across the page and strange patterns laid over the backgrounds of the panels. That said, while I’m not always crazy about that approach, it’s hard to ignore that Anzu has completely nailed it. For readers who like this particular style (and there are a lot of readers who do), they’re going to be over the moon with Anzu’s work. I think what I do like the most about the way Anzu draws characters in general is her determination that characters dress appropriately. There’s a high level of attention paid to the fashions in X-Men: Misfits, with accessories and trendy clothing all over the place. It would have been easy to just place the characters in X-Men uniforms all the time, but Anzu avoids that dull trap. Anzu’s redesigns of some of the characters are also fairly fantastic; Beast’s new look as a cross between a bear and a totoro made me wish that he was one of the main stars of the book, with his cute, burly look. Likewise, Colossus’s transformation into a metal man here reminds me of Tik-Tok from the Oz books, complete with metal mustache and seeing rivets and seams along his clockwork body. It’s a nice way to break away from the obvious and get creative.
X-Men: Misfits isn’t for everyone; if you’re going to find yourself getting frustrated over the number of differences between the regular X-Men and these "remixed" characters, just steer clear. If you think the idea of the X-Men reinvented as characters in a shojo manga sounds like a fun twist, though, take a look. I grew more pleased with it as the book progressed, and the promise for a change in the boy-to-girl ratio in future volumes makes me that much more interested in seeing another installment. It’s a solid start to the series.