Graphic Novel Review: The First X-Men: Children of the Atom

PUBLISHED: 08:02 15 March 2013 | UPDATED: 08:03 15 March 2013

The First X-Men

The First X-Men

Archant

Before Xavier’s dream, there was another team of mutants...

(Panini Books)

IT’S difficult not to draw comparisons between this collected mini-series and the recent X-Men movie First Class. Both concern a fledgling team of newly awakened mutants, uniting to survive persecution, feature scenes with Magneto fighting Nazi war criminals and Charles Xavier at college, and are set in a period in America’s recent past. Adding to the mix is the presence of legendary artist Neal Adams in the creative team, whose short-lived spell illustrating the X-Men’s original series is heralded as one of the highlights of this run, and draws immediate comparisons to those late-sixties comics.

In fact, there are as many differences as there are similarities, not least of which is the presence of Wolverine and Sabretooth as the erstwhile leaders of these “X-Men”, although the group is never called such anywhere in the series. Hugh Jackman’s expletive-laden cameo in First Class aside, the use of these characters at a point in their careers when they were working as mercenaries creates a very different dynamic. Neither is a born leader, and to make matters worse they both have their own ideas for the team, creating violent divisions which have disastrous consequences.

There are some nice continuity touches thrown in for long-term Marvel fans, including the appearance of Namor the Sub-Mariner at a point in his life when he was an amnesiac vagrant living in NY’s Bowery, although it’s hard to reconcile the encounters between Xavier and Logan, given that these were never spoken of again by either man, and the events leading up to Wolverine joining the Weapon X programme are somewhat fudged as well.

Writer Christos Gage seems to have adopted a simplistic, linear storytelling style, perhaps to pay homage to the X-Men’s earliest adventures, but it comes across as somewhat superficial and lacking in the depth modern readers have come to expect.

Adams’ artwork maintains the dynamism and fluidity which made him such a stand-out talent back in the day, and it’s remarkable how modern and alive it still feels when compared to contemporary illustrators.

Unless the events which transpired in this series impact in some way on the present, it may very well be lost to history as a charming curiosity, but given the open ending there is definitely scope for a follow-up.

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