Review by Frank Plowright
The same cover art as X-Men First Class: Tomorrow’s Brightest is used for this collection, but this can be distinguished by a blue background and a smaller than usual format. It was issued to coincide with the film of the same title, collecting material originally published five years previously. The comic was there first, though, in returning to the earliest days of the X-Men. The five original team members Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl have only recently been selected by Professor X for his School for Gifted Youngsters and their interactions bear the awkwardness of people getting to know each other.
Beyond the movie tie-in, the other reason for this collection is for writer Jeff Parker to select the favourite stories from a run that was self-contained individual issues throughout. Given the necessity to include an introductory issue, it’s odd that he’d pick a further four of the first seven issues he wrote in preference to later material. The one indication that he may have actually selected the material is a six page story immaculately illustrated by Kevin Nowlan. While the adaptable manga-esque style that Roger Cruz utilises for the remainder of the content is very good, Nowlan’s delicacy and economy is a different class.
This series was aimed at younger readers, and Parker’s brief was to return to the innocence of a world in which there were not only few mutants, but few super-powered characters at all. The collection focusses on stories featuring other familiar Marvel characters, so the X-Men meet Thor and Doctor Strange, run up against Spider-Man’s friend Dr Curt Connors in his Lizard incarnation, and we see Angel on a date with the Scarlet Witch.
It’s refreshing to see the X-Men lacking the gloomy angst and soul-searching that’s been their mood of choice for decades, and the success of the series indicates many readers welcomed the relief.