Review by Frank Plowright
Jeff Parker and Roger Cruz’ nostalgic observation of the original X-Men team as collected in X-Men First Class: Tomorrow’s Brightest proved so popular that the original limited series was rapidly followed by an ongoing title. The first five issues are collected in Mutant Mayhem, following the established formula of stories aimed at a younger audience.
As this focusses on the earliest days of the X-Men Parker is able to indulge in playful elements knowing how the characters progress, and enjoys himself tinkering with the somewhat dated elements of the 1960s stories. Not the least of these is the rather insipid character of the original Marvel Girl, and in the opening chapter it’s decided that an otherwise all male school might not be the ideal learning environment for Jean Grey. It provides a chance to beef-up another poor role model from the early 1960s as Jean takes some advice from Susan Storm of the Fantastic Four. There’s also an enjoyable encounter with the Hulk, then still hanging around with Rick Jones, and the first two-chapter story of the series as the team visit Island-X.
The collection is fun throughout, but what raises it above other First Class books are the short stories from the X-Men First Class Special. In addition to all too rarely seen Kevin Nowlan art as Beast and Iceman investigate a haunted house, Parker with artists Nick Dragotta and Michael Allred enjoy themselves dredging up beat poet Bernard, there are three Colleen Coover illustrated shorts and Paul Smith drawing Marvel Girl’s meeting with Dragon Man.