Review by Frank Plowright
Five years following the original publication of the stories collected in this volume, the film bearing the same title was released. A broadly similar concept and some of the same characters are the connection, but this is no official tie-in.
The germ of the idea for the later interaction between the original X-Men and their modern day counterparts surely originated with this surprisingly successful series of stories focusing on that first team. Here we have Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl as they originally were a few weeks after first being gathered in Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
Writer Jeff Parker is canny enough not to entrench the stories in the early 1960s, the era in which the characters first appeared, so providing a recognisable background for the younger readers at whom these single chapter stories are aimed. These X-Men live in a world where e-mail is familiar, but their abilities are not. Parker mixes and matches locales and foes, so in one story the X-Men will encounter a talking gorilla in the jungle, while in another a group of ancient gods abduct Iceman to the North Pole. There’s access to a large playground, so in addition to sharing adventures with Thor and Doctor Strange, Parker throws in old-style Marvel monsters and an issue where Angel dates the Scarlet Witch shortly after she and Quicksilver decided perhaps The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants wasn’t their future.
Parker also improves aspects of the X-Men as published in the 1960s. Marvel Girl was often little more than adornment in those days, and only Beast really had anything other than a one-note personality. Here Cyclops extends beyond brooding self-pity, and Marvel Girl is an equal member of the team in all respects. There’s also a nod to recurring incidental elements of the original series, such as the team hanging out at the Coffee-A-Go-Go, now Coffee @ Go-Go.
The charm and innocence required by the series would be lost without a good artist, and Roger Cruz has an adaptable a mangaesque style and a gift for clear storytelling without ever skimping on figures or backgrounds. This is a nostalgic, fun read for those who’ve followed the X-Men for years, but should equally appeal to their children. The fun continues in the next volume Mutant Mayhem.