Jeff Parker's X-Men: First Class found me at the time of my life where I'm getting a hang of my work as an English teacher for three years, handling children from as early as five years old to eighth grade. I've been pleasantly surrounded by these bright-minded students and all that entailed with the responsibility to educate and nurture them which can get scary too. I was very resistant to offer all my time and efforts for this vocation at first because I didn't feel like I was up to the task but now that I've gotten comfortable and very fond of my students, I realized that they're the reason why I'm at the best place in my life right now. Having the opportunity to witness and enjoy their growth and progress, both intellectually and emotionally, has been enthralling. I surmise that this must be how Charles Xavier felt about his first-class batch of graduates and this four-issued mini-series entitled FINALS served as an overall tribute to the fun-filled, delightful action/adventure of X-Men First Class which finally ended on its twenty-fourth issue, collecting four volumes in the span of two seasons of unexpectedly comedic and touching moments among characters, their struggles to establish tolerance among the humans, and their crime-fighting adventures.
I'm giving this volume a perfect rating not for objective reasons. This series naturally does not appeal to everyone because it's pretty hard to recommended this to a lot of adults my age since it's not what you'd originally look for in an X-Men series especially when you're used to darker landscapes about social injustice and racial strife. Though not adult-oriented with the usual mature themes most X-Men titles handle, XMFC still has some emotional weight and resonance if you truly allow yourself to enjoy the roster and variety if offers that is fundamentally PG-13 harmless and quirky stories. There are times it will surprise you with its depth and understanding of the Original Core Five (OCF) which Parker revitalized from Stan Lee's sixties version. Their characterizations are immediately likable and charming and you get the clear sense that these are kids--marginalized, super-powered and unique as all hell, sure--but kids, nonetheless, who have tons of ordinary problems one might expect in their age, all the while dealing with bad guys and larger-than-life villains. If you want an X-Men series for your pre-pubescent kid or your average teenager, this one fits the bill to the tee. It has a lot in common with current Marvel titles like Ms. Marvel. It's kid-friendly but also discusses valuable things such as individuality, self-acceptance and a sense of community.
True to its title, FINALS is all about "senioritis"; the OCF are graduating but Jean Grey doesn't feel like moving on just yet, and the entire team gets subjected to her growing powers as they travel her disturbed subconscious which include some of her deepest insecurities and worst fears about the future that lies ahead. That premise sounds misleading, I know, because Parker does write all of it in a warm and humorous manner, particularly when it concerns dialogue exchanges that include Bobby Drake who remains as this series' funny guy to the boot. Finals is a tribute to all that we have read and enjoyed over the last twenty-four installments of XMFC. There are callbacks from certain storylines and arcs that were previously established before. If you're already a fan of this series from the get-go such as myself, these will be easter eggs for you. It's the accumulation of the themes and character conflicts that were touched upon all throughout the issues, most notably Scott and Jean's development as fighters and individuals, especially their ultimate role for the next batch of X-Men where they will serve as the second mentors alongside Professor X to manage the upcoming recruits.
For four issues, it managed to tell a very compact, action-oriented story with a great message so I think this is one of my favorites and most recommended installment of the series as whole, next to the second and third volumes of season 2.
|True dat, Chuck|
Technically, this won't be the last Jeff Parker story about the X-Men which applies the same hip and youthful vibe in line with the Stan Lee era of superhero-ing. There's still his take on the events for Giant-Size X-Men which, of course, deals with the fiasco that was Krakoa, and the monumental recruitment of fan-favorites Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus into the fold. I'm pretty excited to read that but I have yet to acquire my copy. So, overall, it's with prideful joy that I officially end my reviews concerning the run of X-Men: First Class. It was the needed break from all the drama, angst and soap opera twists of the usual X-Men stories I'm accustomed to, thanks to Chris Claremont's superb arcs and a few nineties classics. I may have grown up with the cartoon adaptation but suffice to say, after reading XMFC, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman and Angel are now my brand-new babies. They're the X-Men I will come back to a decade or so from now when I want to reminisce. I might even resume my podcast-listening to Danger Room which discusses all of the issues involving OCF from the original Stan Lee run--if not possibly read the stories myself. A MUST-READ, if you want something funny, relaxing and kid-friendly.