Wednesday, June 24, 2015

X-Men: First Class II by Jeff Parker Volume 3

One of the main reasons why my X-Men comics diet for this month of June was filled with so much laid-back fun and unexpected warmth is because of the collaborative work of writer Jeff Parker and artist Roger Cruz for this phenomenal PG-13 series I never thought I would fall in love with called X-Men: First Class. Featuring the adorable bunch of the Original Core Five (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman), this series is an updated version of the Stan Lee sixties era when times were simpler, sorta campy and Marvel superheroes like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men are relatively new players in the game.

With a roster of two seasons, the issues ran for a total of twenty-four installments and four collected volumes. This is the last one of the batch but there's a Giant-Size issue coming up that I will review alongside the mini-series X-Men: First Class: FINALS because there truly must be a fanbase for this series and people must want some more definitive closure for Parker's re-imagining of the OCF, and that's just dandy to me.

Comprised of issues #11-16, this fourth and final volume of the run had a more invigorating storytelling that is almost at par with the previous volume. My only problem with this collection was the inclusion of the one about the "continue-teens" which was more or less a meta story about nerdy comic book readers being able to interact with the Marvelverse so they can save the day or some shit like that. It was a baffling filler issue that I advise you skip because the next ones (namely #12, 13, 14) are the most enjoyable part of the entire volume. It deals with Warren Warrington's abrupt departure from the team so he can vacation in the Land of Mists where the people wholly accept his physical mutation, and the introduction of the short-lived android Aaron who seemed to be a likely candidate as a replacement for Angel but was sadly taken out due to unlucky circumstances.

I love these three issues the most because of the way the characterizations have flourished once we started talking about mutant seclusion, loneliness and pursuit of societal acceptance which is what the X-Men is fundamentally about. For issue #12, Warren spent discovered a place that is more tolerant than ours while the rest of the X-Men were worried so they set out to find him. But Warren wasn't in any kind of trouble. In fact, he feels right at home. Everyone was welcoming and they saw his winged feature as a beautiful vessel. That was rather unexpected for him and it was the very first time he felt at ease being different, much more so than when he was among his classmates in Xavier's school. Once his friends saw for themselves how happier Warren is, they felt a bit guilty for not seeing before how lonely he must have been even among mutants, cooped up in a single place, limiting his interactions and contact from the rest of the world. The professor himself has also realized that he shouldn't obligate any of these kids to a life of crime-fighting if there is something else that makes them happy and Warren has clearly found it.

In issues #13-14, we get to see how the team adjust to the loss of a team member and how each of them copes based on their interactions with the android Aaron, notably Scott and Jean's reactions. I don't find it peculiar at all that Scott seemed cold and uncaring that Warren is no longer with them; the dude is goal-oriented and would rather dwell on what is to gain in the aftermath of something. Scott had also recently come to terms that he wants to lead his comrades this time without any of his usual self-doubt and ridiciously extreme caution. He has made that choice to stay on the course as much as Warren decides not to do the same. I think Scott respected that choice and accepts that bygones are inevitable which was why he welcomed the robot Aaron into their team easily because he trusts the professor's intentions and now is ready to treat every new event as a learning experience. He sees the X-Men foremost as an operational team who need to function at their best and I think he was simply trying to set an example. 

But Jean sees the X-Men as a family foremost and when a loved one goes way you should allow yourself to be sad. Both have a different approach on the matter which affects how they dealt with Aaron. While both Henry and Bobby are generally curious to have a robot working with them during a new mission, Jean is uncomfortable and distrustful, treating Aaron indirectly as a threat to the way things were and what she believed should stay the same. But Scott looks at the addition of Aaron as a pragmatic advantage. After all, Aaron's abilities are handy. As far as Scott is concerned, anyone who will replace Warren shouldn't need to have a personality, let alone feelings, which I know pisses Jean off even if she maintains a calm demeanor through the rest of the issue.

The last two issues featured Madam Medusa, a Fantastic Four villain, and the collaboration between Iceman and the Human Torch as they try to form their own partnership to get away from the pressures and expectations of their respective teammates. It was all good fun in the end, and this volume of X-Men: First Class had been an enthralling and pleasant ride that may be less adult-oriented in tone and themes but is guaranteed to entertain and make you laugh and even cry a little.


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