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The release of X-Men #1 by Jed McKay and Ryan Stegman (with J.P. Meyer, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles) marks the official launch of X-Men: From the Ashes, the full-scale relaunch of Marvel’s mutant comic book line after the conclusion of the five-year-long Krakoan era that redefined the characters for a generation. After months of teases, previews, and assorted hype, fans now have a chance to see what the future of the X-Men looks like for themselves… and, based on this issue, it’s something that looks a lot like the past of the X-Men.

Spoilers for X-Men #1 follow. Do not read further unless you want to have the first full issue of X-Men: From the Ashes spoiled for you; we’ve given you the warning, it’s up to you if you heed it, humans.

The strangest feeling about X-Men #1, “Fire-Baptized Species,” is how familiar it all seems. By that, I don’t just mean that the series is a purposeful quasi-return to the status quo of the X-Men concept as published for the first five or so decades of its existence — for all the aesthetic similarity From The Ashes as a whole seems to have with the 1990s heyday of the X-Men, this series in particular feels like it’s leaning heavily on Grant Morrison’s early 2000s makeover of the group — but the way in which the issue reads very much like the preview stories for the From the Ashes reboot we’ve already seen in the Free Comic Book Day issue or June’s X-Men #35. Despite this being the first actual full issue of the new line, it still feels very much like a preview that’s teasing out future stories and developments, instead of telling a story in its own right.

Image credit: Ryan Stegman/Marvel

Part of that comes from the fact that so much of the real estate of the issue is taken up by world-building: we’re introduced to the new headquarters of this team of X-Men, as the Beast takes the local police chief on a tour and spends half the issue on exposition that nonetheless manages to miss a core point only made clear in the letters page essay from writer McKay. “Some mutants have reintegrated back into the human world” post-Krakoa, he writes, adding that this series is about “the ones who can’t, won’t, go back.” That’s not actually clear from the story itself, which is a shame; it’d add definition to what otherwise feels like an X-Men team that exists to do X-Men things for X-Men reasons with little other context in the other half of the issue: they’re rescuing mutants from a generic shadowy organization, only all is not as it seems — but readers are given neither closure nor any real explanation about what’s happening, instead, it’s left as plot fodder for future issues. Which, to be fair, is a very familiar feeling for anyone who read the X-Men in the 1990s.

(There’s even a set-up for the upcoming Wolverine series in this first issue, which feels especially “preview”-esque. All that was missing was an editorial note reminding readers to “follow Wolverine into his own solo series, starting this September!”)

None of this is to suggest that X-Men #1 is a bad comic, per se — Jed McKay’s script moves quickly, and establishes the interpersonal dynamics of the team, Ryan Stegman’s art is kinetic and has some nice character designs (his Beast is a throwback to the olden days, which I don’t remember being the case for the character at the end of the last X-Force series, but who can tell?), and the whole thing is a perfectly enjoyable read… but it also feels less like a statement of intent as the first From the Ashes release, and more like a placeholder until something else comes along.

Will it satisfy longterm fans of the franchise, and those who remember the X-Men in their commercial heyday? Probably — but coming after the overly ambitious Krakoa era, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that this is less an evolution for mutant kind as a return to a status quo left behind years earlier. For now, From the Ashes feels like a safe alternative to the X-Men comics of the past five years… but we’ll see if that’s still the case when the other two X-Men series – Uncanny X-Men and Exceptional X-Men – hit the stands across the next few months.

Keep up to date on Popverse’s Marvel coverage, with these highlights: Disney CEO Bob Iger is promising Deadpool & Wolverine will be MCU’s biggest movie “in a long time”, how Marvel Studios is now working “much more closely” to sell Marvel comics, how Marvel Comics’ boss said it was lost in 2023 (and how its finding itself again), Inside Marvel Comics’ plans to fix its pricing issues, Overgrown children of the atom: Marvel’s X-Men can’t evolve past their ’90s commercial peak, and the biggest outstanding questions of the Marvel Studios’ movies & TV shows.

“}]] Hated, feared, and a new status quo that feels curiously familiar, the X-Men are back with only cosmetic changes.  Read More