One thing you can count on in superhero comics: reboots. This particular reboot is the aftermath of Brian Michael Bendis’ House of M, in which the Red Witch removed the powers from the majority of Earth’s mutants. Now the X-Men, including all the mutants and former mutants who have sought refuge in their new home, Utopia, off the California coast, are finally looking forward to some peace and quiet when a new threat emerges.
Pixie is sitting with Jubilee (who is trying to get used to life without powers) when a man completely encased in black leather walks into the square, starts to take his clothes off, and explodes. It wasn’t a simple suicide, though — Jubilee has been infected by a manufactured virus that exists solely to turn her into a vampire — the 21st century version of a vampire’s bite. And Xarus, son of Dracula, has assembled an army to invade San Francisco with the main purpose (aside from readily available meals for his minions) of turning the X-Men and forcing a mutant-vampire alliance — with him at the top, of course.
This one’s actually a lot of fun, and there’s a fair amount of depth. The big surprise is Cyclops, leader of the X-Men, who reveals a lot more layers than in other incarnations — enough that his machinations provide more than enough plot twists to keep the story moving. It also brings the story up a level from so many superhero adventures, since the surprises were the result of Cyclops’ plans rather than random events. (Yep — there’s a clue to the biggest upset, but you have to watch closely.)
That said, the dialogue in Victor Gischler’s script could have been sharper — I’ve gotten spoiled by Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis in Astonishing X-Men — with a little less posturing by Xarus (and Dracula, when he shows up) — a little too much stock villain going on here. It gets a little heavy-handed. And the show’s really split between Cyclops and Wolverine (who does have a tendency to take center stage). It would have been nice to see more development in some of the other characters, most of whom wind up playing bit parts.
Paco Medina’s pencils are appealing enough, supported very nicely by Juan Vlasco’s inking, although some frames are a little hard to read. (To be fair, those are mostly crowd scenes, which tend to get — well, crowded.) The overall color theme is muted/nighttime, and after all, we’re dealing with vampires here, although these have come up with a way to avoid the deleterious effects of sunlight. There’s a strong chiaroscuro effect here that doesn’t always serve the clarity of the illustrations. Visual narrative flow is strong and in places highly intuitive, leading to a number of spreads that are much more interesting than the traditional frame-follows-frame format.
While this volume isn’t what I’d call a knockout, it’s worth following the series, mostly on the strength of the story and the appeal of the drawing.