x35's X-Men: X-Corps #1 - TPB review

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I don't have an "evil mutant" fetish.

AF Reviews: X-Men
AF Reviews: X-Men

X-Corps is a chunky paperback collecting Joe Casey's run on Uncanny X-Men which runs from #394-409 and an annual and is concurrent with the start of Grant Morrison's New X-Men. This trade features the core team of Archangel, Iceman and Nightcrawler with new members Chamber and Stacy X. Other X-Men who make prominent and frequent appearances in this trade include Banshee, M, Multiple Man, and, of course, Wolverine.

The run tells a few stories, all of which eventually come to their head in the final issues, but the two of note would be the X-Corps story arc which sees Banshee return to the X-Men books after a long absence and the opening story titled Poptopia, which embellishes on some of the "mutants are vogue" ideas Grant Morrison presented in New X-Men, and is basically a vehicle for Chamber who begins dating a coincidentally still relevant send-up of a teenage pop star. The story presents the question of whether or not Chamber is being used by her and if it's alright to be taken advantage of if you're happy. Other stories including a modern reimagining of Vanisher, the infamous mutant brothel thing that introduced Stacy X - the first and so far only X-Man who moonlighted as a prostitute, the introduction of a drug that induces mutant powers before Bendis "created it" and the introduction of the Church of Humanity who are pretty much only known for being subsequently profoundly ruined by Chuck Austen.

"I am Banshee, hear me roar."

My stinky brother got me this for Christmas because I asked for it as I have memories of the first X-Men comics I bought being Joe Casey ones. Turns out they weren't, the X-Men issues I remember were from the Alan Davis/Terry Crapanagh era but I must've thought they were Casey coz he was writing Cable and all the M-Tech stuff which was linked to X-Men at the time (as well as Hulk which I bought too). The stories here are nothing like the late 90s nostalgia fare I was expecting, what we have here is a book that's very much in the style of the aforementioned Grant Morrison's New X-Men. Generally the writing presented here is good: most of the stories all stemming from a good central idea and being developed into entertaining narratives without contrivances and plot-induced stupidty. What I found most interesting was how the tone of the book absolutely compliments Grant Morrison's New X-Men without rehashing or repeating what Morrison was doing. That's not to say Joe Casey doesn't run with some of Morrison's ideas and themes but he also explores some of his own which don't deviate too much from the irreverent style of what Morrison was also doing. It is an interesting companion in that regard. With that said, some stories like the titular X-Corps and the stuff with the Church of Humanity are more traditional straight-forward X-Men fare. Casey's writing is generally decent and free of clich'e, other than a horrid moment where a persecuted mutant names her newborn baby "Hope". My favorite of the stories presented is the X-Corps one which, as I said, is a straight forward X-Men story and a decent re-introduction and implementation of Banshee who is usually a good character but rarely so in the core X-Men title. The stories I enjoyed least... would probably be the Church of Humanity ones, mostly because they kept reminding me of Chuck Austen's run but above all else because they were a bit boring. Also I can't profess to have truly enjoyed or engaged with the Vanisher story (more on that when we get to art). Also the first part of X-Corps, the novelty "silent issue" gimmick Marvel did with all their titles, wasn't great because I didn't really follow what was really being established. Also, for a run with a fair bit of satire in it, that issue single-handedly has the worst "satire" moment featuring former President Bill Clinton being a client of Stacy X. Something like 6 pages are geared around that silent piece of satire. It's not very clear, it's not very important and it's incredibly lame.

But the big letdown of the book is easily the art. The art is very inconsistent. There are 6 artists listed on the cover of the trade and there's hardly any real consistency between them. There's some outright jarring stylistic changes, sometimes within an issue itself. On the plus side, there is some good art in there as well, particularly in the latter half of the trade. I think Sean Phillips (Marvel Zombies, that Brubaker thing and Chuck Austen's lame follow-up run on Uncanny X-Men) is the name that crops up with the most art credit. The best artist, for me, in the mix is Aaron Lopresti (Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, among others) who draws a few issues near the back of the book. But I can't steer away from it... The Vanisher story (and one of the Church of Humanity ones)... the Vanisher issue is criticized for basically not being able to even tell what's happening most the time due to the art style. The art for that one really took me out of the book, it does truly look like unfinished art on some pages and it's a style completely at odds with every other style in the book. I didn't have a hard time really identifying which characters were which like a lot of other people apparently had but I did struggle to work out what was happening in a lot of the panels. It's a real shame as well because I think Casey's reimagining of the Vanisher was good. But it's not just the Vanisher issue or this one artist in particular, generally the lack of a consistent look for the run does hurt it quite a bit.

As much as I felt "that was a good read" when I finished, there was a lot of problems I had with the contents. The book starts decently, then gets quite "eh" and then picks up a lot. Can I recommend a book that took my opinion on such a rollercoaster ride? It's an interesting read, a nice contained and motivated run and I think there's plenty of stuff to like about it, but there was a constant thing where I was either being reminded of Grant Morrison's brilliant run or being reminded of Chuck Austen's terrible run. This is not even remotely close to Chuck Austen's awful run but it's also not really anywhere near Grant Morrison. Maybe ask a relative who would otherwise get you something you didn't want to get you it as a present instead.

P.S. To be expected, but the cover of this trade is typically misleading. Neither Jean Grey or Wolverine are main characters in this run, the latter making sproadic appearances and the former honestly only appearing in one issue in the entire thing. A lot of the covers are pretty lame for the issues within but they went for the absolute most inappropriate and irrelevant one. Why not go for the cover with the team on which also has Wolverine on? Or, god forbid, if you called the trade "X-Corps", why not the cover with X-Corps on it. Christ, this is up there with the X-Men trade focusing entirely on Bishop called "Bishop's Crossing" which did not have Bishop on the cover, spine or back.

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