Writer: Brian Wood
Penciler: David Lopez
Inkers: Cam Smith w/ Normal Lee
Colorist: Cris Peter
Review by Joey Braccino
After a high-octane debut arc, Brian Wood’s buzzworthy X-Men takes a breather before launching headlong into the upcoming “Battle of the Atom” crossover. But as is often the case with our merry band of mutants, “breather” never really means a “total relaxation.”
Wood weaves two threads together in X-Men #4: on the one hand, Wolverine and Jubilee take Shogo the Baby on a low-key daycation in and around Jubilee’s hometown of Beverly Hills; on the other hand, the rest of our all-lady team of X-Men attempt to tow a crippled jetliner mid-air. Just another day at the X-Office, right?
While the juxtaposition of the two threads doesn’t ever really hit any sort of textual relevance, the characterization and action in each is of that same high quality that readers have grown accustomed to with Brian Wood and his run on X-Men. The Logan/Jubilee storyline, though a bit exposition-heavy, does feature some plenty of charm and helps to further establish Jubilee’s reasoning for returning to the “family.” And man, can Shogo be any cuter?
The other story—a one-and-done action set-piece in the Sierra Nevada mountains—is classic superheroism filled with classic character beats from our favorite mutants. Rogue is rugged and pugnacious, Kitty Pryde is rational and quick-witted, and Pyslocke is a total and complete bad@$$. If you thought the TK-longbow from issue one was rad, you just wait. The real stand-out of this thread, however, is a bit of melodramatic tension between Rachel Grey and Storm. Rachel, who has certainly grown into her leadership role at the Jean Grey School, spends much of this issue questioning Storm’s seemingly automatic control of the new team. The tension between the two extends past just questions of leadership to events from the first arc regarding Storm’s hesitation regarding killing a certain character. It’s a fascinating argument that really demonstrates Wood’s attempts at building a larger dramatic subtext across the story arcs.
Both storylines work well individually, but I don’t know if they work together in a single issue. I sort of wish each story had gotten its own issue, allowing for some really meaty conversation and characterization between the characters at play. The Logan/Jubilee sections in particular fall a bit flat in fleshing out their complex, father-daughter relationship, and establishing Logan’s view of Shogo coming “into the family” as it were. Of course, with “Battle of the Atom” coming, it’s no wonder that Wood has to rush through the two threads.
David Lopez has the daunting responsibility of following Olivier Coipel on art duties for X-Men. Fortunately, Lopez’ dynamic realism is perfectly suited to Wood’s story in this issue and different enough from Coipel’s cinematic aesthetic to not feel like a mimicry. Lopez’ emphasis on facial expressions and character interaction captures the tension and nuance in what is for the most part a talking-heads issue. Lopez worked with Brian Wood on the last volume of X-Men, and the synergy between the two is clearly apparent in some of the more experimental insets and characterization.
Worth a look, particularly for those that read the first arc. It’s definitely The fallout from Storm’s (non-)decision at the end of that arc is definitely a stand-out in this issue. Despite the seeming disconnect between the two stories, X-Men #4 brings the same level of character drama and “family conflict” that Wood’s new volume hopes to emphasize. I’ll be interested to see how Wood’s momentum on the book keeps up through “Battle of the Atom,” but it’s safe to say that, at least for now, the X-universe is in great hands. And Shogo is adorable.