X-Men: Season One is an updated retelling of the early days of the original X-Men team. It's told mainly from the point of view of a teenage Jean Grey, who is uncertain not only about being an X-Man, but what her standing with the teenage boys who make up the rest of her team. Through Jean's eyes, we see how the X-Men grow from five teenagers who aren't sure about their place in the world as mutants or as superheroes, into a team who truly cares for and depends on each other.
Though Jean Grey is the central narrator of the story, a fair amount of attention is given to all the members of the original X-Men, and each one is given the chance to grow. Hopeless does a lot with the space he's given, fleshing out the characters and truly adapting them for a modern viewpoint as opposed to simply relying on the idea that these are characters the reader probably already knows. It's a new and intriguing look at familiar characters for long-term fans as much as it is an introduction for new readers. And while there's scenes pulled directly from the original 1960s era X-Men (such as the first appearance of Unus the Untouchable and his attempt to rob a bank), they're updated and given enough of a new spin that they feel fresh. Still, Hopeless shows knowledge and respect for the original Lee and Kirby X-Men to give it a comfortable familiarity.
The narrative uses a mix of action scenes of the X-Men fighting as superheroes blended in with important moments in their off-duty hours as well, allowing for a wide span of time to fit into one graphic novel. As much as reading this made me think I'd love to see all of this fleshed out as an ongoing Hopeless/McKelvie take on the original X-Men team, the story we're given here is satisfying and feels complete. The story is told through a series of moments in the X-Men's early days woven together to show how it leads them to realizing what it means for them to be X-Men and why that's something they want to take on. While the style used here could easily seem disjointed, Hopeless is careful to hold on to the narrative threads and keep the connections in order to produce a cohesive whole. Furthermore, Hopeless refrains from veering too far off track when dealing with five teenagers cooped up together by getting to the heart of their interpersonal relationships without ever falling too far into soap opera territory.
What originally put X-Men: Season One on my must-buy list was hearing that it would be drawn by Jamie McKelvie. His style seemed like it would be a good fit for a re-imagining of the early X-Men, and after reading the comic, he most certainly did not disappoint. McKelvie's Jean Grey is attractive but not oversexualized, perfect for Hopeless's take on a young but maturing Marvel Girl. McKelvie's panels are clean and uncluttered, his characters expressive. There's notes of Jack Kirby's original take on the X-Men while keeping it unmistakably McKelvie's style. X-Men: Season One is a story told as much with the script as the visuals.
Far from a simple rehashing of a story we already know, X-Men: Season One is a fresh look at familiar characters. With bold, bright panels and a script that's both humorous and heartfelt, it's a must-read for X-Men fans as much as the more casual comics reader.
If you're still not convinced it's worth the read, the X-Men also fight a dinosaur.
Sara McDonald started reading comics in the third grade, and now puts her English degree to good use talking about them on the Internet. She currently resides in Western Massachusetts with a roommate, three cats, and an action figure collection and spends the time she isn’t reading comics working for a non-profit. You can visit her blog at Ms. Snarky’s Awesometastic Comics Blog.