On Graphic Novels: X-Men #1: Primer

Ladies and babies and trains, oh my! Brian Wood’s X-Men #1: Primer with it’s all-female cast of X-Men is, to coin a phrase, an action packed thrill ride full of twists, turns, and a little thing called family, X-Men style.


Comic creator Brian Wood

Primer begins with Jubilee, X-Man and vampire, en route to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning with a baby in tow. The baby, an orphan boy she found in Bulgaria, appears to have some kind of electrical power, as he manages to disrupt the power to the train (killing the drivers in the process) and later accesses Jubilee’s phone to call Hank McCoy, whose phone is plugged into his laptop. The phone controls the laptop which controls the security measures for one Shapandar, Karima: Omega Sentinel. The sentinel is free and it looks like this homecoming will be anything but restful for the X-Men.

Brian Wood knocks this re-launch of a classic title out of the park, as one would expect from him. He has written many X-Men stories, from the Ultimate X-Men line to Wolverine & the X-Men: Alpha and Omega, with a little Generation X thrown into the mix. He’s successfully told tales about Marvel’s merry mutants and his latest installment is quite good. The only misstep would be that aforementioned phone fiasco, where McCoy’s phone is attached to a computer that happens to control the school’s detention facilities. It just seems a little far-fetched, even for a comic book.


This is either the X-Men, Vol. 1: Primer cover art or a visual dictionary of badass costumes.

Otherwise, it’s Wood’s handling of this all-female cast that is really impressive. Rather than rely on the “gimmick” of the X-women, portraying them as parodies of their male counterparts, each of the lead characters is distinct, strong, and capable. Wood uses the scenes of getting onto the train and later saving the passengers to highlight these aspects of his characters with a careful balance of dialogue and action. His depiction of the X-Men as a well-oiled machine is beautiful. These women have a job to do and they’re going to get it done, period. It sets a nice tone for the remainder of the series.

Brian’s career started in 1997 with Channel Zero and he has been near unstoppable since, earning multiple Eisner Awards, and has worked with both Marvel and Dark Horse on top of his own creator-owned projects. His experience in the field has been honed to write some of the most compelling X-Men characters in the franchise. Shadowcat, Storm, Rogue, and the rest are real people thanks to Wood’s pen.

Oliver Coipel’s artwork beautifully support’s the story being told, adding a depth to Wood’s characterization. While he was criticized for his work on DC’s Legion Lost story arc for his rough hand, Coipel opts for a softer, more nuanced approach, similar to the one he took in Marvel’s House of M, his first major story with the company. The look of determination on Shadowcat’s face, especially, as she descends through the roof of the train shows this artist appreciates and will share the subtlety of what these characters are experiencing is a testament to his talent.

X-Men has already proven to be a powerful franchise only made better by Brian Wood’s story and Oliver Coipel’s art. If issue #1 of the X-Men is any indicator, Marvel NOW, Marvel’s major relaunch that began in September 2012, has great surprises ahead.

X-Men #1: Primer
Brian Wood (Author), Olivier Coipel (Illustrator)
Marvel Comics (December 3, 2013)


Kristi McDowell cut her sci-fi teeth on the works of Heinlein and Bradbury, Lucas and Roddenberry. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a BA in English: writing. Her passions lie in comic books, video games, and pop culture. Her work can be found at her own site, Pop Culture Sushi, and at Women Write About Comics. She’s played in a rock band, worked in a comic book shop, and knows enough karate to fight crime.

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