Let it be known that I really enjoy this series! Jeff Parker writes dialogue that has it’s own tone and yet compliments the original stories it is attempting to re-create. The art is spectacular too. Characters and their surroundings are cleanly and clearly drawn, with textured detail one can easily appreciate.

From their first publication in 1963, many of the original X-Men stories can be mind numbing to read. Such as when the X-Men battled The Locust way back in Uncanny X-Men #24. A villain who magnifies grasshoppers to the size of large dogs. He then has the giant grasshoppers munch on crops and magnifies some other bugs as well. A less than exhilarating battle ensues. Yet X-Men First Class Volume 2 takes the original five X-Men (Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Angel, Jean Grey) and revives their past as something of the present. This book exists in the modern day and, in a way, rewrites the history of the original team as all the stories take place during their first year as X-Men. Of course, this title is most likely considered to be in an Alternate Universe, like the characters in Ultimate X-Men. Regardless, this book is very well put together.

Now onto the review!

I thought it was cool that Jeff Parker chose to revive the Man-Thing into the pages of an X-Men comic. Man-Thing’s appearance in Uncanny X-Men #144 also featured Cyclops and the villain D’Spayre. Cyclops fights them both and wins. When old characters like Man-Thing reappear in comics it is always a treat, especially after they have been missing for awhile. The Man-Thing’s power causes him to burn people who are afraid of him, but will burn himself if he fears his opponent. That is how Cyclops defeated him back in Uncanny X-Men #144; Cyclops conquered his fear of him. In this issue, the Man-Thing is also forced to mimic the emotions of people around him. If the people close to him are aggressive, Man-Thing will be aggressive. If they are calm, Man-Thing will be calm.

The issue begins when an extra-terrestrial is rocketed into space. This is good news for the X-Men because this extra-terrestrial hindered their powers from working while it was within the atmosphere of the Earth. With the E.T. gone, the X-Men’s powers have returned, but with a price. The X-Men are forced to enter the swamp of the Man-Thing and due to the departure of the E.T., a time nexus has been created there. The time nexus pulls living organisms throughout history into the present. This causes the X-Men to have close encounters with a Nazi sub, a group of spear chucking Valkeries, and a fire breathing sea serpent. They make it out o.k., but Iceman turns up missing. This is where things start to get interesting. When Man-Thing shows up, the X-Men believe him to be responsible for the disappearance of Iceman. A fight ensues and Jean Grey is sucked into another reality, as is Beast. Hank McCoy (Beast) then returns as he has been assimilated with a version of himself from an alternate reality. In this reality, Beasts mutation has gone ‘too far’ and he appears as the furry Beast pre-Secondary Mutation with the ferocity of Sabertooth. . . Got all that? . . . Man-Thing then takes hold of him and reverts Beast back to his human form. Angel, Cyclops, and Beast then begin to search for Jean Grey and Bobby Drake (Iceman). Due to the X-Men calming down and ceasing to fight, Man-Thing mimics their calm emotions and helps to locate Jean and Bobby. Luckily for the X-Men, Man-Thing has the power to find people in alternate realities.

First they encounter Jean. She has been assimilated with an alternate version of herself that has become the final incarnation of the Dark Phoenix Force. Dark Phoenix (Jean Grey) has killed all the mutants on Earth in an act of vengeance. She is shocked when she sees her long dead love, Scott Summers (Cyclops). “They killed you! That’s why they all had to die!”, the Dark Phoenix says to him in compulsive disbelief. Before more can happen, Man-Thing helps Jean Grey, like Beast, to separate from her alternate version self of the Dark Phoenix. She is returned to the correct reality and with the Man-Things help once more, the team finds Iceman. Being a huge Iceman fan myself, the two pages featuring his alternate version were kick ass. Bobby Drake became a gigantic ice monster who referred to himself as the ‘Ice Giant’. He is battling Thor one on one, and Thor calls out to him in battle, “You could have been the most powerful hero rather than a frost giant.” Those are pretty impressive props- Especially coming from the God of Thunder. Before all hell breaks loose, Iceman becomes his own entity once more via Man-Thing, and everyone returns to their normal reality. The X-Men learn that Professor Xavier had telepathically connected himself with Man-Thing in order to aid his students in their adventure. The time nexus then closes up, Man-Thing returns to his swamp, and the X-Men return home to the Mansion. This first eight issue arc ends abruptly, but in a good way; the door is left open for many future possibilities.

As I stated before, I really enjoy X-Men First Class Volume 2 as a series and would recommend it to a well read X-Fan and to anyone who has never read a comic book before in their life. It compliments the original stories in that it uses the first class (heh) of X-Men but gives them a modern trend. Still, elements of the first stories are preserved; Such as how Professor Xavier accompanies the X-Men on their missions via his telepathy. More importantly, this book doesn’t feel like it was rushed during the production process. The flow and pace is exciting and clear which makes it easy to follow. Plus, the Mini Marvels stories written and illustrated by Chris Giarrusso are highly entertaining. In this issue the Mini Marvels story featured Iron Man trying to convince the X-Men to don suits of iron. Hilarious! WithX-Men First Class Volume 2 #8, Marvel Comics has supplied the reader with a comic book to look forward to.

              

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