I try to forget X-Men: The Last Stand ever happened, as I’m sure many comic book fans and moviegoers do as well. Not only was it in general a terrible film, it was highly inaccurate to the comic books. The one redeeming quality of it was Miles from Lost playing that porcupine mutant that teams up with Magneto. Cracks me up every time. Now that Marvel is it’s own studio, other people can mess up their material. There will be no more Last Stands or Wolverine Origins (talk about inaccurate) and comic book fans can rejoice. But that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be faithful to the content all the time.
Take the latest installment of the X-Men series X-Men: First Class. A reboot of the franchise, First Class starts at the very beginning of Professor Xavier and Magneto’s (née Erik Lehnsherr) respective careers. The two start a school for mutants after experiencing horrible things during their own childhood as mutants, and begin training members of what will soon become the first X-Men team. Of course there’s drama. Of course there’s tension. You obviously know the future of the relationship between Professor X and Magneto. But watching it unfold is the best part. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, check it out:
Marvel took some liberties with the script. For example, Emma Frost (January Jones) doesn’t exist in the timeline that First Class is occurring in and instead enters the X-Men much later in the series. Beast in his first mutation has huge hands and feet, which you know isn’t going to happen to the ever handsome Nicholas Hoult. It’s ok to take liberties, especially if they’re taken in capable hands (something director Matthew Vaughn is more than qualified for). But everything stems from something. So I’ve been brushing up on my X-Men cannon and have a few suggestions to get fans and film nerds pumped up for the new film.
X-Men: First Class: New Beginnings (issues #1-4)
This is the main inspiration for the reboot obviously. The title says it all right there. Penned by Jeff Parker, this was a short run series that ran from 2006 to 2007 and chronicles the beginnings of the original X-Men team. You’ve got the un-blue Beast, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Angel, and Iceman working together and learning how to use their powers through Professor X’s tutelage. It’s a story that’s never been told before and Parker does a fantastic job of combining information given throughout the series with his own imagination. You get to see their first training sessions in the Danger Room, which is pretty cool. But the most interesting part of it is seeing these characters as teenagers. Imagine growing up and having wings. Like an angel. And you’re 16. Or not being able to look someone in the eye since you turned 15. We’ve never seen these characters in this light so reading about them in First Class is very compelling.
Somewhat similar to the First Class concept no? Vaughn has already stated that the comic book has little to do with the screenplay of the film. So maybe it’s not the best indication of what’s to come in the film. But it’s a good jumping point to see the origins of the first X-Men.
The Astonishing X-Men: Gifted (issues #1-6)
This is what I think First Class is going to resemble more when talking about content and drama. Joss Whedon took over the reins of Astonishing X-Men in 2005 and put his usual mindfuck spin on it. In this series Xavier is gone (not dead just like on vacation) and Cyclops is now in charge of the school. The X-Men haven’t been in operation for a while, due to the Legacy virus, Secret Invasion, secondary mutations. You know. The usual. Beast, Shadowcat, Wolverine, and Emma Frost round out the new heads of the school and aid Cyclops in teaching the children. But with all the recent controversy surrounding mutants, and the development of a cure for the mutant gene, Cyclops decides to reunite the X-Men to show that mutants can use their powers for good again.
Gifted is kind of like a mash-up between First Class and the recent run of X-Men. It’s a whole new team with familiar faces and the same tensions. Shadowcat and Emma Frost don’t trust each other at all (much like Professor X and Magneto in First Class) and in the first issue Cyclops and Wolverine get in a fist fight on the campus lawn. And Whedon’s writing is impeccable, as always. The series is a great introduction into what the new X-Men are like, and Warren Ellis’s contribution to Astounding X-Men is also excellent. If you don’t like reading, the motion comic of Gifted is available on Netflix on instant watch. Score one for being lazy AND a comic book nerd.
As a general suggestion, picking up X-Men Essentials is a good read to get acquainted with the series if you have zero previous knowledge about it. So get ready for X-Men: First Class before it comes out next weekend. It’s going to erase all those bad memories you have of the former movies. Pinky swear.