(a) David Lopez
After a quick “Primer”, Brian Wood follows up his initial arc with X-Men #4, a stellar issue that highlights two key relationships in this series that will continue to be important going forward. I’ve never been a regular reader of Wood’s work in the past, but his ‘Marvel NOW!’ X-Men is one of my favorite titles to come out of the initiative. The fact that it’s an all-female team is indeed interesting, but it’s not the focal point because the roster isn’t padded out with C-list mutants. Each character is there for a reason and it makes sense, so why not write a series about them?
The first relationship Wood highlights is that of Jubilation Lee and Wolverine. The main catalyst that caused the formation of this specific lineup of X-Men was Jubilee’s unannounced return with a baby. Logan and Jubilee have always had a special connection, but that friendship wasn’t expounded upon in the first three issues. X-Men #4 features Jubilee and Wolverine taking a road trip around southern California, simply having a good time. There’s no fight in the middle, no nefarious scheme brewing underneath them the entire time, and no mind control to be had. It’s just two very good friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time hanging out, and it’s fantastic. What used to be father/daughter-esque has turned into a mutual respect and admiration between old buddies. Then — like the cherry on top of the nostalgia express — Wood takes the duo back to the mall where Jubilee was first recruited by the X-Men way, way back when. The first three issues of X-Men highlighted Woods’ talent for writing a 90s-style action without it coming across as overkill. X-Men #4 shows how well he can adapt that talent when writing a more somber plot line.
The second relationship explored is between Storm and Rachel Grey. Near the end of “Primer”, Storm made the difficult decision to end the life of Karima Shapandar — a friend of the X-Men who previously had been in a coma for months and months — when she was possessed by the genocidal sentient virus villainess Arkea. In the end, Rachel’s protest caused a hesitation and Karima was able to exorcise Arkea from her own body. In X-Men #4, Rachel confronts Storm and challenges her leadership role in the X-Men, et al. It’s a surprisingly bold accusation that kind of makes sense. I like Storm as a character, but her personal politics and cultural affluence often frame her decisions. In this case, she made the wrong decision about Karima, but she’s unwilling to back down when Rachel demands some sort of acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Storm and Rachel have their fight while overseeing the rescue of a crashing jetliner by Rogue, Psylocke, and Kitty Pride. Wood is able to get his action sequences in without forcing a massive battle or giant explosion. Both Storm and Rachel have valid points concerning their position on the issue of crossing the line when there’s a perceived necessity. Both women want what is best for their teammates and students. And both of them are stubborn, proud fighters. It’s no wonder they’re butting heads this early in the game.
X-Men #4 is a fantastic single issue that’s already on my top ten for the year. The two plot lines are easily digestible without being overly simplistic or dull. Brian Wood is writing character-driven stories with 90s plot-driven stories and it’s working surprisingly well each and every month. I’m glad Jubilee is back in the main fold of things in the X-Men universe because aside from the fact that she’s a great character that has been sorely underused in recent years, it’s the perfect time for a 90s-era X-Man to come back because her style from back then isn’t too far off from what goes for fashionable today.