[This is the second part of my two-part review of the X-Men: Evolution comic book series. To read my review of issues #1-4, click here.]
WRITERS: Devin Grayson with Faerber
ART & COLORS: UDON with Long Vo, Charles Park & Saka of Studio XD; Art, Issue #9: J.J. Kirby; Colors, Issue #9: Chris Walker
LETTERS: Randy Gentile
COVER ART: Kia Asamiya
EDITORS: Brian Smith, C.B. Cebulski, Ralph Macchio, Jeff Youngquist, Cory Sedlmeier, Jennifer Grünwald
BOOK DESIGNER: Jeof Vita
“You have certified teachers here? I mean, besides yourself?”
“Technically, you’ll be my first. However—I have roped my more senior residents into various tutoring positions.”
(Hank McCoy/Beast and Professor Charles Xavier, X-Men: Evolution #7)
Issue #5 “Untouchable” focuses on Rogue and her considering leaving the X-Men to join the Brotherhood. Rogue is one of my favorite characters, but I don’t think this story did her justice. This story arc is one that required more time and space to develop properly; one would expect it to take up several issues, but the creators tried to fit it all into twenty-one pages. Because of that, everything happens very suddenly. Rogue leaves the X-Men very suddenly, as the result of a rather contrived plot on the part of Mystique and the Brotherhood; conversations between Mystique (disguised as the other X-Men) and Rogue, in addition to some actual arguments Rogue already had with her friends, lead to Rogue running away. One gets the feeling a conversation between Rogue and the other X-Men could have prevented the whole situation, as they wouldn’t have remembered having the conversations in which Mystique was impersonating them. Indeed, Rogue even suspects in the beginning that her friends are acting oddly, not as they usually do. (As a side note, the frustration Rogue feels when Logan is teaching the teen X-Men how to do CPR felt forced; the explanation given is that Rogue is frustrated that she can’t learn it due to her powers, but it’s not actually necessary to touch someone’s skin to perform CPR. Contrary to popular media depictions, mouth-to-mouth is not the only way to provide air to the unconscious person.) Rogue’s return to the X-Men is also very sudden, happening mere moments after setting foot in the Brotherhood headquarters, due to a rather amateurish slip-up on Mystique’s part. The saving grace of this issue is the friendship: the interactions between Rogue and Kurt and the panel of Rogue looking at a picture of her friends. If the creators wanted to continue their theme of having each of these beginning issues focus on a particular character, they could have either told this story in a different way or focused on a different part of Rogue’s story that could be better-told in a single issue.
Issue #6 “Just Like You” shows us Evan Daniels/Spyke (Ororo’s nephew), who has a new friend named Calvin Rankin/Mimic. As Cal’s pseudonym would indicate, he is able to mimic the powers of those around him. During the course of the issue, we find out that Cal is not actually a mutant, but got his powers due to scientific experiments his father was conducting. This felt a bit like a “villain of the month” issue. There’s an interesting scenario in which the X-Men have to work together when faced with someone who has all their powers but can’t control them. There’s also a moment when Scott is distracted during the fight due to his concern for Jean and gets told off by Logan. I get the impression this was meant to set up some drama in which Scott and Jean break up for a rather contrived reason and then get back together. Cal ends up leaving the Xavier Institute, without waiting to see if the X-Men will accept him as a new member, despite him not being a mutant. We get a nice moment at the end when Evan realizes who his real friends are, because they accept him as he is (not only if he is just like them). It would have been nice to get to know Evan a little better here. This issue and previous one seem to be the point when the series started moving away from just the origin stories and character introductions, bringing in rivals who the X-Men have to fight against.
Issue #7 “Beat of Burden” is when Hank McCoy, previously a teacher at Bayville High School (a job he cannot continue to his mutant transformation), joins the X-Men. We see him take over the gym class, where Logan is being really tough on the students. McCoy instead has them play baseball, and they have much more fun. It works very well to show the kind of teacher McCoy is, and even Logan starts to have a good time. Jean, who plays sports at school, gets to demonstrate her athletic skills. During the game, we also get to see some of the younger students who have just joined the X-Men. There are passages that are meant to set up Scott becoming the new field leader of the X-Men, which will be relevant in the next issue, and this point is why the baseball game is so drawn out (so Scott can demonstrate his skills as a team leader). I found this bit rather confusing and unnecessary, as I thought he was already the field leader. (He was the first student and had shown his leadership skills previously.) At the end of the issue, McCoy receives a mysterious email that was probably intended to set up a future story that was never published.
Issue #8 “Angel Underground” begins with Jean seeing a vision of an angel, who turns out to be Warren Worthington III/Angel, who has been kidnapped and is being held captive. The X-Men must go into the sewers to rescue Warren from the Morlocks (a group of mutants who live underground, separate from the society that despises them). Storm’s claustrophobia make it difficult for her to tolerate being underground, but she is able to overcome it and fight anyway. We see the various members of the team working together, with the teens making responsible decisions even when the adult who’s with them is having a difficult time. The X-Men invite the Morlocks to join them, but the Morlocks refuse. Of course, they end up rescuing Warren and bring him back to the Xavier Institute. He decides not to join the X-Men at this time, though he does seem interested in seeing Jean again.
Issue #9 “House Party” shows our teenage X-Men throwing a party while Professor Xavier and the other adults are away. The immediately jarring thing in this issue was the artwork, which was drawn by a different artist. After reading eight issues (and watching fifty-two episodes) in which the characters are drawn a certain way, reading this single issue was odd. The difference wasn’t slight either, not a case of a different hand drawing the characters in a similar style, but completely changed. I spent some time trying to figure out who some of the characters were. The concept had the potential to be a fun family-and-friendship story and a nice send-off to the series, but the plot was rather generic without much character development or moments that would leave an impact on the reader.
Overall, for what it is, the X-Men: Evolution comic series has some decent portions and had some potential to go somewhere interesting, if it’d had the chance. I don’t know when the writers and artists knew that their run was over; at some point, they must have been told. The earlier issues are meant to introduce or provide some backstory for some of the characters, and they had some good moments. Starting with issue #5, the series tries to condense too many story arcs and plots into single issues and ended up not doing them justice. The series may have benefited from focusing on one story arc developed over several issues with more interactions between the X-Men to develop their friendships, which were easily some of the better parts of the stories.
The X-Men: Evolution comic book series is probably only going to be of interest to either a die-had completionist or someone like me who remembers the television series. There isn’t much of a story outside of the introductions to the characters, and there are some problems with the writing and plot. It’s not a necessary read, but there are enough funny moments that the nostalgia factor made it a nice trip down memory lane on a quiet afternoon (Issue #2 even managed to inspire a short fan fiction that I wrote recently.) If you’re a fan of the show and happen to come across a used copy somewhere, maybe pick it up for a look through, but it’s not something to seek out.
[Originally Written: 10 July 2014]
 Grayson, Devin; Udon Studios; et al. #7: “Beast of Burden”. 2002. X-Men: Evolution. Marvel, 2003.
 “Monster of the Week”. TV Tropes entry. Retrieved on 10 July 2014 from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MonsterOfTheWeek.
 Geek Squared 1307. “Certified Do-Gooder”. Posted on 5 June 2014 at FanFiction.Net. Retrieved on 10 July 2014 from https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10417052/1/Certified-Do-Gooder.