X-men Misfits Vol. 1
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When you think about it, the story of the X-Men has a lot of typical shoujo manga elements — beneath all the action, there are love triangles, drama and angst, and plenty of teenagers just coming into their own abilities and powers. It’s really not too much of a leap.
In the capable hands of writers Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman (possibly comics’ cutest couple — I mean, seriously) and Indonesian artist Anzu, X-Men Misfits may upset some purists but will delight just about everyone else.
Kitty Pryde is re-interpreted as our shoujo heroine — someone who is thoughtful and kind but a little awkward and unsure of herself and doesn’t realize how cute she is. When she’s sent off to Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, she discovers she’s the only girl currently attending the school (which is a perfect shoujo motif). She quickly catches the eyes of the school’s resident bad-boys, the Hellfire Club.
Even as Kitty gains confidence — in her mutant abilities, in herself — she doesn’t seem to realize that the Hellfire Club views her as some sort of prize, a novelty. Although Pyro seems to genuinely care about her, he’s still overly possessive of her, as if he doesn’t want to lose the ego boost of being the boyfriend of the only girl at school.
Some things don’t quite work — the connection between Kitty and Bobby isn’t really there, even though I think we were supposed to feel it, and the conflict between “fire” and “ice” powers is a little too obvious. Still, the climax of the book shows how far Kitty has come in such a short time — her transition from a girl who wore a helmet and kneepads in case she accidentally fell through something to a beautiful, stylish young woman was subtle and elegantly done.
Anzu captures the shoujo style beautifully, with dynamic layouts, borderless panels and floral touches. Her bishonen version of the X-Men are wonderful, down to the ridiculous abs on the members of the Hellfire Club. She’s an amazing find and is perfect for this title.
There are also a few fun touches for X-Men fans, like Gambit (who isn’t named) playing solitaire with a deck of cards during lunch, Kitty pondering if her new “mutant” name should be “Ariel” and a mohawked Storm. These winking references show that this is a title that’s made by fans of the X-Men.
I’m usually someone who isn’t particularly interested in English-language comics done in a manga style, but Roman, Telgemeier and Anzu bring an amazing, intuitive understanding of the genre to X-Men Misfits. It looks and reads like a genuine shoujo manga title.
At the end, Roman thanks his sister, Michele, an X-Men fan, writing that she’d “talk endlessly about her favorite characters, explaining with great enthusiasm which ones were the hottest!” To me, that’s probably all you need to know about this. It’s for all the girls who grew up reading X-Men or are currently growing up reading X-Men. (And probably for some of the boys who aren’t too proud to admit they like the soap opera elements of the comics.)