Can I just say how incredibly exciting the tie-in game is right now? This is probably the most fun it’s been in years. Titan Books is the new Dark Horse with Predator and Alien novels along with Marvel reprints and new books. Encyclopocalypse Publications just crushed it with the Wishmaster novelization and more coming. And then there’s upstart Aconyte with their incredible Marvel line. Aconyte has a wild slate ahead ranging from a mobile tie-in book to a Dark Avengers novel.
Next up on that slate is today’s topic. First Team by Robbie MacNiven, the second book in the Xavier’s Institute subcategory. I’ve already covered the first book, Liberty and Justice For All by Carrie Harris. If you missed that review, I loved that book greatly. It was exciting to see a modern, diverse book that drew from Bendis and Aaron rather than Claremont/Byrne. I had a lot of hope the second book would continue that. Did it?
We’re in blissfully simple story territory here. Xavier’s Institute student Anole goes home to see his parents. His hometown gets overrun by the Purifiers, an anti-mutant cult seeking Anole. His home gets destroyed, his father taken, and his mother injured. Anole, with friends Rockslide, Cipher, and Graymalkin, searches for his father. Much superhero fun ensues.
Yeah, let me cut to the chase here. I dug this a lot. Not quite as much as Liberty and Justice For All, but I still had a blast. This is a tight, fun little read that feels incredibly fresh. There’s almost no fat in the book with a plot that moves from point to point agilely. It’s as simple as stories get but that’s how comic books should feel. This utterly drips with comic book energy.
That’s not to say it’s style free. MacNiven knows his imagery. There’s not one page of the book that didn’t feel as visual as the source. I could imagine every setting to the smallest detail and the action pops boldly. It’s one cracking read.
I also really liked the character work. Anole is an intensely likable lead, an openly gay protagonist unburdened by the usual family trauma. That he has a tight bond with his family actually gives a nice contrast with his much more troubled peers. There’s not enough superheroes showing why an untroubled life is actually quite dramatic. And I love that Anole being gay is as casually played as it would be if he was straight.
If I have a gripe it’s that his friends are a bit redundant. Graymalkin and Cipher have extremely similar power sets and similar backstories. They’re not bad characters but they all blend after a while. I get why this was done but it did wear on me a bit.
This is a minor gripe about a book I’m more than happy to recommend. I loved this read and I am in for the line. If this is the future, it shines.
This book was given to me by NetGalley for an honest review
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