One of the purest pleasures at Marvel over the last few years has been the X-Men: First Class series, telling new stories of the original gifted youngsters' earliest years. Smart superheroing without the 'everyone hates us' business that came to infect the team after the Uncanny, nee All-New, All-Different (if you ignore Cyclops, Marvel Girl and maybe Banshee) X-Men, arrived.
Well, X-Men: First Class is no more, replaced by Uncanny X-Men: First Class. So how are Storm, Wolverine and co finding their first few weeks at Xaviers, circa X-Men #101? (Nightcrawler has the image inducer and Jean Grey has become Phoenix. And yes, retrofitting has it that Jean was actually replaced by Phoenix and really in a Jamaica Bay cocoon at this point, but unless this stupidity is brought up in First Class, let's ignore it and assume Jean is Jean. Cos we all know she was!)
It's a pretty decent comic. Writer Scott Gray has Nightcrawler and Colossus visit the Inhumans in Attilan after the former's had a day of being hated and feared, etc. What he finds there both tempts and appalls. There's also room for Danger Room larks and a Jean sub-plot. The training session fits the First Class criteria, in that our heroes are a bit green, and the Jean business expands on the aftermath of her transformation into Phoenix, so that fulfils the book's USP too.
'Refuge' is enjoyable both as a superhero romp and a focus on Kurt Wagner. The story is logical in a 'be careful what you wish for' way, without being entirely predictable. Gray's script flows well, and he even finds a new insult for the Inhuman Gorgon - Wolverine calls him Billy Goat Gruff during a nicely pitched squabble that also spotlights Banshee, the Oirishman with the mutant ability to scream and blether at the same time
I also liked that Gray seems to have a spot-on knowledge of Marvel continuity, as evidenced by Quicksilver being referred to as Pietro Frank, as he believed he was the son of Golden Ager The Whizzer back then, and Jean's flatsharing with Misty Knight. And looking in the other direction, there's a subtly ironic nod to current events via a comment by Lilandra to the Inhumans (click on image to upsize). The art, by X-Men: First Class alumnus Roger Cruz, is lovely: straightforward storytelling that's never boring, made even better by the bright, but non-garish, colours of Val Staples.
The first issue is rounded off by a splendid cover from Cruz and Supergirl colourist Nei Ruffino that's enhanced by a smart logo treatment.
I had a better time with this Year One comic than the X-Men books set today, with their tangled continuity that doesn't so much link titles as strangle them at birth. So well done Marvel for putting it out. But can't I have the old X-Men: First Class book too?