written by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman; art by Anzu
published by Del Rey Manga; $12.99 US
Earlier this year, Del Rey (in conjunction with Marvel) published Wolverine: Prodigal Son, a shonen manga take on the loner with a healing factor. I thought it wasn’t bad, but I was really looking forward to this take on the characters, also part of the deal: X-Men: Misfits is a shojo approach to the classic mutant superhero team.
I’ve always wanted to like the X-Men more than I did. I like the characters, and I like the angsty approach (when it doesn’t get too heavy) and the soap opera, but by the time I came to the series, there was too much back history for me to swallow. Plus, when there is an approach I can get into, as soon as I’m following it, they change the creators, and I don’t enjoy it as much. Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of saying that a stand-alone re-envisioning of these characters as teens for a girls’ manga audience is right on target for me.
In large part, that’s due to the writers. I’ve long appreciated the work of couple Raina Telgemeier (The Baby-Sitters Club, Smile) and Dave Roman (Astronaut Elementary, Teen Boat, Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden). They know how to capture authentic voices for young people, a huge plus in this series.
It’s the story of Kitty Pryde, teen mutant with the ability to pass through walls, who has just been sent to a school full of oddballs like her. There’s Jamie, who makes copies of himself that then fight with each other. Devilish Kurt. Cold Bobby. Winged Angel (making his entrance on one of the most stunning pages in the book). Beast resembles an ambulatory teddy bear. Magneto’s another of the teachers.
Strangely, Kitty is the only girl, making this a bit more like a harem manga than may be intended. (More females are promised in volume two.) She falls in with the Hellfire Club, a decadent group of beautiful students who use the Danger Room to pretend they’re on a beach. Should she work hard and study or hang out and party? It’s not much of a conflict, but then, one isn’t really needed, since this volume is mostly a “welcome to this world”. “Choose your friends carefully” isn’t a bad message, if slight.
The art is typical for the genre — lots of expression-filled faces, beautiful boys, cat ears, and chibis. Kitty’s sometimes treated as a pet, maybe because she’s drawn to resemble a mascot half the time.
Anzu previously drew the American manga The Reformed, and the weaknesses I saw there have improved, although she still has problems with structure. The figures look like they’re built from the outside in, that it was more important to get the manga “look” than to give them believable anatomy (especially when it comes to necks, which may be too long, change size, or otherwise not behave properly). The pages are busy, with not much white space for the eye to rest. Individual panels work better as single images than as part of a storytelling flow. She can’t draw older characters. None of these flaws damage the story; they become apparent when you start analyzing the art. If you’re caught up in events, you likely won’t notice.
The bigger problem is that there are so many cool characters that many of them do nothing in the story beyond their introduction. I got amusement out of seeing how elegantly some of the characters translated, but someone who isn’t already familiar with the superhero cast won’t have that. I found it a quick read, but one that left me wanting a lot more. I wish many more of the cast got a lot more space — where’s my instant 10-volume series?
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)