Costume Drama: Reimagining The Original X-Men, Again
Welcome to Costume Drama, where we turn a critical eye toward superhero outfits and evaluate both the aesthetics and the social issues that often underlie them.
For this installment I’m looking at five characters who’ve been redesigned as a group more than perhaps any other team: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Angel and Beast, the original founding members of the X-Men. In particular, I want to look at the costumes that the teenage versions of these characters have worn since they traveled to the present in Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen‘s All-New X-Men.
Readers have seen the older versions of this team go through multiple redesigns both as X-Men, and as the original X-Factor, but those looks aren’t part of these characters’ subjective histories. They arrived in the present wearing the classic black and yellow X-uniforms, and have gotten three sets of new looks since.
I’m a fan of Stuart Immonen in general, but the costumes he gave these five (plus teammate Laura Kinney) do nothing for me at all. They’re simultaneously overly busy and boring, featuring a bunch of extraneous lines (the curse of modern superhero design) without any actually interesting elements. There are differences between all five, beyond just color, but those differences seem random and don’t say much about the characters.
After Secret Wars, Mark Bagley redesigned most of the team for the new All-New X-Men, while Humberto Ramos gave Jean Grey a new look over in Extraordinary X-Men. These costumes are clearly a return to a more superheroic aesthetic, and there’s no attempt to make them uniform.
I have to admit though, Cyclops is the only one I particularly like. His is a pretty iconic Cyclops costume, reminiscent of what the older Scott Summers wore in X-Factor, without duplicating any one look. But there’s nothing about Hank McCoy’s costume that says “Beast,” and Angel’s red and yellow color scheme, combined with those fiery space wings he got in Black Vortex, make him look too much like a fire-based character, which he’s not. Jean Grey’s Extraordinary costume is a bit generic as well, and it’s bizarre that she’s one of the few X-Men wearing a mask, when she doesn’t even use a code name.
But now, with the ResurrXion relaunch imminent, we know that all five timelost X-teens are reuniting as X-Men Blue, under the creative team of Cullen Bunn and Jorge Molina. Jamie McKelvie was given the task of redesigning their costumes this time around, and he’s never a bad choice for that task. He posted his design sheets on his Tumblr a while back, and I’d like to take a look at each of them individually.
There’s certainly a lot more lines on this than the Mark Bagley costume, but I still think it’s an improvement. This looks like the outfit of an uncommonly fastidious kid like Scott Summers.
I don’t think the lighter shade of blue around his midsection is necessary, but there’s not enough of it to overcomplicate the design. Other than that, I’m a big fan of the way this design employs the classic Cyclops colors of black, navy, and yellow.
The big Xs on the gloves and boots are a direct reference to the Frank Quitely New X-Men costumes, but something about the way McKelvie shapes them makes me prefer this version.
I really love this look for Jean Grey, and it just grows on me the more I see it. Unlike the skirt she wore in Extraordinary X-Men, there’s nothing about this costume that marks it as feminine, but it’s still a flattering look, especially with her cool new haircut.
The jacket is great as an optional piece, and it’s cool the way the placement of the big X on the inner costume makes it disappear under the open jacket, to avoid a double X effect.
Jean’s boots are my favorite on the whole team. The lower X-shape, combined with a slight heel, makes them look a bit like cowboy boots, but in a way that’s more stylish than comical.
Iceman’s costume is my least favorite of the five. There’s just not much that sets it apart from the others, except for a few more lines and the addition of an icy light blue color.
The shape of the X on Bobby’s chest looks too much like some kind of straps or harness, like it should be holding up a backpack. But I’m interested to see more of how this costume looks when he’s in his ice form, as the Art Adams cover to the first issue is pretty promising in that regard.
Warren Worthington III/Angel
Angel has had a lot of costumes over the years — perhaps more than any of his teammates — and this is one of my favorites. His costume is the only one that doesn’t have black elements, which gives him an appropriately light and “angelic” look.
The red and white color scheme brings to mind his most iconic look, but some of the shapes — particularly the lines on his sides — reference the Archangel costume. Considering this version of Warren also has strange inorganic wings with powers he doesn’t fully understand, that makes a whole lot of sense.
First of all, I love that Hank has his red and navy color scheme back. Those are the colors most associated with non-furry Beast, and no amount of brown/maroon/orange redesigns can change that. It’s just a look that works for him.
Another look that works for him is that Quitely-style jacket converted into a hoodie. He may be from the past, but this is clearly a Hank who has learned how nerds dress in the present. The days of the tweed jacket are long over, and for better or worse hoodies are where it’s at.
The bare arms on the costume underneath are also a great idea. Hank’s the muscle of the team, so let him show off those guns! On the other hand, I wish he didn’t have the gloves, less for practical reasons than because bare hands and feet have historically been such an iconic part of his look.
Still, it’s a great look, with or without the hoodie.