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.