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For fans of New X-Men
on October 12, 2014
New X-Men: Academy X Vol. 1 - Choosing Sides collects New X-Men: Academy X issues 1 through 6.
Note: if you're interested in following the entire New X-Men story arcs (the ones that started in 2004, not the earlier Grant Morrison 'New X-men' arcs that started in 2001), you need to start with the New Mutants Vol. 1: Back to School collection which has New Mutants (2nd series) issues 1 through 6, and then read the individual New Mutants (2nd series) issues 7 through 13, which were never published as a collection. New X-Men: Academy X Vol. 1 - Choosing Sides picks up where things left off shortly after the New Mutants (2nd series) ended with issue 13.
(Yes, it really is that confusing. Google and Wikipedia are your best friends in trying to figure it all out.)
Anyway, the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning has been rebuilt (again) after having been destroyed (again) in the Planet X story arc of the other New X-men series (issues 146 to 156). Professor X is no longer in residence and administration of the school has been passed to co-Headmasters Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Emma Frost, with faculty and staff consisting of Danielle Moonstar (Mirage), Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane), Jean-Paul Baubier (Northstar), Xi'an "Shan" Coy Mahn (Karma) and others.
A new class of students are in their charge. Most of them first appeared in the above-mentioned New Mutants series, but a few new ones have been added. For training purposes, Cyclops and Frost divide the students up into squads, with each squad having a faculty adviser. Most of the plot in the stories centers around two rival squads
...Dani's New Mutants:
David Alleyne (Prodigy)
Sofia Mantega (Wind Dancer)
Noriko Ashida (Surge)
Laurie Collins (Wallflower)
Josh Foley (Elixir)
Kevin Ford (Wither)
...and Emma Frost's Hellions
Julian Keller (Hellion)
Cesily Kincaid (Mercury)
Santo Vaccarro (Rockslide)
Brian Cruz (Tag)
Jay Guthrie (Icarus)
Sooraya Qadir (Dust)
The two main stories involve the above squads being pitted against each other in intramural competition, and Kevin being wanted by the authorities for the death of his father. There are also a number of sub-plots, including Elixir and Rahne having a prohibited student/teacher affair, conflicts over leadership within the New Mutants, and conflicts and angst over relationships among a number of individual students.
The writing is okay but somewhat predictable and not particularly memorable. The art is a mixed bag. The coloring is excellent, very vivid and eye-catching, but while the drawing is better in terms of detail and overall consistency of style, there is still an annoying problem with the inconsistent way character's faces are drawn, such that the faces can vary dramatically in appearance over the course of a few pages. There's also a problem that the characters often seem "posed" in several panels, like they're consciously posing for a photo layout in GQ or Playboy, which really jolts you out of the story. That and the fact that once again the most common female mutation appears to be having boobs two sizes larger than average.
The real value of this collection is that it does track the history of these characters and show you how they ultimately became the characters they were in later issues and other story arcs.
Recommended for anyone who likes the New X-Men characters and/or story arcs and wants to follow them from the beginning.