Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman & Anzu
I honestly wasn't expecting much out of this book, given the last adaptation of a Marvel property into manga format that I read(Wolverine: Prodigal Son - not good at all). But this has redeemed the concept in my mind and is a fine example of a reimagining done right and executed to fantastic results. Because I have to say, I really loved this manga. I am a fan of the X-Men superhero comic books and certainly went into this with an open mind, but not expecting much out of the experience. But I'll be damned if this isn't better than most X-Men stories I've read over the years.
The story sees Kitty Pryde joining Xavier's Academy for Gifted Youngsters where, under the tutelage of instructors like Storm, Magneto and Beast (who looks Totoro-ized), she learns to control her mutant powers, builds her self-confidence and bonds with her peers. Pryde here is true to her roots, which is nice to see as I'm a huge fan of the character, and the writers put a lot of thought into how she would react to her newly-found powers, things I've never really thought about that she's concerned with, such as slipping through the hull of an airplane, and wearing a bicycle helmet in case she accidentally phases through a bus she's riding on or through the second floor of the mansion. But what makes her special at Xavier's is that she's the only female student there. Almost all of the guys go gaga over her for this reason, particularly an elite club of rich, reckless students, this manga's version of The Hellfire Club (another neat idea). Pyro becomes her main suitor, which is appropriate, as Iceman is the one she's curious about. Given their abilities, this could lead to some major sparks done the road a ways, but for now, readers have to be content with a more shojo story, that of Kitty adjusting to the school and an army of boys pining after her, full of the hi jinks and romance you'd assume go hand-in-hand with such a premise.
I won't lie: one of my favorite aspects of this manga is seeing how the characters are reimagined to fit into this universe. I already mentioned the Totoro-ized Beast, but some of my other favorite interpretations of X-characters are Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man), whom Kitty bumps into when she first arrives at the school in a pretty hilarious scene, and the beautiful, arrogant Angel. There are some pretty amazing designs for the characters involved as well. The students are very fashion-forward, many of the guys overly-sexualized, and they alternate between cartoony and cat-eared or whatnot, and a soft, beautiful, more realistic and detailed style, depending on what the panel calls for. Nightcrawler has an utterly beautiful demon design, and I love the flirtatious nature and looks of characters like Longshot and Gambit. But beyond the designs themselves, the creators know how to lay out this story for maximum effect, as this is utterly suspenseful, dramatic and funny when it delves into humor. The action scenes are executed clearly, with great attention to background and details, and the tension between characters is established for maximum effect whenever there's a confrontation. Any scene that's not just a talking head is just amazing, as Anzu's drawing ability is fantastic. I love looking at panels of Kitty phasing through walls and floors (there's one scene of her and Pyro floating through the mansion's many stories to the basement that's really, really neat) and of the men in various states of dress flirting with Pryde. This book is just a lot of fun, and is one interpretation of the X-Men that I definitely recommend people check out. It has a little bit of everything for everyone.