As most comic book lovers, I have had a love/hate relationship with the Xmen franchise. To start off, this was the first title of any comic I ever purchased (Xmen #8: Bishop vs Gambit ’nuff said), so it’s a title near and dear to my heart. I love the characters, theme and overall craziness of the mutant series. Then came the movies. I had a few qualms, such as why are they all wearing black leather, and isn’t Famke Janssen ten years older than James Marsden? But it was a wonderful film, introducing us to Hugh Jackman (who permanently claimed the role of Wolverine for all time), and showing us the greatest team comic book movie to date. Two sequels followed that raised more questions (such as where’s Gambit, who did James Marsden piss off to suddenly become such a small role, and why do they use the same villains over and over when there are so many great ones to choose from?). The greatest thing in these films however was that they proved the relationship between hero and villain isn’t always black and white, and the friendship of Professor X and Magneto was captured brilliantly by Patrick Steward and Ian McKellan. It is that chemistry, in my opinion, that kept the villain focus on Magneto. So the studio gets a brilliant idea, let’s save that franchise (because God knows we all hated Xmen: Last Stand) by giving a prequel that focuses on that friendship. The resulting film, Xmen: First Class, not only saves the franchise, but rewrites the book on how to make a good comic book team movie (We’ll set aside Xmen Origins: Wolverine for the time being. Yes, it kicked ass, but it’s Wolverine more than Xmen).In a genius move, this film opens with the same scene that opens the original Xmen film. We see Erik Lehnsherr (here played by Bill Milner, but in the rest of the film it’s the astounding Michael Fassbender) in a World War 2 Nazi concentration camp. When separated from his parents, he discovers his powers by twisting the gates closed between them. It is emotional magic, even though we have seen it before, and was worth seeing again. The film goes on to show how a certain doctor in the camp (Sabastian Shaw played brilliantly by Kevin Bacon) uses cruel and unthinkable methods to bring Erik’s powers out and train him to use them. We also see a young Charles Xavier come downstairs in the middle of the night to find his mother in the kitchen. Being a mind reader, he identifies young Raven and adopts her as a sister (which leaves us comic fans going “Huh?” but it’s working with the plot, so we’ll shut up for now). Fast forward a few years and Xavier (James McAvoy) is graduating from a University with his published thesis on mutation. At this point he thinks he and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) are the only ones and uses minor mutations (such as different eye colors) as a method to hit on women. His thesis draws the attention of CIA operative Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), who saw mutant activity while pursuing Sabastian Shaw and needs to prove it to her superiors. The promise of meeting other mutants immediately snatches Charles’ attention and soon they are attempting to arrest Shaw on his yacht. They fail due to the other mutants assisting Shaw, but encounter Erik, who has been hunting Shaw for years, determined to kill him. Realizing they will need a mutant task force to combat Shaw, the CIA agrees that Erik and Charles will locate and approach other mutants for this purpose. This is where the magic starts, because not only do we see the bonds between Charles and Erik grow, but we get to see Xavier in action as the mutant teacher we know him to be. He harnesses these young people whose talents have always been uncontrollable and wild, even showing Erik that using anger as his sole focus is restricting, teaching him to come from a place between rage and bliss. He has to be a good teacher, because when Shaw’s true intentions are discovered, they will need everything they have to literally save the world.The writing on this film is superb, and the genius of the actors makes it even more so. The ever-present question in these comics and films has always been should mutants try to live with humanity or apart from it. The answer is never simple, as either way leads to a vast variety of problems. One of the fascinating takes on this is the issue facing Beast and Mystique, whose physical appearance makes them obviously different unlike others whose powers are hidden. They have to face the question of should we hide who we are or embrace it? Michael Fassbender’s intensity in this film is a wonder to behold and he captures every emotion so powerfully that you believe he can bend steel. James McAvoy is so likeable that you can imagine him as the greatest teacher you ever had. They are calling this the greatest Xmen movie so far, and I think I agree. All in all, if the Avengers comes off anywhere near as good as this film, then we are in for a treat next year.Final Word: Should see in Comic Book Action