NYX is both a daring idea and a spectacularly misguided one. It’s daring because NYX stars four new female characters -- three runaway teenage mutant girls and a teacher -- without a cameo from an X-Man, Avenger, or Spider-Man. Together, these four come together to bicker at each other and be hunted by a murderous pimp.
Writer Joe Quesada wants to update the early Marvel tales of mutants discovering their powers and being alienated from and disliked by normal society. These kids are on their own, but together, they form a community to protect one another. Unlike X-Men such as Beast, Angel, and Iceman, they aren’t exchanging a happy or stable family life for the Xavier School; for them, it’s a rough mutant life or no life. The runaways all seem to know that only someone who has dealt with similar traumas can understand what they’ve been through.
Everything else in NYX, though, is misguided. Marvel does get points for giving new female characters a starring role in a miniseries and assigning a high-profile creator to the story. But that high-profile creator is Quesada, who is a great artist but an inexperienced writer. He recasts X-23, NYX’s best known character, as a near-mute child prostitute who isn’t even named in the story; even her pimp doesn’t know her name. By an extreme coincidence, Kiden, the protagonist, is given a chance to confront the man who killed her father, a police officer, when she was a small child. Readers are never sure what motivates X-23. Quesada mixes up names. Tatiana, the third runaway, is introduced halfway through the story, too late to feel like anything but an afterthought.None of the characters are compelling or likeable, although Kiden’s struggle from immature brat to responsible leader eventually makes her almost sympathetic.
Artists Joshua Middleton and Robert Teranishi tend toward the exploitative in their depictions of female characters. Kiden wears a bikini top and sucks on a pacifier on the cover of #1; inside the book, she’s shown sitting on the toilet with her shorts around her ankles and a pill in her hand. The following pages have several drawings of her in a t-shirt and panties. X-23 is dressed in lingerie and fishnets the entire series. There are prostitutes flaunting their wares everywhere. Tatiana is the subject of a (non-revealing) upskirt illustration in another scene.
NYX used Marvel's mutant universe to explore big issues like the plight teenage runaways, prostitution, gangs, and gun violence, but NYX never convinces me Quesada, Middleton, and Teranishi are treating these sensitive subjects with the consideration they deserve. Additionally, the mutant universe fell apart soon after NYX was published, taking away any long-term implications of the story. Without showing the respect those issues need or allowing the story to affect anything in the Marvel universe, everything else falls flat.