By: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Stuart Immonen (Artist), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Marte Gracia (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer)
The Review: All New X-Men is enjoying a well-deserved reputation as one of the best Marvel NOW titles at the moment. This success is largely down to the fact that it’s not really traded on the gimmicks which first made the title a talking point – Jean Grey coming back, the original X-Men coming face-to-face with their future selves – so much as it has strong character work from Bendis (and some top flight artwork from Stuart Immonen). This issue’s focus is restricted solely to Cyclops’ new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, revealing a little of the workings of the team and more of the turmoil present within it. I haven’t found it quite as compelling as the previous instalments, but it’s still some better than average comic booking and an important step forward for the overall story.
*Spoilers aplenty from here on out*
At this stage Scott is still adding recruits to the ranks, setting his sights on one in particular: Emma Frost. She’s not exactly pleased to see her former lover who, lest we forget, stole her portion of the Phoenix Force during AvX, a move which led to her bearing the brunt of a Hulk-led smack down. That’s the kind of grudge that’s worth holding.
Getting to Emma is the bulk of the problem as Cyclops and Magneto need to break her out of her prison escort. With the levels of experience and power between the two this should be an easy job, but a new development in the post-Phoenix world changes all that. It appears that any mutant who was directly touched by the Phoenix force is encountering difficulties with their powers. In Magneto and Emma’s case they’re operating at half-strength, but Cyclops has the opposite problem, his Optic Blasts misfiring wildly and turning what should have been a simple jail break into a scene of death and carnage.
Elsewhere new mutants continue to manifest, on this occasion a teenage shape-shifter in the vein of Mystique, and when Scott and Magneto turn up to enlist the kid they run straight into the path of the original X-Men. We’ve all been waiting for this moment since the series began, but we’ve still got to wait a little bit longer; for the moment the confrontation is just a dramatic cliff-hanger which is set to make the next issue an undoubtedly essential read.
In the meantime Bendis certainly builds some interesting developments within Scott’s inner circle. The power fluctuations the team are experiencing raise some questions – there’s no hard and fast rule to this ‘condition’. Scott and Emma were possessed by the Phoenix Force themselves, yes, but so was Magik, and she seems to bear no ill effect at all. Magneto wasn’t touched by it but still feels the symptoms, presumably because Scott used the power against him in the final fight; could this perhaps also be the reason that Beast’s mutation has become so volatile? And how will this effect Wolverine ad co., if at all? It’s an element of intrigue which could build into an important plot-point later on, but for the moment it’s a decent mystery for mystery’s sake.
We also see that Scott has convinced himself that his actions during AvX were not his, but those of the Phoenix. In doing so he’s trying to absolve himself of all guilt, a bit of self-delusion which Magneto is quick to call out as bulls%!£. It’s also the loneliest I’ve seen the character in a while, even after seeing him penned up in a prison cell in AvX: Consequences. With his faith in his powers rocked and the guilt of Xavier’s murder flooding in, Magneto moves in to threaten him: “You stripped me of my God-given power…You’re going to help me get it back or so help me God.” In that moment Scott seems trapped, having severed his links to the past by killing one father figure only to find himself confronted a with a far more malevolent one. I feel for him…in that moment he seems truly lost, trapped between a rock and a hard place.
The mood of Scott’s predicament is reflected in Immonen’s art, or, more accurately, Marte Gracia’s atmospheric colours. Lots of dark reds and crimsons backlight the action as destruction rages around the Brotherhood’s strike, and even when we follow Scott into the daylight the skies are cloudy and grey; it’s suitably oppressive and seems to foreshadow dark times to come. Elsewhere Immonen does his usual fantastic job with the cast, including a terrifically brooding Magneto and an Emma Frost who still manages to remain sexy amidst the depths of her prison overalls. And that last double-page spread is a real doozey – can’t wait to see Immonen pull all of his great work with the modern and original X-Men together next month.
Are there problems with this issue? A couple of minor ones. Some of Emma’s dialogue seems a little bit off (though maybe recent events would have taken the edge off of her usually wry, arrogant demeanour) and I still remain indifferent to the new mutants Bendis is half-heartedly injecting into proceedings. However, the good far outweighs the bad.
With Scott’s position in All New X-Men more thoroughly explored, and a bit more light shone on Magneto, Magik and Emma Frost’s positions in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the stage is now set for the much anticipated showdown between the X-Men of the past and the present. It’s a stepping-stone issue, sure, but the pay-off would have to fall ridiculously short of expectations to de-rail the momentum Bendis has built up to this point. So far, so good; this title remains an essential part of the Marvel NOW relaunch.
Filed under: Marvel Comics, Reviews Tagged: | All New X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis, Cory Petit, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik, Magneto, Marte Gracia, Marvel, Marvel NOW, Marvel Reviews, Scott Summers, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, X-Men