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All New X-Men #9 – Review

ALL-NEW X-MEN #9

By: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Stuart Immonen (Penciler), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Marte Gracia & Rain Beredo (Color Artists), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer)

Review: My review of last month’s All New X-Men #8 was pretty awful; too many overly-long sentences and contrived compliments. Still, I blame it all on Bendis. After all, it gets difficult finding new ways to lavish praise on a book that’s still failed to put a foot wrong 8 issues in. Therefore it’s a little bit of a Godsend that #9 offers something of a hiccup. It’s not much of one, granted, but it’ll do.

So let’s get that criticism out of the way first: this issue does feel like something of a placeholder. The only characters whose story sees any concrete progression this month is the villains’, and even then they only appear on 4 of the book’s 20 pages (that’s 20%, stat fans). Irksome, yes, but a minor sin in the grand scheme of comics. I mean, I seem to remember 2009’s Cable series achieve the impressive feat of running for 25 issues without anything of note happening at all.

Aaaaaaaaand that’s it. Mudslinging over. Back to the sycophancy.

Because, other than that, there’s the same high levels of quality in both script and art as there’s always been (the self-same that’s seen me pre-order the collected Hardcover of the series even though I own it both digitally and in single issues). It’s worth noting that David Marquez has made way for the return of Stuart Immonen in this issue, and he delivers a real optic nerve-trembler of a performance. With Bendis scripting him a warm welcome, Immonen gets to pencil an explosive Danger Room sequence, a Raft Prison breakout and even a surprise reappearance of Kirkman’s Marvel Zombies. And it is all spectacular. It’s drenched in cornea-shrivelling colors from the combined talents of Marte Gracia and Rain Beredo and dramatically inked by Von Grawbadger…it’s a masterclass on the current mainstream Marvel visual method. Hard to beat this book at the moment if you’re looking for top-flight superhero thrills, it’s firing on all cyclinders.

As I say, story-wise there’s not much that happens, with that Danger Room/Raft Prison break-out rounded out with an expository chat between Beast and Angel and a cliffhanger-ending to lead into next month’s issue (which is sure to make it a real doozy). But even as thin on the ground as events may be, the dialogue makes the sedentary pace worth it. Kitty has a brilliant turn as a drill instructor, Iceman continues to bring the funny (“Seriously, our Danger Room is like a big red ball that flies at us really fast…this is really elaborate,”) tensions build between Scott and Jean and Angel continues to question his team’s place in the present (despite the brainwipe he experienced last month). It’s a talky book, yes, but in the best Bendis way – it all feels natural, all purposed to explore the rich, deep characters the author’s put into play. It’s pleasing stuff, and it brings that Soap Opera element of comic books to the fore in a way that enhances the material more than it mires it in melodrama.

Conclusion: Still very much the reliable workhorse of the Marvel Now line, Bendis’ flagship X-title continues to lead the pack in terms of its rocksteady characterisations and inarguable visual appeal. While the latest issue doesn’t move the story along all that much, I’ll take a ‘coasting’ issue of All New X-Men over a ‘game-changer’ issue of most other books any day of the week.

Grade: B+

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