By: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Stuart Immonen (Penciler), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Marte Gracia (Color Artist), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer)
Review: The point’s been made by my fellow WCBR brethren that reviewing All New X-Men looks like an unenviable task. And they’re right. Not that it’s a bad comic; quite the opposite, as nearly a year in and I still find it to be one of the strongest all-round titles to come out of the Marvel NOW ‘situation’. Rather it’s the case that a lot of the time each issue feels filled to the brim with lots of great little moments between the many and varied members of its cast. Keeping track of all that over a few hundred words can get difficult, especially if you don’t want to make it look like you’re just transcribing the script wholesale. Woe is me, 1st world problems etc. I can deal. Once more into the breach dear friends…once more!
If there’s one main takeaway from this issue I guess it would be that the time-displaced original X-Men are falling apart. In one sense, literally – following on from last month’s cliffhanger ending it’s a member of that team who’s decided to leave the Jean Grey School and follow Cyclops’ Uncanny team. In another, figuratively – Jean’s burgeoning Psionic powers are taking their toll, not just on her but on all the X-Men. With every outburst everyone gets a little more scared of her, and she knows it.
Well, I say everyone. Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos view her psychic evolution as a welcome challenge and at one point, when Jean launches a mental attack, they’re more than happy to put her in her place. This part is deliciously written. My best friend (a big X-fan) often laments that Bendis has a terrible handle on Emma, and it’s true enough; under his stewardship she often come across as more bitchy blonde valley girl than haughty English dominatrix. Still, a little of that fire gets rekindled here. Emma marshalls the Cuckoos in their assault, commanding the attack even while X-Men on both sides of the conflict yell at her to stop; “Hold on…she’s learning a lesson,” comes the clipped response. Then, just at the moment when she’s decided that Jean’s had enough: “Aaaand scene,” accompanied by a click of the fingers. The drama’s played brilliantly, almost to a goosebump-inducing standard.
It’s the best moment in the issue hands-down, but there’s several others that aren’t far off. I really like how Kitty Pryde has become a fantastic mentor/mother-figure to Jean, the way that she offers a shoulder to cry on but is stern enough to threaten her with expulsion from the ‘now’. I love the conflict between Scott and Wolverine’s teams, and how the arguments break down into smaller individual conflicts between members. I love that the younger generation – the school’s students and Cyclop’s protégés – just seem to dig the fitful energy the conflict creates and are spoiling for a fight. There’s a lot to like.
Are there problems? Yes. With so much time and space devoted to the continuing battle in ideologies it leaves Mystique’s villainous storyline feeling left out in the cold (but then, she’s using the X-Men’s distractions to her advantage, so maybe that works). Also, I question the need to feature yet another cliffhanger where yet another crew of Avengers take a trek to the school grounds to settle a beef. Wolverine and Beast have been Avengers for how long? Surely this kinda thing can be settled with a couple of texts.
Small quibbles though…and all snuffed out by the fantastic efforts that Immonen, Von Grawbadger and Gracia bring to bear on the art. Remember when I said that reviewing these books was an unenviable task? What a cry-baby. Because illustrating it must be harder by many orders of magnitude. There’s just so much going on in this book and the panel count on each page is pretty high, yet no concessions are made – the high impact drama, the explosive action, it’s all rendered so expressively and with a fluidity of motion that it really beggars belief that this book never makes so much as a hiccup when it comes to the release schedule. It’s top-flight work, and makes this easily one of the best looking books on the shelves from Marvel or any other company.
Conclusion: Another fortnight, another strong issue of All New X-Men. There may be a million characters in it but each one, almost without question, feels vital to the plot and well-rounded. With a few moments of action that may well raise the hairs on the back of your neck and some of the prettiest art around, Marvel have arguably got the team book to beat.
Filed under: Marvel Comics, Reviews Tagged: | All New X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Jean Grey, Marte Gracia, Marvel, Marvel Comics, Marvel Comics Reviews, Marvel Reviews, Stepford Cuckoos, Stuart Immonen, Time Travel, VC's Cory Petit, Wade Von Grawbadger, Wolverine, X-Men