I’ll admit: this is one of those titles I was entirely skeptical on. Oh, sure, I’d read it because I’ll give anything a chance and I love superhero comics (no need to pretend otherwise), but the X-Men of yesterday visiting and shaming the X-Men of today? Eh. Not exactly anything to get excited about in my book. But what if I was wrong? So before I lose all objectivity, lets get to the review.
As a note, this is a spoiler-free review.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Stuart Immonen
It’s a blast from the past as the original five students of Professor X — Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel and Beast — are plucked from the past and brought to the present. But what they find, the state that their future selves are in and the state of Xavier’s dream, is far from the future they dreamed of. And how will the X-Men of the present deal with their past coming crashing forward?
In 2005, “House of M” was the best thing to happen to the X-Franchise in a long time. “No More Mutants” is perhaps the best three words to have appeared in any major event of the past decade, because in terms of impact it was the one of the greatest; having grown relatively stagnant with an over-abundance of characters for a universe that was set to implode on itself, the X-Francise found “House of M” simplifying things down on a grand scale. Suddenly the story was easier to follow, the focus much tighter and, with the help of writers like Joss Whedon, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Mike Carey, the franchise was able to grow in a satisfying and decidedly darker direction with “Messiah Complex,” “Utopia” and beyond. Sure, some characters were lost in the transition, but such is the way of any major cataclysmic change. And, truth be told, it was all better for it.
Of course, it wasn’t always going to last. At some point, the random mutants would have to come back. Mainstream comics, for all their value, are a circular beast. No matter how far we come, we always seem to end up back at some of the same shorelines, re-using old plots and visiting old villains. It sounds cynical, but it really was only a matter of time until a writer decided to undo what another writer had done, or modify it in some form or fashion to restore an older status quo. So the hope is that, if we’re just going to end up with the same old universe at the end of the day, it might as well be done in an exciting fashion. As long as a writer’s major impact is going to be effectively removed, it should be done in a way that at least propels things forward, right?
So who better to set the status quo for the X-Franchise now than the man who took it all away 7 years ago?
“All-New X-Men” #1 marks the first time Brian Bendis has really worked in the ground level of the X-Franchise. Sure, he’s had his run with “Ultimate X-Men,” and yes, his work has effected the X-Men in the past, but Bendis very much became the Avengers guy in the past few years. Yet, with “Avengers vs X-Men” changing things to a slight extent and Marvel NOW! changing things to a greater extent, it’s time to see what Bendis can do with another franchise. All things considered, if “All-New X-Men” #1 is any indication, then we’re actually in for quite a treat.
Here’s the thing: while the over-abundance of mutants was annoying, there would of course come a time when the story started with “Messiah Complex” would reach an end point. There is only so far Cyclops can be pushed after his species is wiped off the map, and “AvX” addressed this and pushed him to the brink and beyond. And while there were some great stories told during this era, it was going to inevitably reach a point where Cyclops would be the “villain.” This is, in so many words, what “All-New X-Men” addresses. It’s an interesting dichotomy, truth be told; on the one hand, the book sets up the New World fro mutantkind, which is similar to the Old World — mutants are hated and Cyclops is leading a band of mutants to protect and rescue new mutants. At the same time, the book does what it says on the cover: it gives us new X-Men. Two new characters are introduced, although they’re not in the focus, but it’s clear that an age of new characters might actually be upon us.
That is arguably the most exciting thing about the book: just the fact that it promises something new, and then delivers. Oh, it’s not new in the sense of superhero stories. It plays off of old tropes of the genre throughout. However, it manages to do so in a way that is different from what Marvel had been doing. Yes, we’ve gone backwards, but we’ve also taken a new bold step forward. Cyclops is bad! Wolverine is the most trusted mutant leader! Up is down! Black is white! Things will inevitably turn back around in a few years and Cyclops will of course end up as a hero again at some point, but at a first read this book seems full of possibility to introduce a new world for our heroes to live in — and that is the point of Marvel NOW!. You wanted all-new? You got it.
Of course, the major inherent downside to the title is that right out the gate the pries seems entirely limited. Yes, the whole new mutant thing is exciting for those of us who like to see writers play-up a limitless concept, but the main storyline — the past X-Men meeting the future ones — isn’t given enough time to seem relevant as more than a tool to drive at least an arc. Truth be told, that aspect of the book barely has a major focus; the idea is introduced almost as an afterthought. In turn, it ends up being the least exciting aspect of the book in a weird way, and apparently it’s supposed to be the main one. The idea that the past X-Men would interact with their future selves is interesting, sure, but as far as how it is introduced, there just doesn’t appear to be any major longevity to it all. Past Cyclops is going to shame Future Cyclops? Well, alright, but that seems like something that won’t make it past five issues.
But it’s a start, and it’s a rather entertaining one at that. Bendis and Immonen have been major players at Marvel in the past few years, leading events individually and having major runs on flagship titles together. These guys know each other well, and it shows in the pages of the book. Bendis seems to be reeling himself in a bit from his usual Mamet-fest, with a sharper focus on the story and associated dialogue beyond the trivialities of dialogue; it’s not that it’s refreshing, but it’s at least nice to see Bendis isn’t trying to do the same thing in all the books he writes. Conversely, Immonen never reels himself in (nor should he), as each panel is lush with detail, each character is realized with tremendous emotion and the entire book is just flat out great Marvel comics. It might not be an important detail to some, but one of the crowning achievements of the title is that at just a brief glance, it’s a very smart example of what Marvel can do when it brings the right team together, and with a book that will end up as a flagship to a franchise that’s an important detail to remember.
Suffice it to say, “All-New X-Men” is quite a refreshing and exciting new chapter into the X-World. It does move us backwards in terms of the direction of the franchise, but it also pushes things valiantly forward in terms of possibility. Really, anything is possible at this point, and that’s kind of exciting in and of it’s own right — and honestly, that’s all you need to spark interest in new readers, or to catch lapsed ones. While the overall premise isn’t fleshed out too much, it will certainly be interesting to see the book evolve over a few more issues, but as far as Marvel NOW! debuts go this is definitely a surprise hit.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Buy