How far would you go to save one of your oldest friends? What would you do if you could talk with your future self? What if that future self has gone against everything you believe in, crossing lines you never dreamed you would cross? All-New X-Men #2 is ready to do some soul searching with you.
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 today’s comic book market it’s nearly impossible to be surprised by a story. Major plot points and character moments are teased months ahead of time through interviews, press releases, and solicitations. Because of this, “All-New X-Men” is handicapped out of the gate. Its big hook, the original five X-Men traveling to the current day Marvel Universe, has been known and discussed by fans for months now. The shock factor of the event has been lost, so the consequences of the event must be powerful and compelling enough to hook the reader. Luckily, Bendis handles these character driven moments expertly, giving them the gravitas they deserve.
As much as Marvel is touting the “Marvel NOW!” initiative as a perfect jumping on point for new readers, this book is clearly written for the long time X-Men fan. That’s not to say that a new reader couldn’t go into “All-New X-Men #2″ and fully enjoy the issue, but the emotional resonance of seeing the original five X-Men come to a strange future is made all the more powerful by having a knowledge of how far they’ve come. Bendis writes these characters with the same innocence that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby instilled in them over 40 years ago. Each of the five come face to face with a future that is far bleaker than they would have hoped, and in that moment we see that innocence start to slip away. How this will effect the overall Marvel timeline remains to be seen, but you can bet it won’t be good.
Even with the weighty subject matter, Bendis is able to inject some much needed levity. The opening pages with Iceman and Kitty are cute and playful, even if their budding relationship does seem forced. The Wolverine classroom scene was chuckle worthy and felt in line with Jason Aaron’s “Wolverine and the X-Men,” which helps create a sense of cohesion among these books.
This is a gorgeous and cinematic book, with large panels and several dense single and double page spreads. Immonen and inker Wade Von Grawbadger (a.k.a the best last name in comics) seem to have gained a stronger grasp on these characters, as the line work seems more defined compared to last issue. The colors by Marte Gracia are bold and beautiful, but perhaps a little too glossy at times, giving some characters a plastic look. Immonen really nails the characters’ facial expressions, adding extra layers of depth to Bendis’ words. It’s really great the Marvel is pulling out their big gun artists for these NOW! books, but it’s unlikely that Immonen will be able to keep up with this book’s accelerated shipping schedule for long.
Fans of Marvel’s augmented reality segments may be disappointed as the feature is only used once in the issue, not counting the video recap on the cover. However, the one case it is used (prompted on a gorgeous double page spread half way through the issue) is a fun treat for fans of the Jean Grey School and a great catch up for new readers. Although I’d like to see the feature incorporated more than once an issue, this is a far better use than the “making of the page” segments that “Avengers vs. X-Men” used so prominently.
If this issue has one major fault, it’s the length and pacing of the book. Two issues into this series and it feels as if very little has happened. This is par for the course for Bendis, who tends to “write for the trade.” The decompressed nature of the book is countered by the fact that it ships bi-monthly, but this in turn can cause problems for readers who have a fixed comic budget.
“All-New X-Men” #2 won’t win readers over with its originality. Meeting your future/past self is a well worn sci-fi trope and Bendis isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. What will grab you are the strong character moments, such as when Jean learns of her future demise or when Cyclops sees just how far he’s strayed from Xavier’s dream. The implications of these events could lead to any number of possible stories, throwing a major wrench into the slowly evolving status quo set up by Schism. X-Men fans have no reason not to pick up this issue, and there’s plenty to hook new readers as well.
Verdict: 8.8 -Buy it!