And if you've seen any of the publicity for this Marvel Now! launch, you'll know the score. The Beast travels back to his own early years, to persuade the original X-Men - himself, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman and Angel - to come back to the future (the reference is unavoidable, with a cute line of dialogue acknowledging the stories' commonality). The reactions of the young heroes to the world that is to come will power this series: Jean will learn she's dead, Cyclops will see that he's consorting with villains, Beast gets a preview of his furry form this very issue - it's an intriguing concept.
Writer Brian Michael Bendis sets things up nicely here, in the best script I've read from him in years. The storyline looks to have a shape and the smartass back-and-forth dialogue that derailed so many issues of Avengers is absent. Instead we have modern-day Iceman and Hank reacting in character to the fine mess they find themselves in, with next generation X-Men Storm and Kitty Pryde adding their own perspectives. There's a definite sense that we're at a key moment in human/mutant relations, and Bendis resists any temptation to deflate the drama with inappropriate humour.
Readers can see that any half-decent lawyer or advocate could quickly sort things out for the two new mutants - time-stopper Eva and healer Christopher - and they could get on with their lives, quietly mastering and then using or ignoring their powers as they see fit. Instead, Cyclops is dragging them into his personal crusade for redemption. The man's a fanatic, but his twisted charisma makes it plausible that followers will come.
The Beast is interesting in both time periods - in 2012 he wants to 'put the world right for mutants once and for all', while in the non-specific past, young Hank is ready to quit heroics after the latest attack by ungrateful humans. Like Cyclops, he has fears and frustrations, but unlike Cyclops, the Beast isn't embracing all-out force to change the world.
Eva and Christopher will add another point of view, if they're not simply plot kickstarters; the latter is on this issue's back cover, so I expect Bendis has plans. And Eva's brother is an overprotective buffoon in the grand Marvel tradition of Quicksilver and Northstar, so there's likely a backstory there to be mined. He certainly has plans for the present day Beast, with the poor guy undergoing yet another mutation, one he's sure will kill him. Oops.
Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger's storytelling is good, with our attention always directed to where it needs to be - they're a real asset with a chapter as sprawling as this in terms of character and location. They're especially proficient at showing just how scary Cyclops' team must look to the rest of the world as they wade in, heavy handed, to 'rescue' the youngsters, assaulting cops and destroying property. If I had to pick the one character they draw best of all, it'd be Storm - they evoke her intelligence and beauty, with serenity on the surface and fury never far away (click on image to enlarge).
The generally gloomy tones of Marte Gracia complement the story, while Corey Petit somehow finds room for the busy script to breathe.
While I'm not happy at the $3.99 price point - that's Marvel Now!, kids - and 14-times a year frequency, the creative team does enough here to bring me back in a couple of weeks. Once the focus shifts to the original X-Men, as it surely must, we'll have a better idea of the book's tone and vision. I'm rather looking forward to seeing where it goes.