Wednesday, 14 November 2012

All-New X-Men #1 review

Scott Summers is out of prison and leading a new band of mutants. With Magneto, Magik and Emma Frost, he's travelling the world and recruiting new mutants as they 'break out' - and assaulting the authorities at every turn. At the Jean Grey school in Westchester, his former X-Men colleagues watch with dismay, wondering how he's finding the fledglings before them. The obvious response is to confront Cyclops and co, but Storm can foresee only one result - a mutant civil war which everyone, mutants and baseline humans alike, would lose. They need a smarter approach ...

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.

22 comments:

  1. It all sounds interesting, in an overly-convoluted way.

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    1. Indeed. Supposedly Bendis has plucked the originals from between the panels of one particular issue. I may have to go Essentials-diving.

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  2. I have to say it's interesting how Cyclops has basically become a new generation's Magneto, so I guess the immediate plans for character rehabilitation not happening. Maybe considering all that Cyclops has faced over the years, it kinda' sorta' makes sense, but is this where Marvel really wants to go with Cyclops? I guess time and Bendis will soon tell.

    At least this seems like a good step in the right direction for the X-Men's reputation to be rehabilitated in general...Hmm. We'll see.

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    1. While I miss sane Scott Summers, I'll give Marvel credit for evolving Cyclops over time and on-panel, so that his twisted world-view hasn't come out of nowhere.

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  3. My problem with All New X-Men is twofold.

    1) that the actual premise doesn't work: the sliding timescale means the characters are the same age in the past as they are in the present and when someone makes a "hilarious" (it says here) reference to Back to the Future ("is it our kids?"), all it does is reinforce that Marvel won't let offspring appear in books in case it "ages the characters", because as we all know only people in their forties have babies (and presumably no-one with kids buys comics).
    It could have worked if it was a Savage Dragon story, but it just isn't a sound premise for a mainstream X-men comic.

    2) The idea that Cyclops has charisma is utterly laughable. I am still trying to figure out how, when he periodically dies, those around him can actually tell.

    Also the Australian dialogue was pretty painful to read. Bendis needs to meet some real people, or at the very least watch a tv show with real people in it.

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  4. Hi Brigonos. It's true, Cyclops now has charisma, he's dangerous, he's . Er ... I do think he has something now - barking mad folk do tend to attract the weak minded.

    I'm trying to remember the last time we had Australians in X-Men - Lifeguard and Slipstream? Bonza.

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  5. And the hypocrisy towards Cyclops continues. One mutant is faced with what amounts to a death squad and the other is held without charges because he healed someone and Scott is the bad guy for rescuing them. I did love the issue but Douche Beast can't die soon enough. He hated X-Force but joined Cap's black ops team and killed on his orders, enlisted the worst villains to cure M Day, and had an extended team up with Dark Beast, is dating the female version of what he says he hates about Scott, and flew to Utopia after Schism to just go 'neener neener neener'. Ass hat. It won't happen but I'd love to see Young Scott research in depth what his future self has gone through and tell everyone he agrees with what was done!

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    1. I can't stand Beast ever since he left Scott over X-Force, to go work for Wolverine, who IS X-Force.

      But, anyway, good issue. I can buy that Scott, having been denied a trial himself (because Captain America suddenly had no influence?) would not want to leave the new mutants to the mercy of the justice system. I can also buy that the school teaching mutants don't agree with him, but I'd sure like to hear their alternative, and not just their complaining.

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    2. Hi Steve, I can see that Scott sees he's rescuing them, but the force he's using against unpowered people is too much. Better to hire a decent lawyer via a non-fugitive proxy and make some anti-persecution points in court?

      Mind, that'd be less dramatic, and wouldn't suit the path he's now on.

      Mac, Beast was in the X-assassin team? I never knew that, it doesn't seem to suit his character at all.

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    3. No, Beast wasn't in it. But he found out that Scott was running it, which made him abandon Scott. Wolverine was, is, in X-Force. And right after abandoning Scott, Beast starting working for Wolverine at his school. It was just the single most hypocritical move i can remember.

      As to hiring a decent lawyer, sure, that's ideal. But what if one of the dudes aiming guns at time-freeze-girl had actually shot? Or if shark girl, who was saved by the school mutants, had been attacked by humans instead of Mystique?

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    4. Ah,thank you Mac, that's that cleared up.

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    5. Does Beast know Wolverine is on X-Force?

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    6. Yes Beast is aware that Wolverine lead X-Force. He and the entire school staff learned at the same time and while Kitty and Beast told Wolvie to "Keep it away form the school", it eventually CAME to the school as Genesis (a clone of Apocalypse as a child) is kidnapped by Wolverine's son, Sabertooth, and other people who just hate Wolverine (Including oddly, Mystique who is now a villain again maybe?). It didn't end well. Wolvie appears to have killed Daken in the exchange.

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    7. Gawd, is there any X-Men book that isn't horribly convoluted. Cheers for laying out what happened, Jan - I wasn't a fan of the killy-killy X-Force series.

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  6. I just got the chance to read this. Not too bad but nothing that is knocking my socks off either. I'll definitely try to read this to see where it goes but it isn't a must read like Batman or JLD.

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    1. I'm still not overly impressed by Snyder's Batman - some intriguing moments, but he cheats.

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  7. This is the first X-Men book I have bought in around 4 years after loosing faith in the franchise and the direction it seemed to be going in, my first thoughts when reading the book were what another mutation for Hank and why always him?

    However, by the end of the book I was won over and I am curios as to how this story line will pan out in the months to come, I do have one question how did Hank get into the past?

    Do the X-Men have access to time travel now as it wasn't something they had when I used to read the books, as usual I thoroughly enjoyed the review.

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  8. Thanks Rob, glad you like the book. I thought #2 this past week was a even better read.

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  9. I read this and all I could think was how stupid the set up is. Cyke is SAVING mutants while all the other X-Men sit around tsk tsk at how horrible Cyke is for saving their lives (they seem so condescending in this scene to me). It's kind of like when Cyke saves Iceman from a mob trying to kill him (way back in the original X-Men), everyone didn't seem upset then did they?
    Not to mention the entire concept is just flimsy as hell. Beast decides the ONLY PERSON in the known universe(s) that can talk to Cyke and convince him how wrong he is to ya know.. save mutants while the rest of the X-Men do jack except condemn him for doing it.. is to go back in time and get young Cyke, who knows nothing about anything and gets all his information from an obviously biased Beast, to talk to old Cyke and tell him how evil he is for ya know.. saving lives?

    After reading the first 5 issues (the first arc, which is only a few months since Marvel is double shipping the crap out of this title), I just can't get past the glaring inconsistencies and just plot holes that Bendis expects everyone to openly swallow without questioning in ANY WAY, yet so many people have. (Like Jean magically getting and mastering her telepathic powers with NO TRAINING and doing things that who have trained for years have issues doing).

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  10. It is all a but weird, isn't it. On the one hand, I can enjoy the fanboy-pleasing moments, on the other, it is indeed a nonsensical set-up with an equally baffling follow through. Lord knows wee Brian Bendis is heading.

    On the other hand, I'm finding this comic about a million times more enjoyable than his Avengers work - which is something.

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    1. I don't know. I just hated most of it. The whole concept just falls flat for me and every stupid unexplained thing that happens just irritates me more. I'm glad it looks like Kitty will be leading an X-Men team, but I'm not happy about the team, I'm really annoyed with the direction they're taking Jean (she suddenly hates Cyke from the past b/c of what Cyke in the future has done?) and is apparently going to date Quentin Quire, school bad boy and male version of Emma Frost basically. I hate the original X-Men all lamenting how horrible things may one day be for them (except Iceman and the gag between the two Icemen got OLD really, really quickly). I just have issues with the whole thing and I can't see why this is like the #1 comic on almost every review site while other, much better titles that are vastly better written, better concepts, and just BETTER are given shit reviews and aren't selling. It irritates the crap out of me.

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