All-New X-Men #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The next stage in mutant evolution is here. While some books in the Marvel NOW! launch have sprawling new directions, All-New X-Men, at least on the outset, is actually much more of a direction continuation off Kieron Gillen's run on Uncanny X-Men. That said, while Brian Michael Bendis's additions to the Children of the Atom are smaller than expected, they do add some welcome tension to the mix.
In many ways, All-New X-Men is about getting readers up to speed with the X-Men's tumultuous recent history than blazing a bold trail to a new future. Bendis sets up the dichotomy between the Jean Grey School for the Gifted — even if Wolverine is conspicuously absent from this issue, not a great sign — and the fugitive renegade Cyclops, now replacing Magneto as the face of mutant revolution.
You sense that Bendis has the most fun writing those scenes, and why wouldn't he — for years, Cyclops has gotten more and more active, more and more interesting, the more he's taken bold steps to protect mutantkind. The villain hat fits nicely on Scott Summers, believe it or not.Yet Bendis also adds in some smaller, even more welcome changes that are all his own. The Beast's status quo in particular is a nice touch, especially since he's become the heart and soul of the team in recent years, and I actually really enjoyed the new mutants Bendis has added to the mix. The new kids, whatever they wind up being called, don't necessarily seem like long-lasting IP, but that's actually kind of refreshing — Bendis might be creating these characters just for the story, just to give us fresh eyes on the convoluted X-Men universe.
The art has a shaky start, however. Stuart Immonen's take on the Beast is one of best parts of this book, hands-down, with a fluidity to Hank's mangy visage. The scenes with Cyclops and his band of fugitives also looks fantastic, with Cyclops' crossed arms immediately co-opting the X symbol into something far more terrifying than Xavier's dream.
Yet that dynamic streak drops once we get to the Jean Grey School, particularly where the character designs are concerned — Iceman's hair-cicles look more goofy than stylish, and most of the characters in those scenes don't actually do anything visual to offset Bendis's prolific word balloons. The colorwork also brings him down. Marte Gracia just makes the book look too muddy, too dark, and it really hampers the energy for the rest of the book.
Bendis too has his own issues, although many of them are a matter of taste at this point — if you buy a Bendis book, you should expect certain Bendis things. His rapid-fire dialogue, which to some may read as filler, is back on full throttle here, and while it does crank up the tension in each scene, it also robs characters like the regal Storm or even the erudite Beast of their individual voices. Furthermore, the time-travel part of this series' high concept — which thankfully doesn't appear until the end of the comic — still feels arbitrary and weird. If the Phoenix Force can get people up in arms, why isn't a mutant abusing time travel not cause for alarm?
In terms of actual high concept, I'll admit that Bendis and Immonen haven't quite convinced me on the merits of All-New X-Men — at least, not yet. But in terms of actually taking over the X-Men universe, this actually looks like a subtle but intriguing start. Now that the exposition is over, Bendis and company have room to tear the roof off of the Jean Grey School, and that's cause for celebration. That all said, however, fun execution, small tweaks and my own love of the current direction of X-Men aside, it is still a little disappointing that All-New X-Men is anything but.