All-New X-Men #4
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
With the rapid-fire release schedule of All-New X-Men, it feels as though the first collision of the original X-Men and their darker future counterparts has come overwhelmingly fast. Yet underneath Brian Michael Bendis's scattered dialogue lies some truly gorgeous artwork by Stuart Immonen, who lends both heft and heart to this battle of the ages.
Considering the plot is pretty minimal — X-Men square off against X-Men, ruminating ensues — the emotional connection comes largely from Stuart Immonen, rather than Bendis himself. This comic is more about visual spectacle than the triumph of big new ideas — one page with the two squads staring each other down could have been a mess of captions and non-action, but Immonen uses thin vertical panels to produce a disorienting effect, showing literally how past and present are colliding to violent effect.
Other details, like older Cyclops's eyebeams actually warping in the air versus young Cyclops's thinner, straighter blasts are a nice touch, perhaps eluding to one's moral rigidity and the other's loss of control. But for my money, Immonen is at his best when conveying emotion — you can't help but feel for this younger Jean Grey, as she is suddenly overwhelmed by a barrage of telepathic chatter. This is a girl who's already conflicted about her emotions towards Cyclops — now seeing him grow into a monster is making her truly anguished, and we can see it all over her face.
That said, while the art is stellar, there are flaws to this book. Brian Michael Bendis's dialogue starts off strongly enough, as the older Cyclops has more than enough angst to narrate with — that said, once we get through that intro, the rest of the plotting is mostly on autopilot, as Bendis rehashes "who did this?" ad nauseum, then solving the mystery with barely any clues laid down. In addition, the balance of screen time between all these characters is still askew, with older Cyclops and his team getting most of it, young Cyclops and Jean getting a little bit, and Wolverine's school scraping what's left over at the end. The color work by Marte Gracia also can get a little too dark for its own good, with one panel of Cyclops being flung though the air that was honestly too muddled for me to even catch the action.
Yet you don't watch fireworks for the story, and I think that All-New X-Men #4 follows the same concept. When you describe the actual story beats, not too much happens here, but because Bendis lets Immonen run wild with the action beats, you get more energy than this book has seen in awhile. Now that the opening salvo has been fired, Bendis does have to loop back and get to the real emotional meat of this story — namely, what happens when you see for a fact that your future did not come out the way you fought so hard to make it — or these fireworks are just going to be fleeting sparks for a sputtering X-Men franchise.