The Comic Fanatic – 3/25: All New X-Men

Obviously, if you’ve read this column before you’ll know I’m a big X-Men fan. The first comics I read had mutants in them, and I read most X-Books that come out each month. Believe me when I say that if you read one X-Book each month, read All New X-Men.

Each month there are a great multitude of X-Men books. Some are great (Wolverine & the X-Men), some aren’t so (X-Treme X-Men), and there’s some that fulfill a niche and are pretty awesome but get cancelled anyways (Age of Apocalypse). But if I were to recommend a single book for someone who was curious what the X-Men where all about, it would be All New X-Men, without a doubt.

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For the uninitiated, All New X-Men tells the story of one of Beast’s more ambitious science projects. In an effort to try to coax Cyclops out of his recent Richard III inspired madness, he brings the original five X-Men as they were when the team first started, to the present day. He hopes that young Cyclops can talk current (insane) Cyclops out of his current course of action. Naturally, dealing with the timestream like a video rental story has consequences.

Kieron Gillen touched on this in his Uncanny X-Men 20, but it’s quite impressive to see how far the original five have come since they started. Cyclops killed Xavier, Beast is blue and furry, Jean is dead and has been for a while, Warren became Archangel and tried to kill everyone then became a new Angel person, and Iceman is Iceman. Very different characters and the reaction for all involved is a source of great writing. It’s a scenario that no one could have planned for, thus have no planned responses.

I nearly skimmed over an important fact: Jean Grey is back. Back, but still dead. A rather clever narrative tactic to bring a character back into comics without reviving them and nullifying the impact of their death. Risky, but I think it paid off. This isn’t the noble heroic Jean, this is her as a teenager, barely learned about her powers. So we have this character, who we know what she can become (power and strength of character), and we get to see her develop with a different set of circumstances. And it’s very well written. Props to Bendis.

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It is worth noting that this is the first time Brian Michael Bendis has written anything X-Men. This is exactly the point of Marvel NOW, to switch up creative teams and give established writers and artists time to try something new. It seems to have been a good idea, as this series mixes things up in the mutant world unlike anything they’ve seen before. I’ve been a fan of Bendis for a while. I love Scarlet, Jinx and Goldfish. He’s a very good character and dialogue writer, which shows in All New.

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In addition to great writing, we have some really noteworthy art. Stuart Immonen is really bringing out his A-game. Character designs are great, the colors are fantastic, and it really looks epic. Page layouts are great, and fights look awesome. Young Cyclops VS Old Cyclops is particularly cool. Also of note is the scene were Jean finds out what happened to her. Great layout. Worthy of a spot on the wall.

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One question about this book is ‘where does it fit in with the other X-Books?’ Originally it was believe to replace Uncanny X-Men, so it would be the counter point to Wolverine and the X-Men. But, as we know now, that is no longer the case. Wolverine focuses on the school (that now has its namesake living there), Uncanny focuses on team Cyclops, it’s not a street team book like Astonishing, nor a violent hard hitting book like X-Force. It’s really its own entity. It does take place at the school, and Kitty’s in charge, but it’s not a sub-Wolverine book.

It’s a new idea. Similar to Superior Spider-man (not exactly, but close) it’s Marvel trying a new idea. How long it will last? Don’t know. But it’s been quite a ride so far and I hope it continues to build up momentum and carry forward strongly.

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All this puts together for an extremely well polished and well done package. If you haven’t read X-Men before, now’s a great time to jump on. The series just hit issue nine, so we are due for the first trade to be released soon. All New X-Men is a breath of fresh air to the X-Men franchise. Marvel NOW is worth it for this series alone.

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