by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer
All New X-Men
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Sara Pichelli
For me, this is the best X-Men series currently in print and I have absolutely no reservations saying that. While I prefer the concept of Uncanny and Amazing has had some pretty outstanding art, this series has been consistently brilliant all the way along. The part that interests me really is that for some people this just is not X-Men at all, but it is some bastardisation of the Ultimate universe concept in a 616 backdrop. I can understand that point of view because the time travel aspect at the inception of this series was a gigantic deus exmachina, which from my perspective was just a way to get Jean Grey back into the world. Very few characters ‘die’ and even fewer stay dead. In fact unless you are called Uncle Ben it is nearly guaranteed that you will come back in some form be it clone, time travel, resurrected by aliens or simply running away from Heaven.
For me, I have no problems with this series because it does not feel like a backdoor reboot. With the exception of Jean all the other original X-Men are alive and kicking, most with books of their own or like Hank, appearing as supporting characters in half a dozen other titles. This feels very different to the ‘reboot’ of Nick Fury, which Original Sin looks like it might take to its logical conclusion, where the new one completely supplants the old. My biggest concern about this series, especially at first, was that it would simply be like the Ultimate universe where they ran through the ‘greatest hits’ of the characters before nuking the series from orbit when they ran out of stories to retell. Bringing Laura in and booting Scott out into space has meant that rather than re-running all those good ideas from the 60s, these characters can now grow and evolve on their own, eventually becoming very different from their older selves.
Let us take a minute to look at who we have. Scott is gone, temporarily possibly, but he is still the uptight school kid, constantly wanting to impress his elders. Compared to his older self who is the ‘New Magneto’ to Storm and Wolverine’s ‘Charles Xavier’ he is a completely different character and there is nothing to say he has to turn out the same way.* Warren is still just a pretty boy with wings, he has not seen the dark side as one of Apocalypses horsemen, he has never turned, never become Archangel and he has not been reborn as this angelic demi-god that he currently is. Hank is still a wide eyed Peter-Parker-equse character who is full of good ideas, but has not been twisted by his transformation into a bestial blue furred monster that appears even darker than Scott who he abhors so much. Jean is even more different from her old self, ignoring the ‘not dead’ bit; she is not the focus for the phoenix that has passed on to others such as Hope and Quentin. She has been able to develop her own natural powers to a point that her predecessor was never allowed and has matured so much faster because of it. Finally there is Bobby and he is just a jackass in either generation.
Laura, X-23, for me is the best thing that happened to this comic; ok I will admit that I have soft spot for villainous-face-turn female characters, but even still her part in this comic has far bigger implications than you would otherwise expect. The ‘All-New’ team are based at Cyclops’ hidden facility** and that is now filled with new students. However Laura is not one of them, she has not been lost in the crowd, but has become part of this team lead by Kitty. What she has done is make the path they were following jump the tracks, it is no longer certain that Scott will end up with Jean, doubly so now he has wandered off to become a Starjammer. It means just like every X-team for the last 40 years, people can come and go, the team can be remade, break up and the characters could even be killed off. Nothing is out of bounds now.
This particular book takes Laura into the realms of either ‘cradle snatching’ or something vaguely illegal depending on how old we think this characters actually are (somewhere between 14 and 20, take your pick). Then again with this being in Canada and the age of consent a far looser ‘sometimes 14, sometimes 16’ perhaps it was the best place for it to happen. A full half of this comic was taken up by Warren and Laura in bed, or the preceding night and while it was cute, it did drag a bit in the meantime. However the confrontation between Emma and Jean was what really made this issue. It is clear that Emma has more of her powers back than she used to, that first turned up in Original Sin and it has carried on to this comic since. She might not be the telepathic powerhouse she once was, but it is all coming back to her, enough to be able to stand up to her young raw protégée.
The last thing I need to mention is the art. Sara Pichelli has been utterly wasted on the Ultimate universe and this comic shows exactly why. I will forgive her the very occasional wonky panel because the rest of the comic is unbelievably beautiful. For the most part I get the impression that someone has cellshaded a photograph, but unlike a certain other Marvel artist it is clear these are all drawn, not traced. This style is absolutely perfect for these character heavy issues, with lots of close ups on faces and people, less emphasis on the bangs and explosions.
This comic finally ties in with Uncanny and Charles Xavier’s will. In some ways it is my biggest concern with these comics like this, Uncanny, Wolverine and the X-Men, Amazing and just plain X-Men all share the same characters or did until recently. It means that it is very hard to read just one of them as important moments from one end up being discussed by another character in a different book. Then again if you are a proper X-Men fan, why would you not be reading them all anyway?
* For a start, there is no Xavier for him to kill, so it would be hard for him to follow the same pattern.
** Yes, the one that is so well hidden that practically anyone who wants to find it can just waltz up to the front door, but that they PRETEND they don’t know about.