What makes it so different? First off, it deals with the events that follow Avengers vs. X-Men. (You all have heard of that little-known tale, right?) That series changed the landscape of the X-universe. OK, it was kind of boring and dragged on at times (sometimes to excess), but it did change the landscape somewhat. It definitely caused a major rend in the fabric of mutant unification in the Marvel U, which was being driven to excess pre-AvX. But perhaps the most significant change here is that, as a result of the Phoenix force, new mutants are discovering their abilities within the Marvel Universe.
And that’s what makes this series the lynchpin of the mutant books. Wolverine & the X-Men appears to be the school maintaining status quo and not even going out to discover those new mutants; this book is about Cyclops and team going out and finding – and in many cases saving – these newer mutants. We experience the old mutant prejudices as we saw in mutant books of yesteryear, and we see new fear in the eyes of many as a result of the Phoenix Five. But someone needs to look after these kids and that is the role of Cyclops: he is taking on the role of protector of the mutant species.
Brian Michael Bendis has truly surprised me with this book. Where his sister title of All-New X-Men is probably my favorite book coming out from Marvel right now, this book is in the top 5. Because of the nature of the character of Cyclops and what he did in previous stories, Bendis uses some humor to start to reintroduce some humanity to the character. I mean, who else could possibly have 2 super teams about to explode upon one another, and then the leader of one team calls a time out and a huddle? Super-hero-ing is not a hockey game; this should not be possible. But it works. We see the fear of people, but also the love for someone they know, and that person may be one of the most powerful mutants in history (in my opinion). Somehow, their powers are also “broken” so it takes balls to stand up for what’s right when they are weak… and yet that’s exactly what happens here. Even though he’s a little darker in his attitude, this is the Cyclops of old – standing up for what’s right, helping the next generation of mutants. And I’m definitely interested in seeing what Bendis has up his proverbial sleeve.
The artwork is not bad. I am not the biggest fan of Chris Bachalo, but this issue I am suitably impressed. In his old Generation X days, many of the characters looked like their bodies were somewhat dis-proportioned. I was not even too impressed with the story he told in a recent issue of A+X (but that could also have been the story as a whole – hard to say). But this issue… apart from a few nitpicks, I think this is some of the best artwork I’ve seen come out of him. This issue was all about a confrontation between Cyclops et al against what appears to be the team from Avengers Assemble. Whereas there is the infamous picture of Rob Liefeld’s Captain America with a chest about 80 times the size of his own head, Bachalo instead has a Cap with almost no muscle tone, and that just doesn’t seem right. He also manages to make the Hulk look… off. I’ve been a comic reader for over 30 years and in that time, whenever I’ve seen the Hulk in control of himself and not under direct control of some other entity, his eyes have never been red. As Bachalo is the colorist in this issue as well, that does fall upon him for that little bit. Although he has drawn the X-Men in this title for 3 issues now, I am actually very impressed with his drawing of Hawkeye here and how his style works for that character. Maybe it’s with Bendis writing, and maybe it wouldn’t work with Fraction scripting something, but I think I would like to see Bachalo do a filler issue of Hawkeye (another one of my top 5 favorite books from Marvel). What will be interesting to see is Bachalo drawing the next issue and how he interprets some of the other mutants…
Although I was not expecting this book to be great, it is quite good. It surpassed my expectations. Whereas Bendis’ run with the various Avengers family of titles was sometimes long and drawn out, probably leading up to certain events covering the team, he seems to be finding a stride here with his X-titles. They are crossing over when they need to, but it makes sense when they do. It’s not for the sake of making a crossover. And Bachalo is definitely the right artist for the job here – his style was my largest point of apprehension but Marvel has proven me wrong. A great book and the next issue only promises something more wonderful.