Friday 27th November 2015,
Comic Booked

Review: All-New X-Men #3

Matt Watson 12/06/2012 ZDONOTUSE

After a stunning seven-year run which turned the Avengers into the centrepiece of the Marvel Universe, I was excited to see what Brian Michael Bendis had up his sleeve for the characters that first got me reading comics: The X-Men. We’re now 3 issues into the new Flagship X-Book, ‘All-New X-Men’. So how is Bendis doing in this new corner of the Marvel Universe?

Well, the first thing to say is that ‘All-New…’ is that it is unmistakably a Bendis book. It feels very much like the work he was doing during ‘Avengers: Disassembled’ and those early issues of ‘New Avengers’ in building a new status quo, with new characters popping up everywhere, and existing mainstays clearly changed deeply by the events that have come before. And one of strongest characteristics of a Bendis book is his trademark decompressed storytelling. This is a slow-moving book, and while some may find that off-putting, I personally enjoy a slow-burning story. This issues takes us back in time to just before the events of #1, with the outlawed Cyclops, Magneto, and Magik busting Emma Frost out of prison. However, not all is going according to plan, and Cyclops’ team of Mutant revolutionaries are finding that their encounter with the Phoenix force has affected their powers.
Sample Page from 'All-New X-Men' #3This discovery (hinted at by Bendis and Chris Bachalo when their forthcoming ‘Uncanny X-Men’ was announced) introduces a new story thread into the book alongside central plot of the original five X-Men, still in their teens, brought forward to our time by the present-day Beast in order for Scott Summers to confront his future self over the man he has become. We see very little of that plotline here, this issue instead focusing on Cyclops’ outlaws in the same way that the previous issue showed us the original X-Men dealing with their arrival in our present and their future.

While the previous issue presented us with a group of X-Men characters both past and present whose characterisation was consistent with what had come before, here Bendis is less successful with his characters. While the dialogue between Cyclops and Magneto is brilliant (it’s nice to see Magneto calling Scott out on all the terrible things he’s done recently), I still don’t understand why Magneto is still hanging around with a man who killed his best friend, and has managed to inspire a fresh wave of fear of mutants, in direct opposition with his stated goals. I have no problem with Cyclops’ ‘Face-Heel Turn’, but I have no idea why anyone is still standing by him.

One of the characters that actually almost leaves Cyclops here is his (former?) partner Emma Frost. She makes a big point of leaving Scott and Magneto after they break free, but ends up going with them anyway and nothing more is said about it. I actually have a problem with the characterisation of Emma Frost and Magik: They don’t sound like themselves them anymore. Similar to Psylocke, Emma has traditionally been written as an upper class Brit (Although it’s been suggested more than once that it’s simply an affectation), and Magik is a young russian women who has (literally) been to Hell and back. So why here do they sound like any other American characters? There is sometimes a criticism leveled at Bendis that he writes the same characters over and over again, which is more than a little unfair; he’s more than capable of capturing the feel of a character as established by other writers. It’s just that here both Emma and Magik just don’t feel like the Emma and Magik that I know.

And it’s not just characterization here that’s inconsistent: Back in #1 we saw Cyclops and his team swoop in and rescue two new mutants, blasting away and using their powers with no visible issues. But here, the rescue attempt on Emma goes awry due to Cyclops’ now unstable optic blasts, and Magneto’s diminished control over his magnetic abilities. It also seems as if Emma’s either lost her telepathy completely or it’s nowhere near as strong as it used to be. But if that’s the case (and we see Scott struggling in vain to focus his blasts throughout the back), then how did those other rescues go so smoothly? I have faith that Bendis is a seasoned enough writer to not let this go unaddressed, but until he does get round to dealing with it, it’s a worry, albeit a minor one.Sample Page from 'All-New X-Men' #3

Although there may be flaws in Bendis’ writing, it’s almost impossible to fault Stuart Immonen’s art. The scenes of carnage that depict Emma’s botched liberation are, frankly, beautiful. Immonen’s pencils are highly dynamic, their strong sense of motion enhanced by Wade Von Grawbadger’s inks. Marte Gracia’s colours are muted, but not washed out, and blend into Grawbadger’s bold shadowing to create a great sense of mood, particularly in the opening scene set in the abandoned Weapon X facility. The faces are all expressive, lively and distinct, even in crowd scenes, and there are some gorgeous splash pages, such as Magneto and Scott’s confrontation in the hills surrounding the Weapon X Facility, and the cliffhanger that takes place around a beach party bonfire, full of bright reds and oranges contrasted brilliantly by thick shadows.
Make no mistake, this book looks beautiful, and Immonen is on top form, supported by an inker and colourist who accent his pencils masterfully.

All in all, there’s definitely more to love here than not. I do have some problems with Bendis’ writing in this issue, particularly after the first two were so strong. Although I have faith in him to lead us in the right direction, judging this issue on it’s own merits, I have to say like I felt it was a little weaker than I would have liked. Still, it’s definitely worth a read, and I have high hopes that this series will be back on form with #4. The last splash page certainly left me wanting more, and if an issue can do that despite it’s flaws, then someone, somewhere is doing something right.

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About The Author

Actor, Musician, Northerner, Nerd: I am all these things and more. I'm into bad movies and good comics. When I grow up I want to be like Robert Baratheon.

  1. kcassidy 12/06/2012 at 9:08 pm

    The last page was the clincher for me. I have faith that this is gonna be a cool book, especially seeing the teaser for the cover of #4. We know Hank has already met his future self… I'd LOVE for Hank to meet Dark Beast, though! That would definitely be a mind breaker for him!

  2. jeffhillwriter 12/06/2012 at 9:43 pm

    I've found that my biggest issue with Bendis and his dialogue of characters is that he seems to only know how to write two different types. Hear me out. He can write 1) the funny smartass character and 2) the bad guy. This has worked for him in the past because he could always rely on having 1) Spider-Man and 2) the bad guy. But when he moved to team books, like this one, he seemed to be less focused on characterization and more focused on putting in funny jokes to distract from his overly-complicated and lengthy plots. Hopefully he will learn that X-Fans are not as forgiving as Avengers fans. That being said, the art has been great in these first few issues. But maybe he needs to lessen the "story" a bit and refocus on getting some believable dialogue back into the X-Books.

    • Christian_J 12/06/2012 at 10:56 pm

      Totally agreed! As a X-Men fan I can say this book was alright, The biggest flaw like you mentioned is the characters. The dialogue is paper thin and shouldn't be when you are dealing with a vast array of characters. They simply don't act like them. It's almost as if most of them are written with a blank slate.

    • kcassidy 12/07/2012 at 2:06 pm

      I won't deny anything you say there. He is great for the epic setup, but I think writing 4 books a month (some of which come out multiple times) could be a little too much and character depth gets lost. I'm hoping the focus is on the "classic X-Men" and their confrontation with the future, but although this issue was a filler the last page (as I said earlier) sets the tone for next issue.

  3. Scorp_Moonopoly 12/07/2012 at 11:57 am

    Charles was Magneto's best friend, but also his greatest adversary. Now he has converted his prize pupil to his side completely, that has to seem like a bit of a victory to him.

    • kcassidy 12/07/2012 at 2:04 pm

      I'm not sure if Magento lured Scott to his side more than Scott lured Magneto to Scott's side, which is a different side than both Charles and Erik.

      • jeffhillwriter 12/07/2012 at 6:43 pm

        I always saw Charles ("good" guy) and Magneto ("bad" guy) both as misguided at best. In my opinion, Scott is just a poorly-written villain now. He hasn't really been a good guy (or even a likeable guy) since the creation of Utopia… Some might even argue as far back as the Madelyne Pryor fiasco (Man, he was jerk back to her!) or the original death of Jean. I am pleased that the didn't just take the easy route and kill him off, though. Now maybe we'll have some interesting stuff go on with him and how others view him.

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