A wild X-23 Appears!
Here are two things which I'm completely stoked about;
X-23 is in All New X-Men. Illyana and Kitty are in the same part of the world again, and Bendis is emphasizing their long-standing friendship (Yay!).
Some story spoilers follow.
The Purifiers are back and again they serve as a nuisance to the X-Men. I mean these guys aren't too much of a threat, they've always served as both an annoyance, and an example as to just how far humanity will go in there hatred of mutants. Story-wise,they serve to show the time displaced X-Men of exactly what they fight against, and that, really, nothing has changed in the however many years they have missed to get to the present.
While the past X-Men fight the Purifiers, with the aid of Illyana, Kitty bumps into the hooded girl that was present in the very beginning of the issue. All pretenses drop, as Kitty immediately recognizes the hooded figure as none other than Laura Kinney, X-23. As you may know, X-23 has been serving some time in Avengers Arena (a book which unfortunately I have not been picking up), and last I heard she was still there. X runs away, frightened by Kitty, yelling "Don't touch me" e.t.c. Kitty pursues, confused as to her behaviour. Kitty eventually manages to phase X into the sewer, where the hood is pulled back, X unsheathes her claws....
Well, she's bald for one. We can assume, from previews, that she grows her hair back in the next issue. Yeah...so how exactly is X bald? Every time she's been obliterated to practically a skeleton her hair grows back as she heals.In the lack of any other evidence, I'm going to assume it's going to be something to do with her mental well-being again; those who read her solo know that her healing factor was compromised when she started to self-harm. It might also explain why she is so on edge with Kitty (I mean, even for X, Avengers Arena was brutal).
It also appears that she has no memory of Kitty, or is even aware that she is a mutant. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. (Again, from the preview of issue 20, it looks like she partially gains her memories back, because she becomes defensive when she realises they are in the weapon x facility).
If you're already not a fan of Bendis' whiplash banter and lack of character voice distinction, this issue won't change your mind. Personally, I enjoy the former, though the latter is starting to become more and more noticeable. Especially for this issue. Now, I can cope with the lack of Emma's distinctive dry wit, knowing that certain writer's catch that aspect of her personality perfectly (I'm looking at you Whedon, Morrison and Pak) whilst others are better off not attempting.I am also completely fine with the lack of Russian-ness (for lack of a better word) in Illyana. For years she's had a way of speaking in which she interjects the odd Russian word, or saying into her speech. Instead of saying yes, she'd say "Da", and so on. Certain writers can make this seamless, for others it seems forced. Saying all that I also understand that I may be completely in the minority with my next point, it is after all me being picky; but Laura Kinney does not speak in contractions. It's her thing. I understand that at the beginning of the issue there is supposed to be a bit of secrecy around who the hooded figure is, but it wouldn't have been too obvious if she simply went "I am not a mutant" rather than "I'm not a mutant." There are just certain things that define certain characters, and this is one of them. It makes her more "mechanical", a testament to the way she was born/raised. It fits her.
I'll move on before it becomes too much of a mini-rant.
However, as I've said before, Bendis writes a superb Kitty Pryde. Truly. She's awesome. The interactions between her and young Bobby remain comedy gold.
So onto the art.
While I missed Immonen in this issue (that guy's art is just beautiful to look at), Peterson makes a good stand in. He's especially good at kinetic action scenes - and that panel of Jean unleashing her telekinetic power is just awesome. The inking is much darker, and grittier than Grawbadger's in previous issues, and it suits this particular story absolutely. The dark cityscape looks foreboding, but the mutant's colourful abilities in contrast, stand out even more. It's certainly an eye-catching book. I guess as a negative, whilst the figure work is outstanding, sometimes the faces look a little off...but that is only a very minor point, and barely noticeable.
To Wrap up
Reading through this it might sound like I had a lot of problems with this issue. To be honest, I thoroughly enjoy every issue of All New X-Men, and I have never considered, even for a second, dropping it. I guess you could say that I have very high expectations for each and every issue, and 9/10 they meet this expectation, no problem. Saying that, having this viewpoint means that I will feel obliged to point out the minor things that I personally had a problem with. And most of the time, they are really, really minor. Issue 18, the last issue, was excellent, truly brilliant. 5/5. This one I would give 4/5 - 4.5/5. For these reasons:
Peterson is an excellent penciller/inker e.t.c in his own right - but I do miss Immonen/Grawbadger on this book.
The lack of character voice distinction - almost an ongoing point, but X's appearance looks to make this one a bit more obvious.
As another point, which is the status quo for this book; It is slow moving. Nothing has changed here. If you didn't like it before, this issue isn't going to make you change your mind.
And the Good:
Bendis' banter - to each their own for this point, some don't like it at all - but I like it.
Character moments; Kitty Pryde and X-23 (yes!) And Jean, because Jean is great.
So there you go, another great issue. Though with some minor ponderings, which will not get resolved anytime soon.