The all new former men!
Title: All New X-Men- Here Comes Yesterday!
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen
10 word review: Return of the X! Where do I sign up Scott?
Rating: 5 Original X-Men out of five (Jean, Scott, Bobby, Hank and Warren)
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<MASSIVE AVX SPOILERS WITHIN!!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
I want a god-damned Scott Summers was right Tee-shirt. Just throwing it out there. Bleedin' Bendis has just gone and done it again, reconfiguring the rules of what is awesome, this time by plunging his hands into the murky depths of my childhood and toying with my emotions like some kind of nostalgia twisting magic man. The X-men have long lost favour with me in comic terms since the bygone days of the 90's when X-men comics were all that existed for a European comic fan like myself. The only Avengers related comic that I ever laid my hands as a child on was a random, one off, heroes reborn Iron Man issue (Revel Yell!). The X-men were the 90's comic, they were marvels poster children and Wolverine was probably more places than he is even now, if that is possible.
There was the essential X-men comic out as the first of the now ever present UK collectors editions (ugh) and also some other publication, which threw away the small format of the US prints and existed in full on big sized magazine-o-vision. Though weirdly enough I would come across the odd US version, surely ordered by mistake and displayed purely for the purpose of hiding this error, and I would buy it! Well, at least that is how I choose to remember it. What actually happened was that my brother would buy it and I would weep repeatedly until someone gave me a spiderman comic. Because when you are a child, spiderman reigns (heh). As for televisual feasts, the hour of power with the fantastic four (I am retroactively loving that show due to Johnaton Hickman's run) and Iron Man, before he was Robert Downey Jnr. Yeah, it was ok but it never grabbed me in quite the same way as the X-Men cartoon did!
As I saw the cartoon before reading the comics (for shame!) this was my introduction to this world. To be fair to the creators of this children's cartoon, they managed to keep intact quite a lot of the history and themes that existed within the comic-verse. Or so I found out after reading the comics at least! And now I digress, as this overblown introduction has seriously gone on for far, far too long, and return to All New X-Men. This introduction was essential as it allows one into my 26 year old mind set as I sat down to read a comic holding many promises as to potential for fondness. So here I was, about to get on board with a new X-Men comic. I had tried before. I have read Matt Fraction's run and was unimpressed, Brubaker's run was filler and Mike Carey's seemed to be more a tangent than a continuity building ball-grabber. Sure Kieran Gillen's run had its merit, but it seemed to be lacking a certain something, it seemed to be being built without a future or proper foothold in long term existence.
Yet here was Brian Michael Bendis, in a post Avengers Vs X-Men world, saying this is where it begins. The new, essential, continuity moulding X-Men series. Now far be it from me to listen to the ramblings of a writer trying to hype his new publication, but I can't help but fall for the charms of the always reliable Bendis, but I did attempt to remain partial. I have tried to like X-Men before. What I did not expect, however, is to like this book as much as I did. It is not often that an open-ended comic like this comes along that I literally read twice in a row. The first thing I did after I read the first volume, after splashing water in my face at the sheer level of amazingness on display, was to order volume 2. I love Bendis' Avengers run, like I love Bendis' Avengers run, but this is just ridiculous. How can so much tension, humour, characterisation, exposition and richness exist within the pages of one comic book?
After three to four readings I have decided that Bendis is some Will Graham-esque (Manhunter not Hannibal or Red Dragon before anyone assumes) personality who can actually put himself into situations and exist literally in the minds of other people. Allegiances switch between the teachers of the Jean Grey School; Wolverine, Storm, Beast, Iceman and Kitty Pride, to the remnants of Scott's extinction team; Magic, Magneto, Emma Frost and Cyke himself, and onto the Original Time displaced X-Men; Scott, Bobby Drake, Jean Grey etc. Clearly I am ahead of myself in terms of descriptions of players and set up but this book demands it of me! It demands I talk about the interactions and proceedings between characters, forgetting in the process that this volume also manages to include a plausible and conventional (ha) reason for bringing the Original X-men from the past, at the height of Xavier's Dream, to the present, after the destruction of Xavier himself. Spoiler Alert! Charles Xavier dies in AVX and it was the best move Marvel could have made regarding the future of the X-Men, as they can officially move on and blossom away from the naïve and highly unrealistic expectations of Xavier's dream. Sure some still fight for it, see Logan, but those who are most acquainted with it believe that it is best to try something new. Enter: Scott Summers.
Now of all the X-Men who I believe has come on spades since the days of Yore, Scott Summers has to take the cake. Moving from what was essentially a yes man for Xavier, to a leader in his own right in Joss Whedon's fantastic Astonishing X-Men run, and then to the saviour of the mutant race,or the one who almost killed the world depending on what side you take, Cyclops is now the face of the new mutant revolution. No longer content to sit back and watch as the world gets worse and worse for his fellow mutants and after trying many, many a method to get the world to listen as to their place (Co-existence, Utopia, superheroes, amazingly powerful separatist state) Summers' is now an all out bad-ass revolutionary figure head. Unafraid to get his hands dirty, to spout rhetoric and to hang out with the likes of Magneto, Scott is now a totally awesome, fist pumping example of taking a character who has been dumped upon, see any AVX related material at all, and turning them into someone who kicks ass rather than kisses ass to get back into our good books.
This all happened before with Tony Stark after Civil War, his mind had to be wiped, he basically died and he had to be beaten up by every other super hero within earshot (She-hulk, Thor, The New Avengers) but to be fair to Cyclops, he is not taking his 'you screwed up' pie with a punch to the face. Instead he is turning what people are making him into a symbol for change and resistance, and god-damned if I didn't read every scene with him in it as the biggest vindication for any post AVX woes I had. The Avengers decided to get up in everyone’s business when they were no longer the premier super team and backed Cyclop's team into acting like a bunch of crazy phoenixed up brats because they were, at the time, a bunch of phoenixed up brats. Due to the afore mentioned phonexing up stuff happened that didn't go so well for anyone involved and everyone did bad things, particularly Scott who had a whole chunk of phoenix pressure on his shoulders and the Avengers, not happy with him making the world a safe, sustainable place to live of course. After all this a whole bunch of 'lets blame Cyclops for EVERYTHING' ensued, which everyone seemed to go along with, until Magneto led a team to rescue his associate. It really is good to see a character exist in a comic that is so damn resilient in their reluctance to fall in line with everyone else after such a happening. I believed Tony Stark in Invincible Iron man when he has his brain wiped and he said he would do it all again (his Civil War shenanigans) the same way, but that was a way out. That was a cheap holographic memory of Tony saying it, not the reformatted Tony. He got to exist with a relatively clear conscience, but not old Scotty. Scott has no such reformatting luck and has to deal with his actions.
Now in usual comic book form this would be him being sorry for his actions and locking himself away (see Colossus after his AVX shenanigans) but this is a total breath of fresh air as Cyclops acknowledges his part but also the fault of others, even if no one else blames anyone else but him. The original X-Men are informed by beast that mutant genocide is on its way due to the actions of future Scott (even though he literally just brought about both mutant paradise and the birth of all the new mutants? Screw you Hank!!) and that they must band together to prevent this! So we have Original Jean alive again! Past X-Men meeting with future versions of themselves! Each one of these interactions is a joy to behold, particularly Cyclops and Magneto coming face to face with the past X-Men. The tension leaps off the page and Stuart Immonen's art is buoyant, energetic and exciting all on its own. Each panel is filled with detail and the action sequences literally move about as if they were animated panels. Particular mention goes to the composite page consisting of a combination of original X-Men and New X-Men faces. This whole comic, from art to story is almost perfect.
How Bendis will keep up this almost faultless storytelling is beyond me, without enacting some sort of ritual that calls upon sacrificing the souls of some worthy people who have managed to save the lives of over a million kittens at least, but here is hoping. This is as good as comics get these days and with an X-men comic being the top of the bundle in a post Avengers Assemble movie world proves how influential Bendis is. This is the only place for any returning X-men fans and all new fans to start reading, and all really should!