Bendis' work seems to be extremely varied nowadays. I found his take on Guardians of the Galaxy difficult to stomach and very disappointing, whereas this piece actually lives up to the hype. What gives?
The plot for this tale is frankly preposterous; the original five X-Men (and no, Wolverine is NOT one of the first five) come to the future to try and do damage control on the X-Men affairs of today. How does this affect the timeline? What happens if one of them dies? ...These questions are kind of pushed aside for the more exciting and dramatic aspects of the story, which I'm fairly okay with. Why question it so much when the work is so good?
The characters that really shine here are Cyclops (original and current), Beast (original and current), and Jean Grey (original and... oh... right). This is specifically shown through their interactions with themselves (or, in the case of Jean, accepting that there isn't a her in the future). Beast, being one of my favorite X-Men, doesn't disappoint here, taking a lot of the action into his own paws. We also get a lot of reactions and responses from a variety of characters, which sets up a lot of dynamics quickly. However, it's done so in a way to set up for future events without overwhelming readers. The weaker figures represented here are the Icemen, who have never seemed to evolve away from comedic relief, and Angel, who has almost no lines in this work, and who's doppelganger is oddly absent, although it is hinted there is more to see in issues to come.
Not only do we get a good look at the start of this story arc, but of its sister series, the Uncanny X-Men. We even start the story with that, setting up cool and exciting scenarios. This is definitely the best place to start when getting into either series, a practice that Marvel sorely needs to stop. However, I feel like it adds to the story nicely and fleshes out the world and interactions between the two sides.
The art is both consistent and gorgeous, keeping my attention always. In every issue, there seems to be one beautiful double-paged panel to marvel at. This coupled with great stylizing of panels placement and transition makes for pages that flow into your eyes. That's not to say this is the best art ever, but it's definitely up there.
The are a few negatives to this piece though. Most prominently, this is very much a build-up piece, for two series no less. This means that not too much goes on, although Bendis goes out of his way to ensure that there is enough action to hold us over. Also, sometimes the drama can get a little heavy, but this book relies on it so strongly that I wasn't too bothered by it.
All in all, this isn't the most plausible of plots, but it is the most fun I've had with a series in a long time. This will most certainly be one of the few series I follow up on.