There have been a lot of shake-ups lately in the world of comics. In the DC universe, the Joker is running amok once again trying to kill everyone in the Batman family. Vertigo is ending their long-running Hellblazer series. Dark Horse is sending Hellboy to Hell. Meanwhile, over at Marvel, the after-effects of the Avengers versus X-Men story arc have altered the flow of the X-Men world forever. The staging ground for Marvel’s newest event is called Marvel Now, and it’s giving fans some new books and new creative teams to be excited about. Among them is a brand new series called All New X-Men.
“But wait,” you might say. “What is so exciting about a new New X-Men comic? What could they possibly do that they haven’t done before?’
Well…can you say time-traveling original X-Men? Read on for five good reasons why you should absolutely check out the newest X-offering from Brian Michael Bendis.
(Warning: Spoilers included for the All-New X-Men #1)
1) The X-Men Reborn…But Not Rebooted
The premise of All New X-Men was leaked during the height of AvX, inspiring a lot of fan curiosity and (well-deserved) concern. The original X-Men are brought forward in time to the present day? Jean Grey is given a second shot at life? What’s going on here? As further details were released, the story became clearer. Original X-Man Beast witnesses the havoc caused by Cyclops, who has gone from leader of the X-Men to a mutant “liberator” whose extremist tactics are making the planets’ humans just a little nervous. So Beast hits on a plan to go back in time to the simpler days when he and Cyke were just idealistic young X-Men and assemble the original team of Iceman, Cyclops, himself, Angel, and Jean Grey to travel forward in time to talk some sense into Cyclops before it’s too late.
Sounds crazy, right? So much could potentially go wrong in a storyline that’s so out there. Yet the first issue of All New X-Men proves that the storyline is in good hands, with stellar writing by the award-winning Brian Michael Bendis. Bendis is known for crafting massive storylines that shake up the Marvel universe, like the controversial Avengers Disassembled and Secret War, and he doesn’t balk at handling something as bizarre as time travel in a serious way. The X-Men history is full of time travel storylines, but very few have been as intensely character driven as this. It’s a story in which the idealism of youth is pitted against the jaded moral relativism of old heroes pushed too far, with the future of mutantkind hanging in the balance. The premise is full of opportunities for great character exploration and character growth for a lot of old fan favorites. And speaking of fan favorites….
2) Finally, Beast Gets Some Love
“I am mutating. And it is killing me.”
All-New X-Men begins with two sentences that set the stage for how serious this new comic line will be. Apparently, the Beast’s mutation is continuing its path towards evolution, and the consequences could be fatal for our favorite feline-looking blue super genius. In the little time he’s got left, Beast has decided to become the badass we’ve all known for a long time he could be and put a serious crimp in Cyclops’ extremist ways. This brand new groove for Beast is a welcome change—it’s been a while since he’s had the spotlight in any book. In the past, Beast has been bounced from the Avengers to the X-Teams and back, always relegated to the “brain” post while the writers elevated other mutants to center stage. Hank McCoy has always been a complicated, brilliant character, one that has been shunted to the side for too long. Now, All-New X-Men is a chance for him to be front and center, as the catalyst for a major change. And change certainly seems to be on the way, for a lot of our favorite characters….
3) New Slates, New Awakenings
One of the most interesting aspects of this new series lies in the character dynamics that these old New X-Men are going to bring to the X-Men universe. The original five are going to arrive in the modern Marvel world and have to learn about all the decisions they made in their lives—and come to terms with what that means. The first of these, of course, will be Cyclops as young, earnest Scott, who’ll have to face the devastation caused by his later incarnation, Phoenix Cyclops. Young Hank McCoy will have to look his big furry future in the face, while Iceman will get to discover just how much of his adult life he’s spent taking a backseat. Yet Angel and Jean Grey will have the most traumatic revelations in store for them, as they discover that they both led tumultuous lives and then, effectively, died. Though Angel came back from his recent demise, his original personality was wiped clean. And Jean… well….
4) Jean Grey Is Dead. Welcome Back, Jean.
The multiple resurrections of Jean Grey throughout the X-Men comics are often cited by fans as an example of Marvel’s inability to keep any character dead for long. But All-New X-Men has found a new way to reintroduce the character without all the baggage, bringing the fresh-faced Marvel Girl into the modern era. No longer burdened by her death/resurrection/cloning cycle, this is a Jean Grey with an opportunity to start fresh. Sure, it’s as a time-traveling teenage mutant, but for fans of the original five X-Men and Jean in particular, it’s a chance at a new lease on life that comes with a built-in emotional story arc. When young Jean learns about all that happened to her, what will her reaction be? After all, the new mutant school is posthumously named after her! How will she respond to the Cyclops of the modern day and his crusade to “liberate” all mutants from oppression? How will she cope with her legacy of destruction as the Phoenix? Better yet, how will she deal with her daughter from an alternate timeline, Rachel Grey Summers? All this should make for some great character development for a character who had been stuck in a rut for some time before her death.
5) A Great New Start—All Fans Welcome!
One of the most off-putting problems encountered by would-be new comic readers is the daunting task of catching up on the years of back issues that comprise X-Men history. A Wikipedia search couldn’t possibly provide everything a new fan would need to know just to keep the all the twisting strands of X-History straight in their heads. With this storyline, Brian Michael Bendis offers fans a chance to step into the story already in progress through the fresh perspective of the time-hopping X-kids. These wide-eyed teens will be just as lost as their prospective new readers will be, and the retrospective look back at their own histories could give fans the foothold they need to fully discover the X-Men legacy for the first time. Then, as a bonus, fans new and old get to experience these new adventures as part of the package, keeping us all hooked. Instead of resorting to a massive reboot, Bendis and Marvel have found an elegant, story-based solution to finding the perfect jumping-on point for new fans that could provide a bright new future for our favorite mutant heroes.
After reading the first issue of All New X-Men, readers have been left with tons of questions: Why do the X-teens get stuck in the future? How will they cope with seeing what they’ve done with their lives? What will that mean for the timeline? How does Cyclops respond to meeting his past self? Will Beast survive his mutation? And how will they ever get back? All New X-Men offers these questions as proof that this new story offers the chance to take risks with the franchise in a really compelling way. How well it will go from here, the future only knows.
Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and ReImaginedReality.com.