All-New X-Men #15
By Brian Michael Bendis and David Lafuente
In the aftermath of the AvX war and the death of Charles Xavier at Cyclops’ hands, the mutant community is once again split. However, this time it is Cyclops, acting as a fugitive from the law, who is asking his mutant brothers and sisters to rise up and strike back. The most devoted student of Professor X’s has turned into a zealous terrorist. Hank McCoy, the Beast, has traveled into the past and brought back the original X-Men team from their teenage years. This was prompted when Iceman said the only person who could talk sense into Scott was himself. Now the teenage X-Men from the past (Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, Beast and Marvel Girl) are stuck in the present, and reluctant to go back now that they know what will become of them.
When Brian Michael Bendis took over two concurrent X-Books, many fans threw their hands up and jumped ship. I can understand as I used to have a love/hate relationship with his writing style. Too much talking and in one voice. Well, his style has changed somewhat but if you have a predetermined stance against him, there’s not much here that could change your mind. That said, if you are avoiding All-New and Uncanny X-Men because of Bendis, you really are missing out on some great X-Men comics.
The notion of multiple versions of the X-Men running around and the damage it can do to the time continuum is mind-bending, but Bendis pull this off with so much expertise that it works. Hank has brought back the X-Men when they were young and brash and sure of themselves, which is not something anyone could have been prepared for. They are also exposed to the twisted continuity of the X-Men universe, such as ‘what’s the deal with Angel?’ which no one even attempts to explain. When the two heroes meet they cannot communicate.
Cyclops has met his brother Alex, a brother he never thought he would see again when he was a teenager, and they bond so warmly that it’s tragic seeing as how the Summers brothers were never that close and are now practically enemies.
But when Bobby sees the older iteration of himself making out with Kitty Pryde (who is currently his teacher) he loses it. There’s only so much that a guy can handle and he’s had it. He pulls Cyclops out of his perpetual brooding and the pair of them steal Wolverine’s jeep and head into the city.
Meanwhile teenage Jean Grey has encountered more blank stares and awkward behavior than she can deal with. She has also developed her secondary mutation of telepathy early (with mixed results). She knows that the Jean and Scott of this future world are married… or were… and keeps seeing the image of the Phoenix in the minds of her elder teammates but has no idea what any of it means.
When she bumps into Rachel Grey, her daughter from a possible future, it is one of the funniest comic book moments in recent years. It reminds me that, paired with the appropriate artist, Bendis is a very funny guy.
Artist David Lafuente is not to everyone’s liking and to be honest, when I saw his name on the cover I sighed, ‘filler issue.’ But his style really does fit this issue perfectly as the teenage X-Men act like teenagers and get into trouble, hormones raging and their sense of responsibility nowhere to be seen. As Bobby tries to pick up girls at the local fairgrounds, proudly explaining that he and Scott are time travelers, Jean makes a startling discovery of her own back at the school, in a most unusual way.
The elder Hank McCoy has undergone yet another mutation and as he attempts to teach Jean Grey in the use of her TK powers, is thoughts betray him and he thinks back to how much he loved her back when he was younger and how he could never tell her since she was in love with Scott. It’s an interesting turn of events that sets Jean off after Hank whom she confronts. The two argue a bit and then Jean explains that she is not in love with Scott, possibly as an act of defiance against the impossibility of it all in the face of the time stream… and they make out.
The issue ends with Jean looking at a wedding invitation for herself and Scott from this world’s past and is frustrated beyond words.
The All-New X-Men book, for all of its strengths, is resting on the shoulders of a gimmick. The teenage team has been dragged out of time into the present. But in the restrictions of that, Bendis has crafted a wonderfully fresh and entertaining book. Part of the appeal of the X-Men back in the day was that it took place in a school, in a massive mansion, where the team operated like one big family. That has been tossed around a bit over the past ten years with varying degrees of success, but in the newest iteration the character and personality of the book is so very strong.
There’s still plenty of action and drama (this issue is set right before a huge event called Battle of the Atom) but there is also so much strength in the ensemble of mutants therein. This feels like the X-Men books that I loved as a teenager… and that is a sweet thing.