Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Blast From the Past

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 14th, 2012

Variant coverAll-New X-Men #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Stuart Immonen
Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors: Marte Garcia
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Immonen & Von Grawbadger (regular edition)/Joe Quesada, Paolo Rivera, Skottie Young & Immonen (variants)
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

While I lost interest in his Avengers comics in recent years, I remain a fan of writer Brian Michael Bendis, and Stuart Immonen’s always been one of the better and more adaptable artists in comics. But it wasn’t the creators that drew me to this new X title, but rather the weirdness of the premise. Marvel aims to shake up the world of mutants by bringing together the distorted, darker, modern versions of its mutant heroes face to face with their original counterparts from the Silver Age. It’s an odd story concept… odd enough to pique my curiosity. It’s also a potentially risky venture, as the juxtaposition of the old and the new could make and support the argument Marvel might have lost its way with the characters that served as its foundation for success in the 1960s. Maybe revisiting the original X-Men as teens might suggest to some readers the Marvel magic has been lost. There’s no concern about that happening in this issue, though, as the premise that drew me really isn’t to be found here, at least not until the last couple of pages.

Variant coverVariant coverVariant coverIn the wake of Cyclops’s devastating rampage and betrayal of Professor X’s ideals when empowered by the Phoenix Force, human-mutant relations have never been more strained, and the disgraced leader of the X-Men continues to cause problems. He’s befriending and recruiting new mutants all over the world, and he’s hurting people who get in his way. His former friends and teammates debate how best to handle the situation, but all agree the Scott Summers of the past would be horrified to see what he’s become. That gives Hank McCoy, AKA the Beast, an idea of how best to convince Cyclops of the error of his ways…

The greatest strength of this book is, not surprisingly, the artwork of Stuart Immonen and his frequent inking collaborator, Wade Von Grawbadger. I have a couple of pages of original artwork by Immonen, from his run on Adventures of Superman from a decade and a half ago. It’s fun to compare Immonen’s style from various projects over the years. He employed a more exaggerated approach in Next W.A.V.E. with lither figures, which was adapted a bit for his Ultimate Spider-Man run. Here, he’s employed a much more realistic, detailed-oriented approach. There were panels in which his work reminded me of that of Bryan (Ultimates, America’s Got Powers) Hitch. More than anything, this issue is driven by emotion, and Immonen provides some great, stern, angry and concerned expressions on many characters’ faces.

While I didn’t read Avengers Vs. X-Men nor do I follow the full line of Marvel titles, I did read Uncanny Avengers #1 a few weeks ago. In that comic, Cyclops was in prison, his head encased in some contraption to keep him from using his eye-blast powers. Here, he’s running loose, flanked by Magneto and Emma Frost, and there’s no explanation as to how and when he escaped from federal custody. The disconnect in continuity tripped me up throughout Cyclops’s first scene in the story. Furthermore, the heroes’ dilemma over what to do about Cyclops and his allies is puzzling. When Magneto was pulling the same shtick back in the day, the X-Men didn’t seem to have a problem opposing him. So why is it a problem when the face of mutant extremism has changed?

The best scenes in the issue are those focusing on entirely new mutant characters. The young people who find their regular lives turned upside down are the most relatable in the issue. I was also pleased to see Marvel has finally released a mutant comic in which Wolverine has no involvement whatsoever. Of course, given his position at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning and his history with Cyclops, his absence might strike some as odd. But given the character’s overuse in the Marvel Universe, it’s nice to get a break from him. The opening scene focuses on the Beast instead, and unfortunately, Bendis has opted to recycle a subplot when dealing with the character. His concern over another mutation seems to be the fallback position for many writers who handle him.

Bendis’s decompressed storytelling is back here, as the characters spin their wheels. We don’t get a glimpse of the Silver Age X-Men (who are splayed all over the various covers for this debut issue) until the very end of the issue, and even then, they’re out of costume. This entire issue could’ve been condensed down to five or six pages, conveying the same information and advancing the story in a much more exciting way while fulfilling the promise of all of the teasers we’ve seen over the past few weeks. It doesn’t deliver on what it promises, and while I’m sure it will in subsequent issues, that doesn’t temper my disappointment with this opening chapter. 6/10

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3 Responses to “Blast From the Past”

  1. Jason Work Says:

    Spot-on review. I was confused by Cyclops status quo too until I checked Wikipedia and learned that he escaped prison in the recent AvX: Consequences miniseries. Why and when exactly did editorial decide to get rid of the little editor’s notes that used to help keep readers up to speed?

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    Jason wrote:
    Why and when exactly did editorial decide to get rid of the little editor’s notes that used to help keep readers up to speed?

    Those fell out of fashion some time ago, unfortunately. Marvel shouldn’t expect its readers to buy ALL of its titles to understand its stories or expect them to fill in the blanks through online research either.

    I’ve noticed DC has been using those editorial footnotes in its New 52 titles lately, which I appreciate on two levels: nostalgia and accessibility of plot.

  3. Dwight Williams Says:

    True enough. In this ongoing attempt at building a Second Gilded Age, a publisher can’t expect that kind of expenditure on the part of their readers.