After Days of Future Past effectively rebooted the entire series by rewriting the future, the series comes full circle by bringing back a bunch of familiar superpowers in teenage form — Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Nightcrawler, and Storm.
X-Men: Apocalypse trailers begged answers for the questions: Who will join the mutant megalomaniac En Sabah Nur? Who will fight to stop him?
After seeing the movie, I’m prepared to answer those questions with another: Who cares?
X-Men: Apocalypse contains everything terrible about the X-Men movies, turns all of the good into a routine exercise, and spins its way to an anti-climactic finish for the second worst entry in the entire franchise.
Talk about being a shell of its former self — you would think Bryan Singer had hit his stride after releasing back to back critical darlings X-Men: First Class and the aforementioned DoFP.
Ultimate Dr. Doom’s energy blast sure has a lot of kick.
All-New X-Men #35 ended just as Miles Morales launched a sudden attack on Doom only to be countered by a devastating blast.
Issue #36 continues from that super-ultra-combo finisher with a double-page spread of the Doctor surveying his victory. Two sets of X-Men and an Ultimate Spider-Man have been beaten, and Doom’s first act as champion is unmasking Morales.
With Miles’ secret out in the open, Doom threatens to end Spider-Man’s life. But before he can do that, Jean Grey distracts him long enough to psychically wake up her friends. Round two ends just as quickly as it starts with Kitty Pryde attempting to destroy Doom’s armor with her phasing ability. Doom self-destructs, leaving his headquarters wide open for a riot led by one really ticked-off Hank McCoy.
Now that the All-New X-Men, the Ultimate X-Men, and Ultimate Spider-Man have basically won Earth-1610, the only thing left to do is get the Earth-616 kids back home.
Conveniently, the mutant with teleporting powers that started this whole arc appears in their midst and does just that.
So ends this chapter of All-New X-Men, and while it all seems pretty cut and dry, I’m just really glad it’s over. This was probably my least favorite arc of the entire series, and now that it’s said and done — I’m not sure that the last four issues added anything to the mix. Anyone who had missed issues #32-36 could be filled in with a quick synopsis.
The All-New X-Men were teleported to the Ultimate Universe. They fought Dr. Doom. They came home.
We get a few glimpses of alternate universes that might be a precursor to Battleworld, but the arc as a whole was a listless journey through a comparable Earth with very little progression or development for the main story arc or the characters. The only real end result is an angry Hank McCoy who decides it’s time to change the world. The problem I have with that is — McCoy spends the least amount of time out and about on Earth-1610. After landing on a beach, he spends most of the arc in Doom’s house and laboratory.
The prospect of having Miles and the Ultimate X-Men on tap at the beginning of the arc seemed to suggest some major plot points, but All-New X-Men #36 doesn’t even manage to produce any real sparks. Brian Michael Bendis has left a lot on the table for this throwaway side-mission, and there’s a real lack of force that’s permeated the past few issues.
On the art side, All-New X-Men looks good if not great. Mahmud Asrar excels in his action panels with some very epic big-picture stuff, like Jean’s standoff with Doom or the moments leading up to Doom’s headquarters getting destroyed. During conversational frames, the artwork begins to suffer. Facial expressions lack life, and the dearth of detail irons out the pages, making the panels look really flat.
Marte Gracia’s colors are high-contrast and bold, adding some dimension to the faces through shading. I like Gracia’s reds which are un-apologetically bright, and his lighting is top notch.
I’m ready to move on from this arc to the next. With all that’s been announced, I get the feeling like the X-Books are starting to enter another gear. My expectations are tempered, however, due to so many of the arcs ending on disappointing notes. The problem is not so much with the conclusion — it’s how the entire story fails to live up to its promises. With issue after issue leading us down a road that constantly reminds us of the scenery, even a couple of beautiful sunsets are not enough. Fans want to see plot points dealt with, and there’s a lot fluttering around in the wind, and we’re about to pull up into the parking lot any minute now.
First, a few things — one of which I should have pointed out before, but failed to include.
Inside the cover in the credits, you’ll see something that only recently started happening. At the bottom where the creator credits once only mentioned Stan Lee, a new name has been rightfully added. Though we don’t know the full details of the settlement between the Kirby family and Marvel, one thing we know is that Jack Kirby is finally getting creator credit.
That is awesome on so many levels.
The other thing — Chris Bachalo’s name is on the cover, but the art this issue belongs to Kris Anka.
And third — yes, Hank McCoy, Cyclops is right.
Scott Summers’ tried and not-so-true friend finally gets it, and for once, he doesn’t know what to do. It’s a bittersweet moment that’s filled to the brim with history between two characters, one named after a one-eyed mythological figure and the other whose callsign only described his physical capabilities. More on this later.
The plot thickens in Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrates a former X-Man’s house for interrogation, Mystique and Sabertooth are up to something, an advanced Sentinel attacks, and Cyclops declares war!
If you feel a strong sense of deja vu, you’re not alone. Bringing back plot points that have been on the backburner for months, Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — more like a revisiting than a retread — reminds us what we’ve been waiting for.
Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men squad is the alpha team — the team with the heaviest hitters which is one significant member down since Magneto decided to go off in search of himself. Still, there’s been plenty of growth from even the youngbloods, and Cyclops looks more formidable than ever as a man on fire.
So while new readers jump on for Uncanny X-Men and get acclimated — after Cyclops’ team deals with the Sentinel threat, we’re reminded once again how people feel about mutants — steady readers won’t get much new this issue except for more teasing on what happened to Eva Bell in Uncanny X-Men #17 when she disappeared then returned a bit older.
Emma Frost knows enough about Bell to warrant a “You have to tell him” after Cyclops compliments Eva. There’s a suggestion of romance here, and it’s either a one-sided thing, or perhaps Bell saw something in her time displacement that’s so important, Scott Summers has to know.
As far as scripting goes, Brian Michael Bendis gets a good back and forth between S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill and Bond. Hill is written exceptionally well — she’s manipulative to a point, but she’s still well-meaning, if a bit threatening. As condescending as she gets with Bond this issue, it’s apparent she’s willing to do what it takes to save the world without crossing the line into supervillain territory.
The curtain on what happened to Dazzler is raised, and we see something a bit startling here as Mystique reveals where she gets her Mutant Growth Hormone. The visuals are played up with Mystique storing the illegally obtained substance in a Louis Vuitton bag which shows how far she’ll go to get what she wants.
Chris Bachalo’s pencils are fantastic this issue, though not without flaw. In one panel showing Eva, Emma, and two of the Stepford Cuckoos — all the women have the same face with only their hair and uniforms to differentiate them. Not that it looks bad — Bachalo’s attention to detail and backgrounds helps create some very dynamic panels with devastating spells and destructive explosions opening it up for how epic these battles can be.
And if I can say one thing about the costumes — Goldballs’ retro look is at the same time hilarious and a hot mess. I’m not sure if he’s a parody of something else — maybe on DC as a whole — but he’s basically the team’s de facto comic relief now.
Everything else about this issue is pretty pitch perfect — the inkers’ squad has another member this issue bringing the count to five. Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba all contribute on bringing those penciled sketches to bear with clean lines, dramatic shadows, and darkly dark backgrounds.
In terms of color, Bachalo handled 100% of the work before, but this time we get a few pages by Jose Villarrubia that are reminiscent of Frazer Irving’s filtered green textures. Seeing Villarrubia’s colors — if just for a page or two — on Bachalo’s work makes me wonder what kind of tone an issue would take if someone else was brought in for color. I’m still not totally keen on Bachalo’s choice of hues, but to each their own.
And while I’m not the best at judging at a letterer’s work — Joe Caramagna should be commended for his work this issue. Explosions, laser blasts, and power beams get their own personalities, and it makes the battle sequences feel very epic.
The previous issues with their character sketches were a good detour, but it’s time for the Uncanny X-Men to get back on track. While new readers joining the rest of us will benefit the most this issue, it’s a good reminder for the pull-list subscribers of the particular threads left untied and loose. For some, it’s an “about time” moment when the story they’ve waited patiently (or not) for is finally getting its round.
And while the training is never over — at least from Cyclops’ perspective — it’s time for these kids to use what they’ve practiced. The threat is there, whether it’s S.H.I.E.L.D., the mysterious Sentinel builder, or both, and these X-Men have proven themselves to be more than apt for the task.
Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba
Colors: Chris Bachalo and Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Joe Caramagna
A few days ago, I imagined what I’d ask Brian Michael Bendis if I could get one question in for an interview.
“What is it about you that Marvel would put their X-Men franchise in your hands?”
Bendis is talented, obviously, and he’s shaping up to be the Chris Claremont of this generation. But that question wasn’t meant to get more information about what we already know — it’s what quality Bendis sees in himself.
What makes him the best man for this job, specifically? More than just work ethic or the ability to meet deadlines — what’s required of the man who would lead the X-Men back to its glory days as Marvel’s most dynamic and storied team?
In the way that Scott Snyder and Batman are tied together, Bendis is now the legal guardian of the X-Men, and after reading All-New X-Men #23, I feel one step closer to understanding why he’s the right wordsmith for the job.
S.H.I.E.L.D.’s missiles rain down on the X-Men below in Battle of the Atom #2, the conclusion to this year’s crossover, pitting various X-Men teams from different times in a battle against each other.
The issue promises there will be blood as the X-Men are attacked high and low, and readers will get some answers to the questions that have been raised.
When one of the missiles lands near some of the X-Men and fails to detonate, the assumed armament turns out to be a capsule that releases a new series of Sentinel. The battle escalates with casualties on both sides, and a final battle between young Jean and her older self culminates in an explosion that ultimately ends the fighting.
The Battle of the Atom series has been plagued with pacing issues, and the big finish(es) is worth the wait now that the dust has finally settled. Though it isn’t as ground-breaking as one would expect, it does have enough meat on it to make it a memorable read with some deep developments.
Chief among the plot points is the battle between future-Jean, Wolverine, and Cyclops. Hindsight is 20/20, and according to future-Jean, the two most responsible for the ill-fated future are the two leaders who separated the X-Men. Yes, it’s official — Battle of the Atom returns readers to where it all started in the Schism mini-series when Cyclops and Wolverine had their most recent major falling out. Their disagreement now comes to a head with future-Jean disowning Marvel’s version of King Arthur and Sir Lancelot, and the pointed finger turns the Cyclops is right debate on its head.
That heated debate which has split readership along party lines has seen some of its arguments play out in the X-Titles. Writer Jason Aaron brings up the debate here and then changes the focus back to the original starting point — when Wolverine and Cyclops parted ways and forced the rest of the X-Men to choose sides. Forget whether Cyclops was right — readers now know that the schism was responsible for the new future, and it’s all Cyclops and Wolverine’s faults.
Battle of the Atom #2 ends with four separate epilogues written for each of the X-Titles. With the Brotherhood lost in the current timeline, some of the future X-Men decide to stay while others return to the future to bury their dead. Some X-Men find solace in knowing there’s hope in the future, while others decide they must do all they can to make sure it never happens.
The fourth epilogue, which is the issue’s biggest development moving forward, brings Kitty Pryde back to the forefront. Still feeling betrayed and having no reason to believe she will ever be secure with her present team, Pryde decides she’d be better off switching sides. To make things even more complicated/exciting/surprising — the original X-Men follow their teacher in joining Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men.
It’s a momentum changer that gives Cyclops the upper hand especially in light of Wolverine’s declaration that the school matters the most. Turned down by its most prominent students, the school may lose more of its students moving forward. At the least, there’s no love gained between the two leaders of the X-Men, and the schism still stands stronger than ever.
Four sets of artists contribute to the issue, and the art is probably the best during the main storyline, at least in terms of staging and composition. Future-Beast’s death and the reveal of the Sentinels are imbued with drama by penciller Esad Ribic, who’s assisted by Giuseppe Camuncoli. Ive Svorcina, Andres Mossa, and Guru eFX’s colors give the panels showcasing the epic battle a dreamlike and lucid polish, and the Phoenix-reds do well in reminding readers of Jean Grey’s ultimate power.
Battle of the Atom #2 will likely get a trade paperback release, and judging the work as a whole — the crossover skimps on the developments and serves mainly as a vehicle for the continuation of the four major X-Titles. Readers won’t get much more information about the future, despite Jean having seen some of it in her mind. That secret gives the X-Men something to fight over, but without more foreknowledge, it’s difficult for readers to come on board.
While it’s a welcome sight to see all the writers pool their talents for a cohesive story, the crossover suffers from too much push and pull with each issue’s authors putting in their own versions and spins on the story. The crossover could have benefited from more editorial oversight to smooth out the rough edges and get everyone on the same page, and besides the Sentinel reveal, the crossover needed more than just a few mysterious glimpses into the future. Likewise, the mess made with the Brotherhood running rampant in the present time creates more of a headache because it adds more layers to the X-Universe than it really needs.
That said, what will happen to the individual X-Titles remains to be seen. All-New X-Men gets a dramatic change in scenery while X-Men loses Kitty Pryde. Uncanny X-Men now adds a whole team to its stable while following Cyclops as leader and mentor to himself. The book with perhaps the most to lose is Wolverine and the X-Men as Logan seems to be the biggest victim of the crossover as he’s lost the classic X-Men and a lot of clout as headmaster.
Battle of the Atom #2 (2013)
Words: Jason Aaron
Pencils: Esad Ribic and Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Andrew Currie and Tom Palmer
Colors: Ive Svorcina, Andres Mossa, and Guru eFX
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Words: Jason Aaron, Brian Wood, and Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Kristopher Anka, Chris Bachalo, and Stuart Immonen
Inks: Andrew Currie, Mark Irwin, Victor Olazaba, and Wade von Grawbadger
Colors: Matt Milla
The future X-Men have come back through time to correct the current X-Men’s mistake of bringing the classic X-Men into the present in All-New X-Men #16, the second chapter of the Battle of the Atom crossover event.
Professor Charles Xavier’s grandson Xavier, Deadpool, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Beast, and a mysterious figure wearing Xorn’s mask introduce themselves as the future X-Men team of this current timeline. A healthy — and predictable — amount of doubt and suspicion add to the tension when a sudden loss of control by Wolverine sends the various teams into a ruckus.
In the aftermath, everyone left in the room realizes Jean Grey and Scott Summers have used the manufactured circumstances to escape the premises in the team’s Blackbird.
To go the opposite extreme and bring in an aged X-Men team with a membership made up of some surprise choices, Brian Michael Bendis connects the dots to create the basic and most tenable conflict: The original X-Men must go home. The X-Men of the future are well aware of the consequences, and for the sake of the world and team — hindsight is also 20/20 — the mutants of the future plead to the mutants of the past: Fix this.
Probably the biggest reason X-Men fans should pick up the All-New X-Men series is Jean Grey.
Though she’s died several times — at least three by my count — Grey, aka Marvel Girl, has a special place in the hearts of comic readers the world over. When All-New X-Men launched, it was a chance for readers to reconnect to the original Jean before she met Wolverine, before she had telepathic powers, before she … well, died.
Everyone knows Grey married Scott Summers — even she knows after young Summers gave her the wedding invitation Cyclops kept in his lockbox. The future isn’t a subject Jean Grey’s shown much interest in — after the Dark Phoenix saga, she made it clear she wanted nothing to do with her future daughter Rachel.
In All-New X-Men #14, Grey’s ability to “listen” to thoughts reveals one X-Man’s long unrequited love for her. During a training session between the elder McCoy and Grey, Jean discovers how deep McCoy’s affection for her is, and it leads her to test the waters. Confronting the young McCoy who can’t deny what’s already known, Jean shares a possible first and second kiss.
Scott, on the other hand, who started out as a social misfit before coming into his own as the cool and confident team leader joins Bobby Drake for a trip on the town where they witness how much the social climate has changed. Instead of being shunned by the normals, Drake and Summers find themselves surrounded by interested teens. A dramatic car chase gives the two young X-Men a chance to impress their peers before Logan finds them and whisks them back home.
The two parallel stories between Jean and Scott play out through self-discovery and grounded characterization. Jean, after kissing McCoy, returns to her room and sees the wedding invitation hasn’t changed. Her body language suggests several things — 1. She may not be able to change the future, and 2. She’s going to keep trying anyways.
Scott’s journey into becoming the team leader he’s meant to be has accelerated, but under unusual circumstances. The original Cyclops was birthed in fire — tested by hatred, violence, and force, Cyclops earned his stripes by remaining, until recently, a reputation as worthy of respect. Forwarded into these modern days where his future self has become a hero of the people — and for different reasons — Scott finds he’s accepted for who he is.
For readers who’ve stuck with the X-Men for decades, reading All-New X-Men #14 is something else. Bendis isn’t rewriting the past — he’s changing the future. He’s using characters steeped with history, and instead of making up the rules as he goes along, Bendis takes what’s old and established and brings it into a modern age, often with hilarious results. Whether it’s reminding people that kids back then didn’t carry personal phones, or a mother and daughter both displaced in time meeting in the hallway, All-New X-Men has been a real treat.
David Lafuente takes over on art duties this issue, and fans of Stuart Immonen’s style might feel like there’s a huge tone shift here. With an art style that’s on the cartoony side with posed figures and freeze-frame panels, All-New X-Men looks more like that other X-Book, Wolverine and the X-Men. It bears an even closer resemblance to the Archie books, which might explain why this issue about teens and love went with Lafuente.
Lines are clean, and the artwork is easy to interpret. The colors by Jim Campbell are vibrant. Beast’s blue fur stands out, and the reds of Jean and Rachel’s hair along with Cyclops’ ruby glasses pop off the page. Background hues vary panel to panel which keeps the eyes from getting bored.
It’s not quite the love-triangle the cover would lead you to believe, and there may be deeper and manipulative motives for what’s being considered. Jean Grey, the ultimate Marvel girl, looks a little more like Dark Phoenix because of the way she weaves her influence and control. Scott Summers, on the other hand, remains pure, though it looks like he’s starting to accept his future self as a fair path.
All-New X-Men’s title may be deceiving in that way. These are historic figures, adapting or fighting to remain the same. Bendis’ respect for the source material is apparent, and he’s giving us more of the same here. And that’s a good thing.
It seems wherever Cyclops goes, someone’s asking him what happened with Charles Xavier.
It’s a valid question, and it’s an issue Scott Summers has been dealing with internally as he holds on tight to this second chance of his. Though the fans have chanted, Cyclops is right, past events have had a major effect on him, altering him from pure leader to tainted freedom fighter.
Alison Blair, former X-Men in charge of PR for Cyclops’ extinction team, now works for S.H.I.E.L.D., and her first assignment involves taking Fabio Medina into custody for questioning. Blair takes advantage of a fangirl, and uses her powers to subdue the family, freeing herself up so she can bring Medina onto the helicarrier.
Too bad for Maria Hill and her underlings — David Bond’s new affiliation with Cyclops’ X-Men squad has given him time with some of the most powerful mutants on the planet. Bond began to understand his ability to take control over machinery last issue, and he’s been spending time with some of the greatest teachers. It all pays off when Bond takes control of the helicarrier after the X-Men teleport to Fabio’s side.
It’s an issue filled with tactical maneuvering, trick surprises, and changes. Irma, one of the Stepford Cuckoos, has changed her hair style, prompting her sister Celeste to “freak out.” It’s an interesting dynamic because the X-Men books have long tackled issues concerning prejudices, but even the X-Men aren’t immune to tiffs and fighting over expections of “normality.”
By the looks of it, Brian Michael Bendis is having loads of fun drafting the Uncanny X-Men series — the dialogue is witty, the tempo is brisk, and the characters have momentum going forward. The heavy hitters of the team still command presence, but the cast feels fuller now even if the elder teammates have to deal with being broken. It leaves the younger recruits room to grow and show they can handle their own as they fight for the spotlight. Credit Bendis for giving readers a reason to care for the new teammates who don’t feel disposable.
Chris Bachalo’s pencils remain top notch, and each page is filled with fully loaded panels. There’s tension and great composition, and Bendis’ doesn’t make it easy for Bachalo with all of character interaction. There’s been a lot of story in the past few issues, and Bachalo’s artwork isn’t lazy — it’s actually pretty frenetic. Character expressions are Bachalo’s strength, and body language is easy to read.
If there was a major gripe, it’s Bachalo’s penchance for backsides. There are at least four prominent “butt” shots, and each issue seems to have at least one. It can be distracting, and Bachalo could be a candidate for the Hawkeye Initiative Award if there was one.
As for inks — Tim Townsend gets help from three other inkers. Lines look fluid and smooth, and the dark black shades add thick contrast without feeling sloppy or overwhelming.
Bachalo’s colors get a nice boost with some more variance in colors. There’s more blue to this issue, and the palette switching is more attractive compared to the melange of orange Bachalo used last issue.
The Uncanny X-Men series has been strong — more or less — on a month to month basis, and Mystique’s appearance here after a stint in All-New X-Men shows she’s part of a bigger picture. Mystique proves you can’t stop her — you can only hope to contain her — and she’s a threat that’s been deserving of a bigger challenge.
Kudos to the creative team for pushing the pace and creating an issue that puts some of the most powerful mutants on Earth in harm’s way. Bendis could have chosen higher-profile characters, but he’s bringing in solid and dangerous foes capable of making a huge impact on the X-Men universe.
Uncanny X-Men #9 (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Al Vey, and Jaime Mendoza
Colors: Chris Bachalo
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Dormammu forces Magik into a dramatic situation as Team Cyclops gets surrounded in Limbo.
Afraid and unsure, the new members of the team begin to falter until the Stepford Cuckoos send mental support, brainwashing the team with over-confidence. Meanwhile, Agent Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. seeks out a candidate to find out what Scott Summers is really up to.
It’s a cut and dry issue with a surprise appearance by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s newest agent, Dazzler, and the issue rolls with three story arcs — the first of which chronicles the birth of a new mutant whose ability to push and pull a car either stems from psychic or mechanical-manipulation powers.
Readers get to see Cyclops go full blast. And apparently, Magneto fills one of his pouches with nails ready to be aimed and fired like bullets from a chaingun. The X-Men are clearly out of their element as they fight in another world, and the ability to manipulate teammates by removing fear from their minds makes the Stepford Cuckoos a powerful addition to the team.
Brian Michael Bendis’ scripts are solid and steady. Frazer Irving remains artist since the last issue, and his moody and atmospheric panels benefit from the one-two-three punch he delivers by taking over pencils, colors, and inks — his medium is electronic, but the entire effort remains his.
It’s not the best issue — it’s a bit mid-sentence as story arcs progress — and the Dazzler reveal doesn’t have that punch. Bendis could have chosen a mutant with hunting skills, a vendetta against Cyclops, or a trusted confidante whose turning could add tension because of past history or relations. Hopefully Bendis’ choice in Dazzler proves itself to be a good one.
Uncanny X-Men #6 is a bridge between issues. It introduces one new mutant who figures to be a game-changer and another mutant who returns to the fold under a new banner. There’s build up and reveals, and the creative team keeps it interesting with dramatic visuals and character development that sees the team building and growing in strength. Uncanny X-Men is Marvel’s flagship mutant book, and the events taking place within these pages should have the biggest effect. What we’re seeing is an X-Men team being forged in fire — literally — and Bendis is dangling war on the horizon.
Uncanny X-Men #6 (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Joe Caramagna