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All-New X-Men #30 Review

www.hypergeeky.comAll-New X-Men #30 takes a break from the norm to develop and work on some character-to-character issues.

Picking up at the swell of a whirlwind romance between Laura Kinney and Warren Worthington III after a night of clubbing and, well, clubbing (literally!), the two go through an impromptu DTR that challenges their notions of each other, especially for Kinney.

It’s hard for Laura to accept what’s going on now that she’s had time to think about it. Warren’s too pretty and too rich, while she’s been through too much.

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Even if it’s a beauty and the beast type of situation, the pairing does make sense in the end — opposites do attract, especially when they turn out to be commonalities. Laura’s ugly past puts her on one side of a spectrum where Worthington’s enviable wealth places him on the other. Both are attractive, yet in some ways unwanted, and they both know what it’s like to be a mutant.

Once Laura realizes her past is past, she wonders what’s going on in the rest of the world to which Warren, living in the moment, responds with the exact words Laura needs to hear.

Elsewhere in the world and back at the Xavier School, Emma Frost has begun training Jean Grey with an interesting first assignment — she wants Jean to hit her. With some of the students covertly witnessing the strange session, Emma and Jean begin to discuss the biggest conflict in both their lives: Scott Summers.

There’s some enmity here, and they’re both willing to press the issue to get what they want. To get out of training, Jean points out Emma’s conflict — that Jean and Scott’s relationship was mutual and exclusive.

That only prompts Emma to retaliate and go for Jean’s jealousy button.  It was Emma that Summers mentally cheated with during his marriage, and Frost projects explicit images of Scott. It’s the one when Summers says he chose Emma that makes Grey lash out, forcing the students to rush to Professor Kitty Pryde.

Pryde’s been busy building a long-distance relationship with Peter Quill who’s a billion miles away. The conversation between them is realistic, and there’s surefire chemistry between the two. Brian Michael Bendis doesn’t break each of the character’s personalities to force something onto them. The scene is a textbook example of how dialogue between two adults should be written — it’s full of charm, poignancy, and humor.

When Pryde follows the students to see what all the commotion is about, a psychic battle results in the scariest thing Illyana Rasputin has ever seen.

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Emma and Jean are now friends.

Bendis comes through with an issue that gives readers a true X-Men experience. By piercing through the outer veil and giving us a behind-the-scenes perspective, we get to the nitty and gritty to learn more about their personalities — without which, the individuals are X-Men in name only.

The pairings are deliberate and speak to Bendis keen planning and plotting. In each scene, we get interactions between polar opposites. The contrasts between Laura and Warren are easy to spot, and the most compelling story this chapter is between Jean and Emma, two rivals with a rich history of turmoil between them.

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For new readers, it’s easy to accept the premise as is and believe there’s bad blood between two women in love with the same man. But there’s an incredible amount of emotion and history that’s only hinted at.

Back in the ’90s when the X-Men first split up into Blue and Gold teams, it was Emma’s Hellfire Club that caused one of Jean’s physical deaths — Grey saved herself by possessing Emma with her consciousness. When Frost later came over to the X-Men’s side after Generation X, she began therapy sessions with a broken Cyclops which resulted in mental cheating.

When Grey died at the end of the New X-Men run, she got a glimpse of a very dark future. She reached back in time to influence Scott, telling him to move on and into Emma’s arms. The love triangle was no more until Beast decided to do some time-traveling of his own to bring the original X-Men to the present.

So now we have young Jean reeling and dealing with what the future holds, and her current incarnation in Marvel Comics does what no other version has been able to do: reconcile with her rival.

As the two most powerful psychics on the planet, the fact they’re friendly now only makes the cumulative outlaw X-Men squad a formidable force.

www.hypergeeky.comAnd while Professor X, knowing the potential for devastation to come, blocked out Jean’s powers until she was ready to handle them, it’s Frost who gets to bring out Jean’s best which could lead to several outcomes. As angry as Jean is now, what will happen when the Phoenix returns in full force to inhabit a younger, less mature, and more-powerful-for-her-age version of an Omega-level mutant?

It’s an issue that Pryde recognizes, and All-New X-Men #30 ends with the Jean Grey School X-Men making a surprise visit with news of Xavier’s last will and testament. As hated as Scott is for the things he did while being possessed, I wonder what Beast feels when he sees Jean.

Then, I begin to think of how this story possibly ends — with another sacrifice leading to redemption.

That’s the sort of thing that compels me to keep reading Bendis’ material. The past, when forgotten, tends to repeat itself, and X-Men stories have spiraled in and out of time away and onto themselves. What I most enjoyed about this issue are the discussions that perfectly reflect the inner minds of the characters speaking. They grow, feel love and hate, and challenge themselves and the readers. The X-Men are a microcosm of our society filled with viewpoints, differences of opinion, and those struggling to choose what’s right.

And without a great artist to capture the nuances of expressions, much of what we saw this issue could have been lost. And so it makes me grateful to see that if anyone had to take over art duties from Stuart Immonen, it’s Sara Pichelli.

Pichelli’s art style this issue is reminiscent of Immonen’s pencils and Wade Von Grawbadger’s inks. The heavy outlines are there as well as the clean and distinct facial expressions that tell their own share of the story. Pichelli’s Frost is perhaps one of the best I’ve seen — from the visuals alone we get a sense of how manipulative and seductive Emma can be.

www.hypergeeky.comAnd that’s one of the greatest strengths of All-New X-Men #30 — the brilliant display of visuals without need for words. The flashback of Laura and Warren’s first date is almost four pages of panels with no dialogue, and the pressure’s on for Pichelli. To her credit, the artwork is masterful in how it not only tells us how things went down, it also shows us how the characters are feeling. There’s a panel of Laura looking sublime during the melee, and it just captures the moment perfectly.

To bring it all into another level of cohesion, Marte Gracia’s colors adapt just enough to keep things similar yet distinct. Warren and Laura’s scene in the room has a romantic feel to it, and the shading on the faces creates not only more definition for expressions — it also creates mood through lighting.

All of these things put together makes up one awesome issue that doesn’t need a particular villain to create drama. The X-Men have proven, time and again, that they are their own worst enemies, and the numerous conflicts presented here are easy to relate to. It’s the deftness in the creator’s abilities that this issue comes to life.


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All-New X-Men #16 Review

www.hypergeeky.comTry saying this all in one breath.

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.

Read More »

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X-Men #4 Review

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While the other X-Men books under Brian Michael Bendis’ control have followed squads of X-Men building on a firm foundation, it’s the one book written by Brian Wood that details the problems of a team beginning to form.

With relationships frayed over the events that came to pass last issue, Storm designates herself as leader, much to the chagrin of Rachel Grey.

Back in issue #3, Karima Shapandar regained consciousness and stabbed herself with Psylocke’s psychic blade. Only moments before, Storm issued the order to kill Shapandar and the bacteria controlling her body, Arkea Prime. Were it not for Grey, the X-Men could have lost a friend to a split decision.

Though the day ended with a checkmark in the win column for the team, questions over whether the team could ever work together under Storm’s leadership were discussed.

X-Men #4 explores the aftermath and the relationship between Ororo and the major dissenting party, Rachel Grey. Acting a little passive-aggressive, Rachel shows she’s not okay — especially with Storm naming herself as leader of this X-Men squad — and the two have it out in the passenger space of the Blackbird.

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Meanwhile, a Columbiair passenger flight experiences mechanical failure out in the middle of nowhere. Psylockey, Rogue, and Shadowcat hatch a plan to guide the plane with a risky maneuver that puts the microscope on the team’s chemistry, tactical abilities, and care for each other.

A month before the Battle of the Atom crossover event, Wood gives readers a solid base that explains why this team deserves to exist. This current iteration did not choose its own members — it just sort of happened because no one else was available when Arkea Prime decimated the school. With one victory under their belt, the team realizes there’s something there and that they’ve got something good going. The women of the X-Men who’ve been relegated to supporting cast roles have a new power structure that puts them under one banner.

What makes Wood’s X-Men series interesting is the personal touch. Things haven’t worked perfectly smooth for the team which has only been together for a few days, and disagreements that could derail any team have bubbled to the surface. Questions about Ororo’s decision making abilities only scratch at the surface — it’s really an issue of trust and distance. As Storm begins to dictate orders to the team, Rachel tells her, “Trust the team.”

Storm’s leadership style has clashed with Cyclops’ way of running the X-Men team. Cyclops earned even Logan’s respect with his tactical prowess and hands-on approach. Storm usually acts as a field commander, surveying the battlefield and ordering issues from on high. Both command respect, but in very different ways. Scott Summers was the embodiment of Charles Xavier’s dream. He was one of the first X-Men, and until recently, he was predictable in a way that comforted the teammates following his lead.

The way Storm leads — she’s more like a corporate manager who would rather keep her employees at arm’s length. She’s the outsider, and her first impulse is to micromanage a team that works on instinct.

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Issue #4 gets it right with great characterization and a look at how an X-Men team starts from scratch. This is the issue where the team solidifies itself, and it’s the real first official step.

Taking over for pencils to complement Wood’s scripts, David Lopez’s style fits right in where Olivier Coipel left off. The artwork isn’t as attractive as Coipel’s, but it does capture the action well, especially without much explanation of what’s going on in the narrative.

Characters follow current designs, and they’re easily distinguished. Where Lopez contrasts with Coipel are the expressions. This issue has an overabundance of smiling X-Men, and the parallel story involving Wolverine and Jubilee tracing her roots depicts Logan on what looks like one of his happiest days — he’s shown smiling in all but two panels.

Lines look clean, though there are some blotchy shadows, especially on Storm’s face and on the women’s lips. It’s possible Cam Smith and Norman Lee split duties — one inker on the Wolverine/Jubilee story, and the other on the bulk of the book — and by the looks of it, the Jubilee story has the cleaner and more defined lines.

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Cris Peter’s colors are fairly decent. There’s more of a cel-shade look in this book — see Psylocke’s TK lines and Rogue’s green outfit — and panels look a little flat at times. Lighting does change, and Peters uses contrasting colors for effect.

X-Men #4 works because it covers the rounds. There’s action, a sense of newness and exploration, and psychology. This is a team looking to take a stand, and as sum of its parts, it’s pushing and pulling all at once. There are dynamics that create a palpable tension within the team, and though the narrative could have been a wee bit stronger, it’s the action that really speaks louder than the words.


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