In the fallout the epic Avengers Vs. X-Men storyline of last summer, Marvel’s most prolific and influential writer of modern times–Brian Michael Bendis–did a switcharoo from Avengers to X-Men, ending a seven year franchise invigorating run. Now, for fansof the Mighty Marvel brand there are two schools of thoughts on the work and style of BMB–he’s the best shit ever or he’s the worst shit ever. I am more leaning towards the former if for nothing else than his ability to literally write about 700 titles simultaneously at a remarkably high level of quality and internal/external story consistency.
Bendis set up his run on X-Men quit nicely by putting the fearless leader of the X-Men in a spot that he had been teetering on for many years–public enemy number 1. In recent years, Scott Summers has become increasingly compromised philosophically as he become the de facto face of the mutant race. He’s been sleeping with reformed villain Emma Frost, taking council from reformed villain Magneto, and consorting with rogue king and first-mutant Namor, the Sub-Mariner as his inner circle of original X-Men began fleeing from him in the social equivalent of Hawking Radiation. Coming to a climax as a Phoenix Force possessed Cyclops killed Charles Xavier, the world has come to see Cyclops as that most interesting kind of villain–the kind that sees himself as the hero.
Enter Bendis’ All-New X-Men, a title in which the Beast–at the end of his rope–decides to travel back in time and pluck the five original X-Men from their ideological teenage years to try and shock some sense into the elder Summers. The bi-monthly title gives way to some interesting character interactions as the younger incarnations have to come to terms with the mighty changes that have occurred to them over the past 40 years of comics compressed-time story telling–particularly Jean Grey who is shocked to find out that the Xavier School is now the Jean Grey School, and that she is dead.
Most of all, even beyond Beat having to working scientifically with Beast, this book is about young Cyclops coming to terms with older Cyclops and the reactions people are having to him–both fearful and respectful–for things his hasn’t done yet. The idea behind the book is really resonant for readers like me who often wonder what their teenage self would say to their adult selves. Its hard to imagine–would they consider you a success or a sell out? Are you the man or have you become The Man? All the while we see that modern Cyclops is having problems of his own, and is all too aware of the compromises he’s made.
The comic book has some really worthwhile scenes, and that embedded humor that Bendis is known for. Honestly, its a really interesting direction to take, though it does bring up a load of questions about what happens when the originals go back in time–does the past and still alive Xavier mindwipe them? Does the present change? Does their return herald an alternate and divergent timeline? Bendis has managed to really kindle some intriguing questions and even managed to rekindle some interest in the Cyclops/Jean Grey romance, as she wants nothing to do with him due to their tragic future.
Any Bendis fan or X-Men fan should take a look at this book; running bi-monthly, it manages to move along quickly in general and within the borders of a single issue. It’s fresh and new, while revering current developments and over-all continuity, it also manages to be fresh and well…All-New. It makes me wonder what Bendis’ Guardians of the Galaxy is going to look like, honestly, because now that he is out of the Avengers context it seems like BMB has got a whole new team book rhythm going on–while of course keeping the style that people either love or hate about him intact.