In 50 years, the X-Men have become the ultimate example of creating an all encompassing universe within a universe. There’s history, pathos and a real sense of connection between readers and the characters. From the soft relaunch of the title in Giant Size X-Men #1 back in 1975, the franchise has capitalized on the idea of a world filled with heroes defined by their emotional and physical distance from the world. Being defined by separation, a feeling many comics readers may have felt at one point, brings the idea of social isolation into the world of myth, where each decision has earth shattering consequences.
Since House of M in 2005, the X-Franchise has been defined by consequences. With the mutant race pushed to the brink of extinction, every action had to be weighed by every possible reaction. Every battle, every retreat, every search for a new home had a real sense of danger and unpredictability. Characters could die, heroes would have to make the tough decisions and live with the consequences and real change would have to be made in order to stand in a world which hated and despised the race like never before.
I don’t know that I love Brian Michael Bendis’ approach to the X-Men. I like it and I appreciate the way he’s been clearly building to something with every issue but it makes for noticeably low stakes arcs and it’s not until now that the consequences of All New X-Men’s premise begins to really shine. There were always going to be a sort of cosmic punishment for Beast’s actions in All New X-Men #1 and it’s only now that it seems like something is really coming. After Scott takes a Sentinel blast in Battle of the Atom #1 and Current Cyclops fading from existence, the characters really begin to consider the consequences of their meddling in time. It’s something which feels like it should have happened much sooner and something the genius Hank McCoy should have probably foreseen and, strangely, it’s the same problem Bendis had with another universe shaking event this summer.
The story doesn’t really start moving until the arrival of the X-Men of the future in the issue’s final pages and their introduction in All New X-Men #16. There’s a real shift of tone there and some interesting character development, playing off of Jean Grey’s shifting world view. A young woman now aware of the massive power and potential she has and will gain, Jean has become a reckless force in a team which demands caution. Her terror at being unable to read Xavier’s mind is palpable and the way the issue re-shows the events leading up to her realization is the rare time this sort of page-filling gimmick plays off.
What’s important about Jean’s escape from Westchester is the way it focuses on the nature of fate and identity. There’s a real sense of attention to who the X-Men of the future are and how they came to have evolved to this point. The Xorn reveal to be a new Jean gives the book a sense of cycles repeating, one Grant Morrison played with in the first time Xorn revealed his true nature, but there are also complications. Is this a new Jean, another resurrection of a character who’s never stayed dead long or have the return of these characters shown a world where Jean survives only because she doesn’t belong. Magick’s vision of a twisted and shattered future world give credence to both interpretations but what’s important is what’s left. The first two chapters of Battle of the Atom set up the idea that consequences are what we make of them and how we define ourselves and our actions are the only things that have an impact one the world we create.
- Let’s get this out of the way. The hologram covers look great but are as empty and lightweight as the stories they hold. The bland, dark origin stories in the Joker, Creeper, Poison Ivy and Desaad stories are shiny and little else.
- Peter J. Tomasi’s Two Face in Batman and Robin 23.1, however is exceptional. It’s great peak at my favorite Batman villain and the twisted brand of justice he imposes on a city without a hero and makes the prospect of his upcoming story in the title even more exciting.
- Robert Venditti and Rags Morales also give a suitably epic scale to Green Lantern 23.1: Relic. There’s a real sense of myth making to the villain’s origin and the full page splashes give the story a real sense of history, like a legend passed down from generation to generation.
- Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3 is the first issue of the series which doesn’t entirely click, namely because it spends so much time in Boomerang’s head but a panel of Abner holding a sign reading “LOL” more than makes up for the rest.
- Batman Black and White #1 is the sort of miniseries DC needs to be doing more often. Artist and creator driven with an eye on the medium’s past as well as it’s up and coming writers and artists is the sort of book which demands an audience. Plus, it’s great to see Chris Samnee absolutely deliver on the Caped Crusader.