Are Marvel Finally Getting it Right With The X-Men?
Marvel NOW! All New... Blah Blah...wait... what? This All New X-Men title is actually pretty bloody good!
We’ve had a tough time in X-Men comics. For a good ten years there have been too many teams, too many new characters with odd yet boring mutant powers, too many reshuffles, too much in-fighting, too many crossovers and frankly an approach to Marvel’s mightiest muties that took them from the top of the comic tower to somewhere in the middle under an impenetrable mess that pushed fans and newbies alike too far. Culminating in the mess that was Avengers vs X-Men this summer, the X-Men’s obsession with Hope and ‘No More Mutants’ was finally met head on and it felt as if we could move on from the story arc that’s been running on empty for a while. Scott Summers went bad, killing Charles Xavier and at the end of the epilogue style mini series ‘Consequences’ Scott was left teamed up with Magneto ready to gather up the new mutants appearing around the world for the next wave of Marvel mutant evolution under the Marvel Now! banner.
Leading up excitement is All New X-Men. Writer Brain Michael Bendis has been handed the task of pushing this next wave of X-Men lore forward and you know what, three issues in, this much hyped evolution might just be working.
As a bit of background, 90s X-Men are my X-Men. Gold Team and Blue Team. X-Men #1. The return of Magneto. Ballsy moves like Age of Apocalypse. Wolverine losing his Adamantium and stories like Zero Tolerance and Onslaught made the X-Men my number one for the longest time. With the central title ‘X-Men’ working so well, I had no problems collecting every other X-title from X-Force, to X-Factor, Excalibur to Wolverine and all that came in between. For a good chunk of the 90s, X-Men, in my mind was untouchable. Sure there were regular reshuffles that were annoying then like they are today, but it was a title that always kept its core. However post the first X-Men movie, X-Men went through massive change after massive change and lost me in the early 2000s. Skimming along the surface of X-comics and giving everything another shout around since about 2006-2007, I’ve struggled to get back to the School for Gifted Youngsters with all its odd new mutants and teams made up of characters I either lost my love for or just found it impossible to warm to.
So why is All New X-Men working? Well it’s easy to put a lot of the praise on Stuart Immonen’s wonderful artwork I guess. All three of these issues so far have looked bloody great but great art doesn’t always mean the story is good remember. X-Men has been coasting on good artists and no real direction for ages after all. The success here is Bendis. He’s entered a ripped apart world of mutants and he’s focused his attentions on the core players and how they’ve been affected.
Beginning with a loud and proud show of what Cyclops is now up to (recruiting mutants from the new explosion of mutants post AvX) the visuals and strong central trio of Cyclops, Magneto and Emma Frost blasting their way through the crowds feels distinctly 90s X-Men to me. Of course Cyclops is on the wrong side of the fence here but at least Cyclops is doing something with some gusto and not just sort of hovering around an ideal and doing little about it like he’s been doing for what seems like years now.
Cutting to the X-Men themselves, it’s great seeing Storm, Iceman, Kitty and Beast having to retaliate to Scott’s public display of Mutie powers. We’re all sick of Wolverine right? He’s over-worked in the world of Marvel. Avenger. X-Man. Headmaster. Loner. Blah blah blah. Wolverine needs to go on a holiday big time and come back more focused and less thinly spread and not seeing him for a large part of these three issues was a slick move by Bendis. (Don’t get me wrong, of course I still love Logan but come on people, he’s not the Wolverine we fell in love with now-a-days is he? Here’s hoping Frank Cho’s upcoming ‘Savage Wolverine’ gives Logan a good kick up the ass shall we?)
A slicker move however is what else Bendis is really doing here. He’s bringing in the First Class. Beast has gone back in time with the plan to bring back young Scott Summers to face off with current off the rails Scott Summers to try and pull him back to the light side of the force. Wait, wait. I know. I rolled my eyes too. Hell, I even read the preview pages showing the scenes with Beast approaching the original team in their youth and thought to myself “So that’s finally the end of me reading X-Men then” but coming out of the first issue a few weeks back I was won over. It’s been far too long since I came out of an X-Men comic feeling like I’d read an X-Men comic but All New X-Men #1 felt like it had done something right.
I wasn’t ready to fully commit of course. A single issue could be a blip. I’m more of a three issue kinda guy. I can forgive a mediocre second issue but if the third is as good as the first, the series could have legs in my mind. Well Bendis and Co. have made all three issues of this run so far shine. There’s something about making these stories about the individual core X-Men feel right. Bobby, Kitty and Hank feels more like we’re reading the old family working together and of course having the First Class involved in the past adds a whole lot of charm. Now my knee jerk reaction to falling back to the young X-Men of the past was “no way” but X-Men have always handled time travel and alternative timelines well. Cable, Nate Grey, Bishop, it all worked out in the end over the years and to fantastic effect. Going back to the original team and bringing them forward in time raises questions like “How will this change history?” “How far will Bendis take this?” and of course “What happens if this goes wrong?” I mean bad Scott could very well kill young Scott. Then what? Will the knowledge of their future selves effect X-Men history? It has to right? Questions pop in my head throughout reading these issues and it’s a great thing. For months now with Avengers vs X-Men, all I’ve been thinking is “can this end please?” Now I found myself caring about the X-Men again. Actually caring… WOW.
Issue #2 really captures the differences between New and Old X-Men. Seeing our present playing field through the eyes of the First Class really shows how much of a mess the current Marvel Universe X-Men is. The pureness of the X-Men is all but gone and having the First Class about suddenly gives some hope this could all be sorted out or at least handled better going forward.
This week’s issue #3 pulls a bit of a dick move and starts pissing about with powers again. Cyclops, Emma and Magneto’s powers are a bit disjointed and it seems to be something to do with the recent Phoenix force stuff. I hate all this new power/secondary mutation/temporary lack of power nonsense at the best of times and I hope it’s not just a bad writing tool to hold our characters back but Bendis still handles it well and the opening action sequence in issue #3 was some of the best X-Men action I’ve seen in a while. There’s also an added bonus of having a sassy Emma Frost and strong Magneto pretty much telling Scott Summers to stop avoiding the acceptance he’s done some bad things recently. I was worried Magneto would take a henchmen backseat role to bad Scott Summers but it seems Bendis appreciates Magneto as a character. I also have a sense Marvel want to jolt the X-Men forward a generation as well, so maybe Magneto will join Charlie in the afterlife sometime soon. We shall see I guess.
These first three issues were barely on my radar after AvX and the multitude of bad X-moves over the past ten years. I honestly saw Marvel Now! As the end of my Marvel collecting but Bendis and his team have seemingly done the impossible and more so they’ve done it very quickly. They’ve made the X-Men feel exciting again. Less side characters. More focus on the characters that make the X-Men, X-Men and a bat s**t crazy idea that could very well work absolute wonders for the future (and past) of X-Men. Going back to the First Class team is ballsy but it highlights the divide between what the X-Men were and what they are now but also highlights what’s still there at the core of the beloved Marvel Mutants. It seems Bendis wants to bridge a stronger connection between the two eras. That’s a great move. Anything to make the X-Men feel tighter again is good by me and this new jump on point for Marvel doesn’t just seem to be an excuse to bring in new readers but one to win back some of its core fans too.
Of course all this greatness could disappear, we’ve already seen more changes ahead with new costumes for Cyclops and his new team just around the corner in the all new Uncanny X-Men sneek peeks in a Marvel Previews but for now, lets suck up the goodness. X-Men has good guys doing good guy things and conflicted bad guys doing sort of bad guy things again. The mutant family is having an intervention by the original team and more than ever I’m willing to give the Children of the Atom another chance. I haven’t felt like this much of an X-Men fan in years and for a comic book fan with a loft full of X-titles from yesteryear that is nothing but a good thing in my mind. The X-Men are quite literally back and Marvel Now! may very well be a relaunch that isn’t just a marketing gimmick to compete with DCs total reboot. Bring it on Marvel. Make me love the X-Men again… please.