(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(p) Stuart Immonen
I'm going to say what a lot of people won't -- this debut issue didn't not live up to its hype. Let's call this series what it really is: Brian Michael Bendis presents The X-Men. What's worried me about 'Marvel NOW!' is how the idea of the initiative is coming before the actual stories. All-New X-Men #1 by Brian Michael Bendis has me concerned for the X-Men family of books going forward. While the narrative is sound, and the idea of the original five X-Men travelling to our present sounds really fun, it always feels like there's something missing from this issue.
A big part of my coldness toward All-New X-Men #1 is that I've never totally and completely gone the way of Bendis' writing style. As a focused and plot-inspired writer, Bendis tends to extrapolate his stories to their most detailed and prolonged form. If A+X is an example of how short and concise a comic book story can be, Bendis is the exact polar opposite. The entirety of Bendis' 160 issue run on Ultimate Spider-Man turned out to encompass one year of comic book time compared to the ten years it took to get to issue #160. That's nice and all, but it really becomes a problem when Bendis' stories have to connect to other series and events.
All-New X-Men #1 is a mixed bag. All the writing is good, it's just disjointed. Instead of focusing on the plot that's been teased over the past four months, Bendis basically turns this issue into X-Men Point One -- a series of vignettes designed to give readers a 'status quo' of the various X-Men post-"Avengers vs. X-Men".
That's not what I bought into.
Like I said earlier, Bendis tells good stories that have emotional centers and have lasting ramifications on the characters he writes, but I was led to believe this was a book about the original five X-Men, not an issue split into three sections that loosely begin a series of events. It's a by-product of Bendis' style; the use of so many characters precipitates the need for multiple storylines that will eventually connect. I'm all for layered storytelling and intricate narrative, but not in the first issue of a headlining title. If I were a new reader looking to jump back into the world of the X-Men and this is where I started, I would be completely lost.
Over the past few months, editors and creative teams have been making it a point to explain how starting with 'Marvel NOW!' books didn't require knowledge of previous events, though it would be more entertaining if you do. This is not the case with All-New X-Men #1, an issue so deeply embroiled in the fallout from "Avengers vs. X-Men" that without having read it, you'd never understand why Beast and the X-Men are trying to hunt down Cyclops. There's no true explanation, and even if there were, the story as Bendis is telling it is too dependent on prior events to be effective as a conduit for new readers.
All-New X-Men #1 is a double-edged sword. On one hand, I'm completely taken by Brian Michael Bendis' stellar writing and potential for this series, but on the other hand, I'm largely disappointed in how this issue was structured and executed. There must have been a more gracious, elegant way to introduce all the plot that's stuffed into this issue, but Bendis and Marvel managed to publish one of the least straightforward versions of that plot.