Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: All-New X-Men #7

(w) Brian Michael Bendis  (a) David Marquez

Alongside Jonathan Hickman's Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis' All-New X-Men is leading the 'Marvel NOW!' initiative in terms of sales figures and overall quality. Brian Bendis has led Earth's Mightiest Heroes for the past eight years, so now it's time for him to tackle the Children of the Atom. At first, the concept of bringing the original five X-Men into the present day sounded extremely limiting -- the idea seemed better suited for a limited series or part of a Marvel event of some sort. This status quo makes perfect sense for Bendis, a writer who specializes in long-form decompression (for example, his ten years on Ultimate Spider-Man covered roughly one year of in-comic time). Seven issues in, and this fact has been reinforced by the sheer amount of ethical, emotional, and logistical storytelling delivered. So far, it seems like only a few days have passed, and the O.G.5 (Original Gangsta' Five) are still mostly getting used to being 40 years in their future.

All-New X-Men #7 is a curious chapter in this second arc because, as much as Bendis is hitting a majority of the right notes with all the other characters, he's having a hard time pinning down Young Cyclops. As far as Marvel continuity goes, Scott Summers has been talking about being the teenaged leader of the X-Men for longer than he was the teenaged leader of the X-Men. In fact, that very concept of a young, naive Cyclops has been at arms-length from the character's ongoing narrative for so long, it's almost as if Bendis has to reconstruct what it meant to be an adolescent in the 1960s with mutant powers. Beast, Iceman, and Angel have their varying degrees of adjustment and acclimation, but Scott and Jean Grey are the two variables in this equation: Jean knows everything, and Scott knows nothing. Young Scott has a million conflicting thoughts zipping through his mind, and no one seems to be able to make any sense of them.

Mystique is one of the most interesting characters in Marvel's pantheon because she's just so damn good at what she does. Usually, a villain acts villainous, and evil begets more evil. Raven Darkholme is a whole helluva lot more clever than most super villains -- she truly understands the art of deception and uses those skills to manipulate almost any situation to her favor. Being a shapeshifter helps, but it's less to do with her appearance and more to do with hew attitude and how she carries herself. In All-New X-Men #7, Mystique shows up to explain that not everything is as it seems in this present day, that the O.G.5. are in more danger than Wolverine or any of the X-Men are letting on, and that no one will want to hear what Young Scott has to say because they've all got preconceived notions due to Elder Scott's horrifying past actions.

The element that makes All-New X-Men #7 most interesting is how Bendis characterizes Young Scott's feelings that he has no control over his life. Most teenagers (and adults, for that matter) have his same exact feeling at some point or another. This feeling can come from a number of different places -- heartache, bad grades, overbearing parents, lack of friends, sickness, depression, work, etc. -- but for Young Scott, it comes from his older self committing genocide then murdering his father figure who also happened to be the most respected man in the mutant community. And just like any normal teenager, Young Scott doesn't know what to think. All he knows is that the rest of the planet has made up their mind about him already, and he's got to figure out where he fits into this new world.

All-New X-Men #7 is another fantastic chapter in this fantastic series. Brian Bendis is bringing his unique brand of interpersonal relationships to the X-Men franchise, and it feels like such a natural fit that it's a wonder Marvel didn't do this sooner. In many ways, this sentiment is how I feel about 'Marvel NOW!' as a whole -- most of the creative team/title pairings now feel far more organic than in the past.


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