Wednesday, September 2, 2015

All-New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis Volume 1

This is everything I ever wanted in an X-Men story that I never thought I needed and everything I ever needed that I never thought I wanted. Brian Michael Bendis' first volume collection of All-New X-Men for the current Marvel Now! initiative is, simply put, A-MAH-ZING. Illustrated by Stuart Immonen,  the first five issues comprised in this collection were endlessly entertaining and gripping.

The idea of bringing back the original first class of the X-Men from Stan Lee's run in the sixties (composed of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman) by having them time-travel to the future (or the present Marvel timeline) where things are less than idyllic (some may say a colossal clusterfuck), is a bold storytelling strategy. It could have easily been a failure. But writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Stuart Immonen were not intimidated by this daunting task at all. The first debut issue opens with Hank McCoy's journal entry where he admits that he is once again going through the next stage of his beast mutation which is all kinds of hellish pain and he stresses that he may not survive this one at all. 

In the aftermath of the Phoenix Force dispersing in the cosmos which signaled the rebirth of the mutant gene, several unsuspecting youngsters discover their powers (which, as we all know, get mostly triggered by stressful situations) and were being hunted down by government factions to contain them. Recent fugitive and no longer anyone's favorite person, Cyclops, started recruiting said mutants to join his "revolution". By his side were his on-again, off-again paramour and partner Emma Frost, Magneto and Magik. The X-Men were bothered by the escalation of Scott's brutal ways especially Beast who may or may not die during the new stage of his physical mutation. Desperate, he traveled back in time to forewarn and beg the original core five members of the X-Men to come with him to stop Scott from unwittingly committing what he deems is a "mutant apocalypse". 

I consider myself a fairly loyal Cyclops fan. It's a love-hate relationship at the beginning considering his archetypal role in the X-Men as a whole and his often closed-off personality. While he may inherently be a decent and noble person with heroic motivations--the "golden boy" to be exact--he is often alienating because he tends to be guarded even around people he is supposed to trust. It's only when he's with Jean (and later on, Emma) that we see the more sensitive and human side of Scott Summers, and, naturally, those are the stories where I enjoy reading him most. In contrast, Wolverine (Logan or James Howlett) may be of a pseudo-anarchist "black sheep" but his outsider status even among other outsiders heralded him as a quick fan-favorite because everyone roots for and sympathizes with the moody guy who may talk back against authority and challenge the one in charge (Scott, mostly) but is also ultimately the one you can depend on because once you earn his loyalty, he will go to hell to cover your ass. 

It's only an intriguing progression then to see him become the headmaster for the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning alongside Ororo and Kitty Pryde. Unlike Scott who readily accepts the leadership role from the get-go, Logan has had a complicated avoidance issue about it but has always had the potential and providence to lead and teach. But this is about Scott and we see that all the grooming from Charles Xavier; all those years of expectations and preparation, as well as the betrayals and trials of trust he experienced with said father figure, has all led to this.He has now become the ultimate outsider trying to forge a path that goes against everything he used to believe and stand for. He even has freaking Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) on his side! He never would have worked with the guy, let alone form an alliance with him. But these are desperate times and although his methods have drastically changed, Scott still wanted to serve and protect his own mutant species even if it meant murdering humans along the way. So, I guess it makes sense that Magneto signed up and allowed Scott to take the reigns. The most baffling thing about this, though, is Scott doesn't really hate humans unlike Magneto. Scott has become completely apathetic of humans unlike when he was young aTnd hopeful and wanted to live in peaceful co-existence with humanity. Now he commits atrocities with human casualties as if he was merely stepping on an insect that happens to be on the pavement where is he walking.  

So listen up! This is my most favorite Marvel Now! X-Men title to date, and I don't think that's ever going to change especially after finishing this installment. As I've said before, the Original Core Five (OCF) from Stan Lee's sixties era became endeared to me thanks to Jeff Parker's X-Men: First Class which I just ate up with as many servings as possible. Now it looks like the same thing is going to happen again with All-New X-Men. The most compelling thing about the premise of this story is the timey-wimey aspect of it. The idea of bringing back the old and traditional fivesome to the present world so they can see how the dream they wanted to achieve as mutant pacifists was left utterly in pieces, all thanks to no other than a radically-changed Scott Summers, would have been silly on paper at first; but Bendis and Immonen created something worth the reading experience. This series, I think, is a great callback to the classics while still maintaining the integrity of the evolution of the new blood.  Simply put, IT IS UNDENIABLY...

One of my favorite moments came in the fifth issue with Jean Grey. After seeing and feeling for herself the chain of events that will happen after and during her death, rebirth, Dark Phoenix struggle, death again and resurrection again then final death (yup, she felt ALL of these deaths in one single telepathic look into Beast's memories and it was devastating), Jean made a decisive motion to stick around and fix what was broken. They took it to a vote with Scott immediately backing up Jean, claiming that if they decide, they should do it unanimously. Only Warren was opposed to it. Afterwards, young Scott tried to talk to Jean but was cruelly brushed off in the last scene of this issue that really broke my heart. I don't know what's going on in Jeanie's mind but I theorized that after seeing the man her first love became, it was a rude awakening for her. Jean used to be crushing so hard on Scott back when they were young, and she never doubted him, almost blindly believes in the goodness he has shown time and time again when they are together. Upon her death, the man she loved and admired became the things he himself fought hard against and this failure that is about to come is unforgivable for her. This may seem harsh and narrow-minded because the Scott who is with her now is still the idealistic dreamer who does want to stop his future self from becoming "evil" but Jean's decision to distance herself from him was understandable. She can't be around the boy she loves and still stay objective with her number-one priority which is to take back the dreams of Xavier the man she loved in the future has so utterly ruined.  

In a nutshell, Brian Michael Bendis' All-New X-Men has started out strong for this volume and is one of the most phenomenal X-Men titles released from the Marvel Now! roster and you should be reading this masterpiece-in-the-making by now.


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