This third volume of Brian Michael Bendis' All-New X-Men collects two very notable Jean Grey meltdowns that are so epic and insane in scale that it's almost funny. For me, that is essentially the selling point of Volume 3: Out of their Depth because everything becomes an extra special of clusterfuck whenever Jean Grey loses her shit. It's probably the only natural progression of her character here and I am loving her for being so kooky, emotional, flawed and yet utterly relatable all at once.
I think I would consider this as my favorite collection so far, comprised of issues #11-15 and illustrated by the ever consistently splendid Stuart Immonen with guest artist David Lafuente for the last issue.
Present-day Cyclops is the leader of a new radical mutant movement where a revolution is a necessity that calls for his species' prosperity regardless of the human factor that would play into it. By his side are his on-and-off paramour Emma Frost, the White Queen and formidable telepath; the dark-magic-wielding enchantress Illyanna also known as Magik; and his enemy-turned-ally Erik Lehnsherr, the mutant terrorist infamously known as Magneto. Basically, the perfect dream team, amirite?
So these awesome assholes crashed the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning but not because they want to be dicks--well, maybe just Cyke. He was there to inform any young hopefuls that their dream team (I will now sarcastically refer to them from now on as the "Dream Team") is recruiting, and it would be in their best interest if they join the crusade. Understandably, the more seasoned X-Men like Wolverine, Kitty Pryde and Storm are upset about this, given that the man whom they used to call friend and leader just murdered their beloved mentor, Charles Xavier, back when Cyke was possessed by the Phoenix Force. Cyke makes no apologies and states that "Y'all know if I was in my right state of mind, I ain't have killed the Prof, yo".
The OCF (Original Core Five) just stood there, absolutely horrified and dumbfounded as the Dream Team stated their objective and a few words were exchanged between Cyke and Beast, and then Beast and young Scott, and then finally Scott and Scott which were all insightful dialogue exchanges. The only people who joined the recruitment were Emma's creepy triplet apprentices whom no one is going to miss anyway. As Cyke gives some last-call announcement, an unexpected individual steps into the spotlight and declares that he will join the Dream Team. AND IT'S NO OTHER THAN THE YOUNG WARREN A.K.A ANGEL OF THE OCF!
Suffice to say, Jean does not react well to this.
She freaked the fuck out about ut and used her telepathy to manipulate him to stay, so Emma had to discipline her the hard way. Once the dust of that has settled, Kitty made Jean promise that she will never dig through people's thoughts again or lose her shit. Jean acquiesced and all seemed to be right again. Now the OCF with Kitty and Wolverine are going to the city to stop Mystique from her own ongoing clusterfuck but they were interrupted by the Avengers' timely appearance.
Alex and Scott had a nice brotherly moment, whilst Wolverine and Captain America exchanged some arguments in the background regarding whatever is happening in the city. Jean's attention turned to Scarlet Witch (whom they cannot believe is now an Avenger) and as she read her mind, she gets this shocking news of her life which she did not react well to...again.
But the gravity of this revelation is a hefty one so I think Jean's second freak-out was justifiable. It was tough for her to learn that the woman standing before her just committed mass genocide on their own people. After all, this young Jean has not been hardened by her adult experiences in the future yet. This is a teenager who lived in an idyllic time when she's still young and hopeful enough to believe that things for mutants can never get worse. In light of recent events, discovering who she becomes (the Dark Phoenix) and what happened to Scott, the boy she loves, when he became a man was rattling enough. Losing a friend like Warren because of her own damn fault made her guilty. And now she learned about the mutant decimation which is the most bitter pill anyone in her already vulnerable position can swallow. Once again, we have young Jean Grey going ballistic. They eventually did get her to settle down but Jean was adamant in making Scarlet Witch guilty which was a mission accomplished. I feel bad for the both of them in this situation.
The OCF with Kitty and Wolverine travel in the Blackbird to confront Mystique even though Captain America was adamant last issue for them to stay low and barricade themselves in the school so the Avengers can take care of business. They got to the site and Jean was able to handle the camouflage for at least a good ten minutes before she failed and got them almost shot down by the police who were guarding the place. Mystique after all had Lady Mastermind disguise them as the OCF while the three committed their felonies so as far as the human agencies are concerned, the OCF are the main suspects and have to be apprehended. They got back into the Blackbird safely and now know where they should be heading after Wolverine caught scent of their targets. They start talking about Alex Summers' speech in the news about the use of 'mutant', claiming it should officially be a "hate word", a derogatory term that should never be used so casually ever again. Alex argued that they are all humans and so mutants should not define themselves based on their genetic distinction and focus more on their identity as part of the human race, even though they are the more evolved species. It's a great thought but Kitty justified that such a line of thinking does not resonate with her.
The real centerpiece of this collection was all about OCF, Kitty and Wolverine against Mystique, Sabreooth and Lady Mastermind. It was really amazing to see the OCF hold up well on their own even though they did poorly during their Danger Room simulation with Kitty. That goes to show that when it came to actual combat, these kids were well-trained by the professor and were coordinated enough to mix up their fighting strategies, especially Hank and Scott who really shone during their fight scenes. Their coordination and camaraderie were so nice to read, considering that their present-day counterparts are completely hate each other. It's great to see their teenage versions being able to fight together and enjoy themselves in the process. I'm so relieved that Jean just faked her meltdown because seriously, let's put the brakes on those freak-outs. It also looked as if Jean is learning and taking things in perspective better which is good for her and bad news for someone like Lady Mastermind who expected she could beat her just because she was young. Even teenage Jean is a force to be reckoned with. The tonality of the fourteenth issue was quirky and humorous. There was little seriousness all throughout which helped me enjoy the physical confrontations among the mutants. There are comedy gems too; notably Jean making Sabretooth whine in pain as he lay on his back defeated (very immature but it made Logan smile); then there's Bobby throwing a snowball on Thor's face to ENsure he wasn't just another illusion Lady Mastermind created to divert them as she escaped. The humor is well-done; campy enough to be entertaining but not too much that it creates a dissonance in the storytelling itself. I think Bendis has been consistent, and it keeps me invested on the characters.
David Lafuente is the guest artist for the standalone issue #15 which was a break from all the crazy yet still fun developments that we had been subjected to so far. Lafuente's visual style is rendered memorably enough featuring characters who are drawn very stockily as oppose to lithe and pretty. I actually like that he drew their bodies like this. As a full-figured woman myself, it's nice to see some more realistic depiction of body types. As for the story itself, it's rudimentary and cute which is actually a relief, if you consider that issues #11-15 have been collected as the third volume of this series in trade paperback and the first three issues alone have been...intense. And when I say "intense", I meant that it featured young Jean Grey's now legendary meltdowns for Marvel Now! So I suppose it was nice to get this standalone that would allow any traumatized readers to recuperate from the clusterfuck of the earlier installments. It was also very reminiscent of the kind of material Jeff Parker indulged in during his X-Men: First Class run where we got to see the OCF act like normal teenagers with normal problems for once.
The cover says it all even though I was by now wary because they tend to be misleading, exaggerated red herrings of the sort. This time, however, the cover depicted exactly what happened in this issue. Yes, young Jean Grey and Hank McCoy get their flirt on and share a first kiss. It did make me warm and fuzzy a bit. They're such darlings and seeing them hook up like that reminded me of Chris Claremont's stint in X-Men Forever where the adult Jean and Henry also get their flirt on and became short-lived lovers. It's pretty nice although just like back then, I hardly took it seriously. I guess in my heart of hearts, I think Scott and Jean are meant to be together. Even if I was a more hardcore shipper, I still wouldn't be threatened by this development. The issue ends with Jean looking at the wedding invitation of her future self with the future Scott which she actually kept hidden under her bed. What does this all mean? She looked glum as she examined it again. Could she be feeling guilty about kissing Hank knowing she was going to be with Scott in the future? I felt like she kissed Hank to prove a point to herself that she can change her future now that she has a chance to. She doesn't have to end up with Scott because she saw the pain and misery of that relationship; how much they struggle but keep falling apart as a couple. As a teenager who became privy to her adult life, Jean may be less inclined to consider being with the Scott she knows now, not after seeing what that boy becomes in the present; a man she has no affection or sympathy for. But que sera sera, no?
Overall, the third volume of the series Out of their Depth is my most favorite collection so far!