I find it a rather unusual coincidence that it was only a while back (about three reviews or so ago) when I made a blatant comparison between reading All-New X-Men at its lowest point with that of my experience with some issues of Ultimate X-Men, a polarizing series on its own that one would either enjoy or despise--I don't think there's a middle ground here. I belong in the 'despise' part. I deemed it as the "clusterfuck canon-raping pinnacle of weird-ass shit storytelling" after all. Just after making that unpleasant connection in writing, it occurred to me that the dimension that the OCF and Laura were scattered on is in fact only ONE (I originally believed they were in separate dimensions when it turned out that they were simply in different locations while still within the same dimension). And that dimension in question is no other than the Ultimate one. For some reason, it took me until reaching the concluding issue of the arc to even realize where they were exactly. Miles Morales as Spider-Man should have been a very telling clue but perhaps I was merely too preoccupied with my daydream of never, ever having to read about teen Jean Grey and her oh-so-important character development and insight. I love the kid and all because she contributed to most of the essential parts of the title when it comes to plot and action, but Bendis needs to stop focusing all his time and writing on her alone and delegate some of the awesomeness and page-space to other characters like Bobby, Warren and Hank.
I don't like Ultimate X-Men but the Ultimate dimension as itself would have been an interesting setting to explore for our heroes. But Bends hardly bothered, really. And yet--from what I have seen in the last four issues comprised of this arc, Bendis delivered on just that since separating his characters and working on four locations all at once proved to be of help for readers to get more acquainted with characters-who-are-not-Jean-Grey (will be referring them now as CWANJG in future issues in case Bendis would still insist on making this series painfully all about her again). Granted, the majority of the pages still feature Jean more frequently than characters who are not her, but the others get more stuff to do in their respective scenes as well. I like that Bendis is pairing up Warren and Laura--they sort of remind me of Kyon and Haruhi from the anime/manga/light novel The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya where the boy is adorably clueless at time as he caters to whims and moods of the bipolar girl. I like the idea of this couple and I wish Bendis would take the time to explore the dynamics more as this series inevitably goes on. Meanwhile, Bobby and Hank get to experience some stress and struggle that are directed at them and not merely as remnants of whatever shit Jean got herself into that they have to deal with.
While Hank was abducted by Dr. Doom to become his scientist and help him explore the multiverse, this has given him enough opportunity to see the vastness of the many different worlds in the Marvelverse, and it enthralled him and scared him a little bit too, mostly when he saw for himself that there are other Earths where mutants are more oppressed and defeated. It certainly gave him a better perspective and finally convinced him to do something than just dangle around for the ride. With Scott gone, Hank has stepped forward at last to perhaps fill the leadership hole that he left because at this point Jean is far too preoccupied dealing with her personal issues to wholly function as the glue that holds their group together. The next person to take such a harsh responsibility had to be Hank, of course, and rightfully so, seeing his future self had brought them in this timeline in the first place. Seriously, Hank's issues should have been tackled next to Jean's waaay back.
I do feel like I've been repeating myself with the same observations and insights over and over, I know, but that's only because Bendis has been reiterating the same points himself. The premise for this four-issued arc didn't start out strong but it was interesting and could have been more nuanced with an additional three to four more issues where we might get to see the OCF deal and overcome something as a group and not just solely depend on Jean Grey's functionality to carry them over a storyline which has been Bendis' go-to scapegoat resolution. It had been ripe with many possibilities, to separate the characters in different locations where they can have their own solo adventures. These did happen but were too abrupt to fully form any meaningful development and, as much as I'm abhorred to say, we still spend more time with Jean's scenes than the rest, since hers are composed of how they are going to get out of there. By issue #35, they did find the mutant whose ability is to create portals and didn't have that much of a hard time convincing her to get them all back safely. It was all too neatly concluded, is all I'm saying. Dr. Doom was such a throwaway character here and even Miles Morales was there to be a crutch to Jean.
BUT WHAT IF THEY DIDN'T GET OUT JUST YET? What if they decided they could also make some change in that dimension, sort of like a test run before returning to their actual world and apply the same method, knowing better the success rate of their actions? But what if one of them got killed during their stay in the Ultimate-verse? Like Bobby, for example? That would mean his current self in Earth 616 would expire as well. How will that affect things? What if Laura decided to stay behind Ultimate because she's happier there? Would Warren stick by her or return with the OCF to Earth 616 where he doesn't have a girl he cares about? What happens if two Jean Greys are put together in the same timeline? Will they remain comrades throughout or eventually cancel each other out? How would the X-Men from Earth 616--especially Kitty Pryde--react to this? Would they try finding the OCF or just decide that it's the best thing that ever happened because now they don't have to worry about them running around their timeline? And what if the OCF comes back again, will the X-Men still accept them as their own or completely treat them as eyesores, maybe even become their adversaries in whatever goals the OCF want to accomplish?
We will never know now.
There were just so many missed opportunities for this arc. Bendis should have prolonged the ordeal at least because I would rather get something of a slow-burn story than a quickly wrapped-up one that contributed nothing new to my understanding and appreciation of the characters. There was hardly any real danger the entire time. Bendis did not raise enough stakes and therefore the effect of suspense was diluted. I know for a fact they're going to find a route home in such a short time and that makes me feel like I was cheated on because it's like Bendis is not even trying to encourage me to stay invested on his title. Is big-even crossovers all you're ever good for, Bendis?
God, please prove me wrong soon. I would hate to slowly fall out of love with All-New X-Men.
PASSABLY RECOMMENDED: 6/10