Monday, September 7, 2015

All-New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis Volume 2

It should be no secret by now that I'm heavily invested in the series right from the very start. Everything about this review is bound to be specifically biased, leaning towards the avid fanatic even, so if you have a more objective and different opinion than mine, then please, feel free to NEVER SPEAK ABOUT IT in my presence as long as we both shall live, ESPECIALLY if you have no amount of love to share concerning Brian Michael Bendis' All-New X-Men. If you bash it, I will ignore your existence.

Besides, there's little to no reason to hate this quirky and surprisingly engrossing X-Men title, generally speaking. Bendis has outdone himself with such a kooky concept, and artist Stuart Immonen simply brought the stunning characters to life with his engaging visual work.

I will even go as far as to say that this is my new Tomasi/Gleason's Batman and Robin, a title that eternally remains close to my soul. Much like New 52's B&R, it took characters like the Original Core Five of the Stan Lee X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel, and Iceman) and turned them into very dimensional people whose sentimentalities, frustrations, triumphs and insecurities are worth looking forward to and reading. Consider Jeff Parker (writer of X-Men: First Class) to be this team's version of Grant Morrison to his writing for Damian Wayne during his own Batman and Robin run; they both established the playing fields for their respective titles until their successors (Tomasi and Bendis) came along and even surpassed their original visions of these characters by placing them in more realistic, humorous and emotionally meaningful scenarios that make you appreciate the content of the stories even more. This comparison is adequate and the highest compliment I could give AXNM.

This second volume collects issues #6-10 and the first three issues were more of a slow-burn type of narrative when it came to the pacing and delivery, choosing to focus on individual character moments about the teenage Scott, Jean and Warren. The build-up was worth it, though, because the last two issues (#9 and #10) rewarded us with scintillating confrontations among the X-Men and Cyclops' radical extremists group composed of Magneto, Emma Frost and Magik. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's first talk about the early issues. Now issues #6 and 7 were illustrated by guest artist David Marquez and I enjoyed the composition of his characters' facial expressions, considering the emotional high-point moments these issues touched upon. 

For issue #6, Jean struggles to overcome her telepathic powers and to properly utilize them with the help of Kitty Pryde, while Scott decided to run off for a while and steal Logan's bike as he wandered aimlessly around the city. Elsewhere, perched in one of the skyscrapers was young Warren, calmly having his spotlight to inner-monologue when he gets humorously interrupted by Scott driving off in Logan's stolen bike, and the ground forming a face and burping (Krakoa?). Then, he meets the Warren of that timeline, all metal-winged, Legolas-blond-toting who was far too accepting of him which made Warren readily suspicious, but he followed him anyway as they fly off to spend some time together. It's a simplistic issue with a dash of humor in between which I appreciated. Logan babysitting a young Scott is funny as hell.

Issue #7 was unforgettable because of how it somewhat absolved young Scott's predicament. Desolated, unaccepted and extremely on edge, Scott only wanted to talk to somebody about what he is going through and the only adult who tried to have an honest conversation with him is no other than Mystique. Disguised as Wolverine at first, Mystique picked up young Scott from the bank and then they had a heart-to-heart talk in a park where she tried to explain and contextualize things to him properly. Everyone in this timeline were so busy and caught up in the present-Scott being such an absolute jerk that no one took the time to give this young Scott a chance to hear this side of things and how this affects him greatly. And the villainess Mystique noticed this and helped him, even if she has less than noble reasons to talk to him. Her insights were on-the-mark, though. She argued that the reason none of the X-Men ever tried to kill present-Scott is because they still respected him and all that he has accomplished back when he was their leader. She also assured him that when present-Scott murdered Charles Xavier, a cosmic force took over and compelled him to so she said that he and the Scott of the present, if they were in their right state of mind, will never kill their mentor and father figure like that. She also asserted that even though she had been a bad person for a good fraction of her lifetime, she had great respect for Xavier because the professor had cared about her even whens she's an asshole, and that is why she felt like she wanted to get involved and tell him that he should claim back his leadership status again and prove to the others that he will stop his present self from causing anymore chaos. That's what Xavier would have wanted, she reasoned out. And, for once, young Scott listened and took her advice. When Wolverine found him again, he willingly went back with him.  We also got a nice, touching scene between Scott and Jean.

Issue #8, however, which featured the Avengers. was probably my lowest rated issue yet. For one thing, I feel rather stupid asking this here but what happened to Angel in the current Marvel Now! timeline anyway? I struggled trying to make sense of the vague dialogue exchanges provided by the older Warren. From what I can gather, he's...not exactly a person anymore? He mentioned something about young Warren being an "older model"...what the fuck does that even mean? Is Angel an android now? I'm very, very confused. All I know about Angel are two things: First, he ultimately didn't want to get involved in battles so he created some sort of utopia haven for other mutants who also don't want to have anything to do with the bloodshed and politics. Second, he was operated or experimented on at one point and had his wings chopped off from his back and that was such a depressing turn of events. Later on, Apocalypse provided him with metal wings and from then on he struggled to define what exactly his allegiance to the mutant cause is, as well as his relationship with friends, and his constant search for a singular purpose for existing. That's pretty much what I know about Warren/Angel. Of all the OCF, he always struck me as unknowable and I definitely want to get to know him better. I was hoping this issue would enlighten me but the evasive way the writing dealt with whatever happened to the current Warren boggles the mind instead of clarifying it. I just didn't like that. I did feel bad, however, for the young Warren himself who is scared shitless, reflecting my own confusion over the events.

The only good thing to say about issue #8 is that it's the first time Jean Grey displayed manipulation via telepathy which is pretty scary, and her reckless mental probing and controlling will be visited again in the upcoming issues which were pretty exciting!

The last two issues were revealing. Kitty Pryde, who has taken over the mentor role to help the OCF, trained them in combat inside the Danger Room and the OCF sucked. Jean went inside Scott's head and found out about Mystique. Angel, completely apathetic by now, decided to talk to Beast so he can assess whether or not he should still give a damn about this 'mutant apocalypse' he is beginning to distrust as an exaggeration. Issue #9 ended with Scott and his team of radicals dropping in unexpected in the mansion to recruit anybody who is willing to join his revolution. And this is when things get tricky and suspenseful.

All I can say is that the issue #10 ended with an agonizing cliffhanger and it will definitely make you read the next one, shaking in anticipation, just so you can find out what happens next. I certainly did, and the clusterfuck is just about to begin in an entire new playing field. So, in a nutshell, this second volume of All-New X-Men was more grounded that the first five installments from Volume 1: Yesterday's X-Men, but the last issue in this collection is really a punch in the gut! In other words:


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