Bendis slows the pace down as Jean has nightmares, Scott struggles with his new surroundings and Warren gets something to do (finally).
All-New X-Men #6
All-New X-Men has been rocketing along at a great pace. This is due to the combination of the hyperactive release schedule and the taut storytelling of Brian Michael Bendis’ first arc. So it is a nice change of pace to have an issue focused more on character than plot. Bendis delivers one of his familiar talky scripts and it is a welcome deviation. Of course the title has been full of Bendis’ trademark chatty style, but it has been a while since the book has taken a breath. The plot still moves forward though as Bendis puts new players on the board and negotiates new directions for others, but it is secondary to the time spent with the characters.
The focus of the book shifts somewhat away from Jean Grey and puts the spotlight on Scott Summers. Of course Jean still has a lot to do in the book, but it is nice to see Bendis move to another member of the original five. However this isn’t to say that Jean isn’t as entertaining as ever. She has begun to have nightmares that deal with the important relationships of her life. Cyclops, Wolverine, death and the Phoenix are all depicted. It is an unsubtle, but welcome nod to the fans and the Phoenix tease is a nice touch. But it is the rest of her time in the issue where Jean, and more importantly Bendis, shines. She is still dealing with her newly discovered telepathy and without Professor Xavier she finds help in Kitty Pryde. As stated in the last review having Kitty become the responsible adult is a great idea. Not only does it show long term fans how far Kitty has come, but it allows for a unique dynamic that Bendis can exploit. The fact Kitty mentions to Jean that she used to look up to her is a nice moment between these two characters. Bendis also takes no time in putting Jean in charge of the original five. Storm is used to great effect in that moment and the reasons Bendis gives for Jean becoming the leader make sense. Jean’s role in the book has been succinctly defined in this scene and her future friendship with Kitty is certainly one to watch.
But it is Scott who gets the better material. The scene in which he walks into the cafeteria and is greeted with hostility is well executed and quickly shows how the young Cyclops isn’t coping with his new surroundings. He tries to escape to clear his head, but this leads him into conflict with Wolverine. These are emotionally charged scenes that really help to expand young Scott’s role in the book. He wants to break free from his future sins by any means necessary. He is a character whose life has always made sense and sees the world in black and white. Now he is in a situation that is quite frankly crazy and therefore he must take charge of it just like he always has. Bendis looks set to really go the distance with young Scott as he sends him down a darker path. From his script Bendis demonstrates a great understanding of the young mutant and his feelings towards his predicament. Scott’s narrative has the most potential in terms of emotional complexity and easily the most entertaining aspect of this issue.
It isn’t all about Scott and Jean though. As Angel gets some much needed attention in a scene that doesn’t go the way you might expect. Yes young Warren has questions, especially about his future self’s metal wings, but it ends on a light hearted note. It is nice to see Bendis define distinct paths for the original five as it allows each character to have a journey that means something to them. Granted we have yet to really see Iceman’s set up yet, but for the most part Bendis is doing great things with these five mutants. Having them return allows him to also get to the thematic core of the X-Men. Yes the X-books have always dealt with themes of bigotry, acceptance and celebrating the different. But at the same time they have been about dealing with the experience of being a teenager, especially in the early days. Therefore the decision to bring back the original five allows Bendis to explore this theme, which he does this issue as Angel searches for himself, Jean deals with her own maturing powers and Cyclops copes with being an outsider. All are classic analogies for the teenage experience that the superhero comic has always handled well. Bendis knows this and exploits it to great effect.
As for his actual script, Bendis does a great job with his dialogue. The only problem being some forced humour as Cyclops deals with being in a different time period. But it is David Marquez that really tells the story. Filling in for Stuart Immonen isn’t an easy task, but Marquez is an excellent character artist and this is what a script like this needs. His facial work is excellent and he delivers some really expressive pencils. The whole “baby face” comment to Jean is in the art before Kitty actually says it. These original five do look younger in Marquez’s hands. His Cyclops is a great and he manages to sell the young mutants plight even though Scott is wearing his trademark ruby glasses. The limited action beats are also well rendered and nicely composed. Cyclops blasting Wolverine is a striking image, but so is the sight of present day Angel. Marquez fills the book with great imagery.
So, issue six keeps up the quality the title has been enjoying. It may have slowed down in pace, but the issue is filled with a wealth of character work by both Bendis and Marquez. It is an issue dealing with the melodrama the X-Men are known for, but it is handled in such a way that it never feels overplayed. This script is easily one of Bendis’ best so far and this is due to the love he clearly has for these characters. The situations the characters have been put in are engaging and have a lot of potential. The cliff-hanger adds a classic enemy into the mix, which looks set to be another great idea from Bendis. This title is not only a great read, but it is also a celebration of the X-Men and this issue is no exception.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|BExcellent art and character work. The script is engaging and the overall plot is progressed.||The forced humour doesn’t work at all.|