As good as Brian Michael Bendis’s All New X-Men has been so far, each issue seems to focus on a completely different set of characters. It’s a risky move when you’re writing a team book and I hope it will feel more focused once Uncanny X-Men kicks off. Despite that, this series has been a pleasant surprise so far.
The first focused almost exclusively on current Beast. The second focused on all five of the original X-Men. The third focused on current Cyclops’s group and the fourth was about … pretty much everyone. Aside from some off-character moments in issue 3 and Bendis unnecessarily humiliating Wolverine, the characterization has been very strong so far. Issue 4 in particular was brilliant, as the original teenaged x-men confronted Cyclops’s team directly. This issue focuses almost exclusively on young Jean Grey and both versions of Beast, and it’s the best issue of the series yet.
For the bulk of the issue, Jean Grey uses her freshly unlocked telepathy to help the two Hank McCoys work together. In doing so, she also learns her entire X-Men history and is potentially changed forever. Both characters are expertly written here … or all three, depending on which way you look at it (having two beasts, two icemen and two angels is going to make describing this series very confusing). Anyway, Kitty Pryde has some decent panel time, and it’s looking like she’ll also be a major character in All New X-Men. There’s also a bit of story development for old Cyclop’s team, further setting up the upcoming Uncanny X-Men re-launch.
There are only two potential problems with this issue. The first is that teenaged Beast introduces himself as Dr. McCoy to Kitty Pryde. I’m not really an expert on the early X-Men days, but was McCoy already a doctor back then? If you know the answer please let me know.
The other problem is a glaring one though – Wolverine suggests that he should simply kill teenaged Cyclops right there. Has he suddenly forgotten everything that Cyclops has done for mutants in the past? Is Wolverine willing to risk space and time simply to stop Xavier from being killed by his former ally? Why doesn’t anyone question his leadership at the school after he openly mentions the mere idea of killing young Cyclops? He’s supposed to be smarter than this, and he opened the school primarily because he wanted teenaged mutants to live normal teenage lives as much as possible. He just feels way out of character here. Bendis’s mischaracterization of Wolverine is my biggest concern for this series so far.
The art in this issue is good. While the comic looks simple at first glance, there is plenty of environmental detail and the character expressions are great. Jean Grey’s awkward confusion inside old beast’s head is amusing. The splash page where Jean Grey learns about her past/future is particularly good, highlighting the most important moments in her character’s history. The only problem is that several of the early pages have confusing layouts – it’s easy to read those pages out of order. Other than that, there’s nothing wrong with this issue’s art. Also Beast has a new look.
Wolverine’s mischaracterization aside, this is the best issue of All New X-Men yet. There’s a strong focus on the original X-Men, especially Beast and Jean Grey, and the direction for this series is perfectly clear. If you like the X-Men or want to check them out, you should definitely pick this issue up.