The last issue of All New X-Men saw the original X-Men facing the Purifiers for the first time while trying to protect a mutant from them. That mutant turned out to be an amnesic X-23, Wolverine’s teenaged female clone. This issue officially introduces her to the team, and I’ve been looking forward to this comic since the first teaser image released. It did not disappoint.
For the most part, this series has taken the slow burn approach. The first 8 or so issues were mostly people reacting to the original X-Men appearing in modern times, or them reacting to the world. Now that it’s all out of the way, the pacing for ANXM has increased quite a bit. The first half of this issue is X-23 reacting to her surroundings. Bringing her to Weapon X wasn’t the greatest idea, but she’s sane enough to listen to reason. Her amnesia from last issue is explained in a satisfying manner – it was simply the excessive radiation from the end of Avengers Arena.
I’ve made it no secret in the past that X-23 is my favourite X-Men character, and I was equally excited and nervous to see how Brian Michael Bendis writes her. Her portrayal is fairly good, but not perfect. She uses more contractions and expressions than she used to, and a few of her lines felt way off for her usual perfect English, but I didn’t find myself bothered by it. I was expecting a bit of Bendis speak, so it didn’t bother me as much as it has for some of her fans. She does show some of the personality and initiative she gained through her solo series, while indirectly mentioning some of her negative experiences since then. She seems appropriately distant, yet a little more open than she used to be. The cover is a little misleading in that no official relationship, or even a kiss, actually happen. Instead, Cyclops fancies Laura, who isn’t openly showing anything in return … yet. They exchange the most hilariously awkward hug I’ve ever seen in a comic. Bendis does a good job at establishing a potential relationship between them.
The other characters have some decent moments as well, especially Cyclops. He does a great job at talking Laura down, showcasing his leadership skills along with his more optimistic youth. Kitty and Jean have several good moments together, especially when Kitty encourages Jean to stay out of the child assassin’s head for her own good. The attack on the purifiers is brief, yet fun. Angel makes good use of his flying abilities in one panel. As they have often done in recent years, the Purifiers have some lethal new technology that makes them more dangerous to fight. That’s especially clear with the comic’s ending.
The art in this issue is great, although it’s slightly distracting that it’s done by two different artists. The first artist handles everything at the Xavier school, while the second artist does the Purifiers scene. The background details inside the old X-lab help tell the story. The Canadian wilderness looks great, with the snowy mountainsides and the various trees in the background. Character details are also good, except that X-23’s eyes are supposed to be green. Laura’s hair grows through the issue – a nice touch to show her healing factor in action. But the best panels are in the action scene in the abandoned theme park. There are stained glass windows in the background, some very nice lighting effects with sparks, eyebeams and gunfire. X-23 looks appropriately furious in the fight, and then there’s the look of absolute menace in the last panel.
This isn’t the best issue of ANXM, but it was satisfying. Good action, good character work with the original five and X-23 has a great official introduction to the team. If you’re an X-Men fan and you haven’t tried this series yet, you really should.