The solicitation for All New X-Men 31 suggested that Iceman would finally have his chance to unleash himself, yet he barely had anything to do in that issue. The previous issue had him surrounded by Moleman’s minions in the Ultimate Universe and it cut away before he started to fight back. Finally in today’s entry, Iceman unleashes himself. That’s why you can’t rely too much on solicitations – they frequently mislead readers or get things wrong. Oh, and All New X-Men 33 is kind of awesome.
Being the third issue where the Original 5 team is stuck in the Ultimate Universe, the plot is starting to pick up. In the last issue all five members were spread over the alternate Earth. This issue is similar, showing each characters’ situation separately. Iceman’s scene is the main source of action, having him take inspiration from his older selves to beat down on Moleman’s minions with Ice Hulks. It’s a fun sequence that finally gives Iceman some dignity after being little more than a joke for most of this series. It also takes up a full 6 pages, making his segment almost as long as Jean Grey’s. Beast’s scene only takes up 2 pages, but accomplishes a fair amount when he personally meets Ultimate Doom, who shows genuine interest in their home universe. Could this be a teaser for next year’s Secret Wars?
X-23 and Angel meet up near the Ultimate Universe’s version of the Weapon X base, where she quickly figures out that something isn’t right. It shows a touch of her intelligence and environmental awareness. Jimmy Hudson also shows up, and the meeting is … confrontational. The scene takes up 5 pages in total, and directly establishes further differences between main universe mutants and Ultimate mutants without wasting time. And then there’s Jean Grey’s scene which takes up the rest of the issue. It doesn’t do as much to tell new information as her scenes in issue 32, but it further explores her emotional state from being in another dimension.
There’s a lot to like about this issue. First and foremost, it’s fun. Both Iceman and Beast find themselves in intense situations that are fairly enjoyable to read. The potential conflicts between the two X-Men teams might not go anywhere, but the tension is still exciting. The humour spread through the issue generally works, from Iceman’s battle quips to the brief interactions between Jean Grey and Miles Morale’s friend. But the drama of being trapped in another world and the team slowly recognizing that is the true draw to this story.
Brian Michael Bendis is doing a great job at introducing the team to a Universe he helped create, without trying too hard to sell the Ultimate Universe to non-readers. It’s a good exploration of how, while the X-men might have it rough in the main universe, things could be much worse. He also seems to be getting X-23’s voice better with time, and showing her thinking her way out of a fight is an added plus.
The art by Mahmud Asrar is appealing. Iceman’s battle is complete with all sorts of underground monsters in the background, displays of his ice powers and background details of the abandoned sewers that Moleman occupies. When he emerges to the surface he starts melting a bit, adding to his comment that it’s hot out. Both Jean Grey and X-23 show a wide range of expressions, from X-23’s challenging glance when facing down with Jimmy Hudson to her inquisitive look when trying to figure out what’s going on. Jean has a bit of a playful look when joking around with Miles’s friend, but displays more hopelessness and regret when opening up about her venerability. The environmental detail in both Doom’s castle and the old Weapon X base are appropriately creepy.
This is my favourite comic of the week, although considering I only picked up 4, there wasn’t too much competition numerically. It’s a fun comic about 5 teenage superheroes lost and separated in another dimension as they learn how things are even worse than on their homeworld. Everyone feels in-character, and the build-up is exciting without going overboard. Whether you’re an X-Men fan or an Ultimate Spider-Man fan, this is worth picking up.