In the first issue of All-New X-Men, we caught up with the original five X-Men in the months since Secret Wars. Laura and Angel are dating, Beast is driving Evan and Idie around in a van with an amazing trailer, and Iceman found a mutant friendly town and is building them ice sculptures. Cyclops is completely separate from the others, trying to lay low while chasing down a gang that’s calling themselves by his adult counterpart’s name. It’s an interesting situation that balances this series with a bit of the darkness in Extraordinary X-men, while providing a much more optimistic feel.
All-New X-Men 2, written by Dennis Hopeless, picks up exactly where the last issue left off, with the All-New X-Men facing off against the Ghosts of Cyclops. The fight is pretty quick, with the mere appearance of the X-men along with the shock from witnessing a teenager with their hero’s powers scaring the Ghosts away. What follows is a comic that touches on several different plotlines and balancing it well with character development. There are several issues worth of character moments, fight scenes and story development without feeling the least bit clustered.
Cyclops’s conversation with a single member of the Ghosts gang is the real highlight of the comic. It explores both of their mindsets in depth and shows a touch of balance between their viewpoints. Even the reason why Cyclops is avoiding his friends is explored, even if it may just be in his head. The ghosts themselves are given a touch of distinct personalities between them and they could end up being interesting villains down the road, or potentially even uneasy allies. Their powers could combine into devastating weapons if they actually knew how to use them. It’s also nice that the campus police at the start actually act like law enforcement officers, instead of the fascists we often see in X-Men comics.
Meanwhile, most of the other X-Men have some entertaining moments in their downtime. Pickles looks like he could be a fun character. There’s also a hint that Iceman’s mindset might not be as happy as his demeanor suggests, which I’m sure will be delved into at some point in the future. Meanwhile, Wolverine and Angel do what they do best – they track down the rest of the Ghosts gang.
Laura’s characterization here is a bit better than the last issue, and not only does she show off a touch of her growing leadership skills, but getting angry at Angel after he needlessly tries to save her is fitting for her character. Her intimidation lines toward the ghosts feel too much like Logan though; the comic’s only real weakness. I would also think that Warren would be smart enough to realize that if she’s talking instead of screaming, she’ll survive being on fire. Warren’s excessive concern should bring some interesting conflict between them and it’s a sign that their relationship isn’t entirely built on trust, but they seem to trust each other in All-New Wolverine. That’s a bit of a contradiction and for me, it holds this issue back.
The art by Mark Bagley is great for the most part. Although quick, the opening action scene feels intense. The opening battle captures the Ghosts’ powers well, and the damage to the library looks realistic with the number of books, broken shelves and furniture on the ground. The pizza restaurant is complete with a bunch of different looking patrons that are consistent from panel to panel. This kind of environmental detail is consistent throughout the issue, whether it’s in the parking lot, the streets or the jail cells that Cyclops and the Ghosts gang member share. Facial expressions do a good job at conveying emotions, whether it’s Cyclops’s fury in the opening fight, Beast’s annoyed look when Pickles raids the pizza restaurant or the worried look on Angel’s face when Wolverine is angry at him. The colouring by Nolan Woodard is also good. This is a bright and colourful comic that’s appealing to the eye.
Of the two X-Men team books out right now, this is easily my favourite so far. Cyclops’s characterization is fantastic, there’s a good balance between serious storytelling and fun, and the story is moving fairly quick. My only problem is that Laura’s characterization feels off; hopefully that will improve in later issues. X-Men fans should at least give this series a chance.