Both this and Monsters Unleashed 2 released this week, and this is the only tie-in I planned to read from the start. It’s named after the only X-Men team book I’m still reading right now, it focuses on my favourite member of the team (All-New Wolverine), and it properly reunites her with Gambit for the first time since her solo series from back in 2012.
All-New X-Men 1MU is for the most part a good comic. Written by Jeremy Whitely, it takes place in New Orleans and the surrounding swamps during Mardi Gras. Most of the teenaged X-Men team spends the comic at the festival, having fun in a variety of ways, while Laura steps out into the swamp to meet up with Gambit and track down some sort of man-eating creature in the swam. The story itself is entertaining, and it quickly gets out of control when a monster lands not far from their location. Without spoiling what happens in the swamp, the monster eventually attacks New Orleans and involves the rest of the team.
As for Laura’s characterization, it’s the best we’ve seen in the last year outside of All-New Wolverine. Of course that in itself isn’t saying much. There’s one line of her internal narration that says her personality is very much like Logan’s, which is very wrong, but otherwise her internal narration works. Her dialogue sounds much more like herself than the valley girl in Ghost Rider and the … I’m not even sure how to describe her dialogue in the current All-New X-Men run. The banter between Laura and Gambit is entertaining, and it also shows how much she’s changed since they roamed the world together in the Marjorie Liu solo run. During the first half of the comic though, she makes an uncharacteristic dumb mistake, where she wades in the swamp and her heightened senses somehow can’t detect an approaching crocodile. These flaws in her characterization only happen in the first half of the comic though. In the second half, she shows a lot of intelligence and leadership when she both figures out how to deal with the monster and leads the entire team through the process. It’s a great moment, and so is the comic’s ending with Laura and Gambit sitting on the roof while everyone else is partying. Gambit sums up how he feels about Laura growing up from her more depressed days, and they end up throwing around a couple jokes for a nearly perfect ending.
The art is handled by both Carlo Berberi and Ron Lim, and their styles are similar enough that you can’t tell when one begins and the other ends. Either way, it’s a simple look that feels a bit like the 90’s, but mostly in a good way. All the team members look like they’re teenagers when they’re in their civilian clothes. The opening pages shows Pickles teleporting through the van in the background, looking around in excitement for a nice little touch. Facial expressions do a good job at conveying emotions, like Oya looking serious when she enters a church for a moment, Beast’s delighted look when he joins a spontaneous band on the drums, Laura’s very focused look when she’s slipping on her Wolverine outfit in the swamp, and Gambit’s grin when he first shows up. The backgrounds show a varying level of detail, but it’s at the very best in the middle of the festival, with decorations all over the place, well-detailed parade floats, and the cathedral in the background that catches Oya’s attention right away. The colouring by Cris Peter is also good. Everything is bright and colourful in the city, while a bit darker and murkier in the swamp.
Although I have a couple complaints about Laura’s characterization in the first half of the comic, this is a good comic overall, and it’s a fun read. Even with the heavy focus on Laura, this still feels like a team book, with a little bit of character focus on Angel, Oya, Ice Man and Beast. It’s also nice to see Evan using some of his energy powers for once, instead of just relying on his morphing powers. The best part is, you don’t need to be reading Monsters Unleashed to understand what’s going on – this comic explains everything you need to know. It feels like an extra long single issue of All-New X-Men, just with much better characterization for Laura (even if it’s not perfect). If that interests you, then pick this issue up.