Graphic Novel Friday: All Now! and All-New X-Men
As part of Marvel Comics’ new Marvel Now! initiative, long-running superhero teams sport new rosters, costumes, and motives. After the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, both teams were left reeling, but it was the X-Men who suffered the biggest loss: Professor X at the hands of team leader Cyclops. No one felt this loss more than Henry McCoy (a.k.a. “Beast”), who was also a founding member with Scott Summers.
Additionally, Beast keeps a secret close to his furry blue chest: he is dying. And as a super-scientist, if he cannot find a cure no one can. Except. What if there was a way for Henry McCoy to consult with the only person who could match his brains? What if Henry McCoy were to enlist the help of Henry McCoy, and what if the only person who could talk Scott Summers out of his murderous funk is Scott Summers? This mind-bending hypothetical kicks of All-New X-Men Vol. 1 (subtitled Yesterday’s X-Men—everything old is all-new again),written by superstar hit-maker Brian Michael Bendis, who left a mountain of Avengers stories and influence to freshen up Marvel’s mighty mutants. With this first volume, Bendis has already crafted what feels like a classic run, where the pages cannot turn quickly enough and the revelations compound.
In order to consult with himself, Beast does what X-Men do: he time travels. In the past, Beast finds the original X-Men and pleads with them to travel to their future to help the X-Men of present day. Plus, two Henry McCoys have a better chance at saving his/their life/lives than one. It’s heady stuff and Bendis wisely skips over the finer details of paradoxes in favor of character moments, where he excels. Beast sees a young Jean Grey, as yet untouched by the Dark Phoenix and her ultimate fate, and marvels at her youth, attitude, and beauty. Of course, yesterday’s X-Men hop aboard with Beast to the present day, where they encounter the all-new X-Men, a team weary from decades of inner mutant battles and a public who hates and fears them now more than ever.
Young Scott is mortified and in disbelief once he sees what his older self has done to mutantkind. Jean has a heartbreaking moment where she, referring to her older and absent self, asks, “Where am I?” Despite Bendis’ sharp and punchy dialogue, none of this emotion would be believable without Stuart Immonen’s artwork. Here, at the top of his game, Immonen illustrates individual faces with true personality—Shadowcat especially shines, wrinkling her nose, furrowing her brow; it’s clear she’s as much an artist’s favorite as she is a fan favorite.
All of the above happens in the first two chapters, and to give any more away would be detrimental to what Bendis has planned. OK, maybe two more things: First, I strongly suggest reading The Dark Angel Saga by Rick Remender because of its ramifications on the character Angel. And second, does anyone else have the sneaking suspicion that the bleak, present-day X-Men are on a collision course to the post-apocalyptic alternate future of Days of Future Past (especially since the new film will focus on that timeline)? Could Scott Summers inadvertently cause this event, and could yesterday’s X-Men be here to prevent that future from ever occurring?
Marvel Now!’s scope is not limited to the X-Men. A new Avengers book by Jonathan Hickman, Jeremy Opena, and Adam Kubert will focus on the gigiantic roster and cosmic ideas, and Omni-favorite Rick Remender pulls a reverse Bendis: he leaves the X-verse in favor of the Avengers in Uncanny Avengers, where Scott Summers’ brother, Alex (“Havok”), must rise from his brother’s shadow and lead Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And if you like time travel, do not miss Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder, where Thor seeks a ghastly foe, the God Butcher, across the distant past, present, and far future. It's the best Thor title in a long, long time (the collected edition releases in June), and Aaron brings humor and unimaginable torment to the usually stalwart Asgardian hero.