The future X-Men have come back through time to correct the current X-Men’s mistake of bringing the classic X-Men into the present in All-New X-Men #16, the second chapter of the Battle of the Atom crossover event.
Professor Charles Xavier’s grandson Xavier, Deadpool, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Beast, and a mysterious figure wearing Xorn’s mask introduce themselves as the future X-Men team of this current timeline. A healthy — and predictable — amount of doubt and suspicion add to the tension when a sudden loss of control by Wolverine sends the various teams into a ruckus.
In the aftermath, everyone left in the room realizes Jean Grey and Scott Summers have used the manufactured circumstances to escape the premises in the team’s Blackbird.
To go the opposite extreme and bring in an aged X-Men team with a membership made up of some surprise choices, Brian Michael Bendis connects the dots to create the basic and most tenable conflict: The original X-Men must go home. The X-Men of the future are well aware of the consequences, and for the sake of the world and team — hindsight is also 20/20 — the mutants of the future plead to the mutants of the past: Fix this.
And though most of the classic X-Men members have come around and are a little more receptive to the idea of returning to their original lives, it’s Grey who chooses to recruit her fellow teammate Cyclops for an exit. Grey may have adventures and a wedding to look forward to, but it’s her death that keeps her from wanting to returning back through the time cube. It’s a natural instinct to not want to return to a past where she’ll likely have her mind wiped. Without foresight, she’ll be left to fate and her demise.
That she’s unable to use her psychic powers to confirm the identities and motivations of the newcomers is enough reason for her to prolong her stay here in the present.
At first, Grey attempts to convince young McCoy to leave with her, but his fascination with the events forces Jean to call upon the one person she’s been avoiding — Summers. The means by which they distract the rest of the X-Men is dubious — mind-controlled Logan gets thrown like a ragdoll for his troubles — but it’s effective. It certainly displays the sort of Omega-level powers Jean Grey eventually comes into, and her fight for control over herself and others has kicked into overdrive.
Credit Bendis for excellent scripting and dialogue that flows naturally without feeling overtly rote or for the purpose of maintaining a fixed pace. The sequence of story, action, flashback, story, and foreshadowing moves smoothly and expertly from one to another, and Bendis’ crafting of the story doesn’t always require play-by-play narratives — After Scott and Jean leave the rest of the teams hanging, Xavier responds to an unscripted though from Hank McCoy looking longingly into the sky. The unheard thought inferred by the artwork: “I think I made the wrong choice.” Credit Stuart Immonen for being able to add visual story points that complement Bendis’ direction.
However the various members of the X-Men want to avoid their fates, it’s plain to see that Bendis has designed this plotline to include the unavoidable.
It was never meant to be for Hank and Jean, and quick snapshots of important plot details like Jean and Scott holding hands as they run from the building provide ample reason to believe this is the exact moment Jean and Scott begin to fall in love. It doesn’t — or maybe it does — help that the future’s already declared they’ll marry, but for whatever attempts people have tried to keep it from happening, it’s clear Jean and Scott are Marvel’s first couple.
And for what it means to the two time-crossed lovers, the impact on family is tremendous. Bendis is extremely wise, and he shows it by bringing in the couple’s future daughter, Rachel Grey. Whether Cable gets an appearance remains to be seen, but the Summer/Grey relationship has created complex storylines in itself, and Bendis shows he’s the Chris Claremont of this generation by way of creating stories filled with soap opera romance without the fluff. Writing like this is why graphic novels came to be, and Battle of the Atom is shaping up to be a modern classic.
Stuart Immonen continues to supply All-New X-Men with beautiful visuals that capture the intensity and drama of Bendis’ script. Pages are filled — filled! — with panels, and the amount of characters each with their own expressions gives Immonen plenty of opportunities to wow readers. The action sequences are incredible as Immonen has to contend with drawing not only with characters fighting each other, but also characters holding teammates back and trying to subdue the conflict.
To complement Immonen’s pencils, the talented Wade Von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia bring their artistic talents to the table for another awesomely-executed issue. Von Grawbadger’s lines give the artwork definition, and the deep darks give it presence. Gracia’s colors are exceptional, and the care taken in putting the issues together makes All-New X-Men looks like an expensive book — meaning, there’s a polish to it that gives it the impression a lot of money, time, and talent went into the book. Gracia’s technical ability to give the artwork dimension through bold colors makes All-New X-Men one of the prettiest books coming out on shelves.
Fans of X-Men have missed Jean Grey. All-New X-Men didn’t bring her back to life — it brought back through time. In All-New X-Men #16, fans get double the pleasure in seeing the two Greys, displaced yet fascinating. Young Jean Grey is out of place, but she’s the character fans have grown up with. The older Jean brings back memories of the Marvel Girl fans have lost, and seeing her alive and well makes one think what the X-Men universe would be like if she were still around.
It seems, at least for the time being, fans can have their cake and eat it too.