After Days of Future Past effectively rebooted the entire series by rewriting the future, the series comes full circle by bringing back a bunch of familiar superpowers in teenage form — Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Nightcrawler, and Storm.
X-Men: Apocalypse trailers begged answers for the questions: Who will join the mutant megalomaniac En Sabah Nur? Who will fight to stop him?
After seeing the movie, I’m prepared to answer those questions with another: Who cares?
X-Men: Apocalypse contains everything terrible about the X-Men movies, turns all of the good into a routine exercise, and spins its way to an anti-climactic finish for the second worst entry in the entire franchise.
Talk about being a shell of its former self — you would think Bryan Singer had hit his stride after releasing back to back critical darlings X-Men: First Class and the aforementioned DoFP.
Ultimate Dr. Doom’s energy blast sure has a lot of kick.
All-New X-Men #35 ended just as Miles Morales launched a sudden attack on Doom only to be countered by a devastating blast.
Issue #36 continues from that super-ultra-combo finisher with a double-page spread of the Doctor surveying his victory. Two sets of X-Men and an Ultimate Spider-Man have been beaten, and Doom’s first act as champion is unmasking Morales.
With Miles’ secret out in the open, Doom threatens to end Spider-Man’s life. But before he can do that, Jean Grey distracts him long enough to psychically wake up her friends. Round two ends just as quickly as it starts with Kitty Pryde attempting to destroy Doom’s armor with her phasing ability. Doom self-destructs, leaving his headquarters wide open for a riot led by one really ticked-off Hank McCoy.
Now that the All-New X-Men, the Ultimate X-Men, and Ultimate Spider-Man have basically won Earth-1610, the only thing left to do is get the Earth-616 kids back home.
Conveniently, the mutant with teleporting powers that started this whole arc appears in their midst and does just that.
So ends this chapter of All-New X-Men, and while it all seems pretty cut and dry, I’m just really glad it’s over. This was probably my least favorite arc of the entire series, and now that it’s said and done — I’m not sure that the last four issues added anything to the mix. Anyone who had missed issues #32-36 could be filled in with a quick synopsis.
The All-New X-Men were teleported to the Ultimate Universe. They fought Dr. Doom. They came home.
We get a few glimpses of alternate universes that might be a precursor to Battleworld, but the arc as a whole was a listless journey through a comparable Earth with very little progression or development for the main story arc or the characters. The only real end result is an angry Hank McCoy who decides it’s time to change the world. The problem I have with that is — McCoy spends the least amount of time out and about on Earth-1610. After landing on a beach, he spends most of the arc in Doom’s house and laboratory.
The prospect of having Miles and the Ultimate X-Men on tap at the beginning of the arc seemed to suggest some major plot points, but All-New X-Men #36 doesn’t even manage to produce any real sparks. Brian Michael Bendis has left a lot on the table for this throwaway side-mission, and there’s a real lack of force that’s permeated the past few issues.
On the art side, All-New X-Men looks good if not great. Mahmud Asrar excels in his action panels with some very epic big-picture stuff, like Jean’s standoff with Doom or the moments leading up to Doom’s headquarters getting destroyed. During conversational frames, the artwork begins to suffer. Facial expressions lack life, and the dearth of detail irons out the pages, making the panels look really flat.
Marte Gracia’s colors are high-contrast and bold, adding some dimension to the faces through shading. I like Gracia’s reds which are un-apologetically bright, and his lighting is top notch.
I’m ready to move on from this arc to the next. With all that’s been announced, I get the feeling like the X-Books are starting to enter another gear. My expectations are tempered, however, due to so many of the arcs ending on disappointing notes. The problem is not so much with the conclusion — it’s how the entire story fails to live up to its promises. With issue after issue leading us down a road that constantly reminds us of the scenery, even a couple of beautiful sunsets are not enough. Fans want to see plot points dealt with, and there’s a lot fluttering around in the wind, and we’re about to pull up into the parking lot any minute now.
First, a few things — one of which I should have pointed out before, but failed to include.
Inside the cover in the credits, you’ll see something that only recently started happening. At the bottom where the creator credits once only mentioned Stan Lee, a new name has been rightfully added. Though we don’t know the full details of the settlement between the Kirby family and Marvel, one thing we know is that Jack Kirby is finally getting creator credit.
That is awesome on so many levels.
The other thing — Chris Bachalo’s name is on the cover, but the art this issue belongs to Kris Anka.
And third — yes, Hank McCoy, Cyclops is right.
Scott Summers’ tried and not-so-true friend finally gets it, and for once, he doesn’t know what to do. It’s a bittersweet moment that’s filled to the brim with history between two characters, one named after a one-eyed mythological figure and the other whose callsign only described his physical capabilities. More on this later.
The plot thickens in Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrates a former X-Man’s house for interrogation, Mystique and Sabertooth are up to something, an advanced Sentinel attacks, and Cyclops declares war!
If you feel a strong sense of deja vu, you’re not alone. Bringing back plot points that have been on the backburner for months, Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW — more like a revisiting than a retread — reminds us what we’ve been waiting for.
Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men squad is the alpha team — the team with the heaviest hitters which is one significant member down since Magneto decided to go off in search of himself. Still, there’s been plenty of growth from even the youngbloods, and Cyclops looks more formidable than ever as a man on fire.
So while new readers jump on for Uncanny X-Men and get acclimated — after Cyclops’ team deals with the Sentinel threat, we’re reminded once again how people feel about mutants — steady readers won’t get much new this issue except for more teasing on what happened to Eva Bell in Uncanny X-Men #17 when she disappeared then returned a bit older.
Emma Frost knows enough about Bell to warrant a “You have to tell him” after Cyclops compliments Eva. There’s a suggestion of romance here, and it’s either a one-sided thing, or perhaps Bell saw something in her time displacement that’s so important, Scott Summers has to know.
As far as scripting goes, Brian Michael Bendis gets a good back and forth between S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill and Bond. Hill is written exceptionally well — she’s manipulative to a point, but she’s still well-meaning, if a bit threatening. As condescending as she gets with Bond this issue, it’s apparent she’s willing to do what it takes to save the world without crossing the line into supervillain territory.
The curtain on what happened to Dazzler is raised, and we see something a bit startling here as Mystique reveals where she gets her Mutant Growth Hormone. The visuals are played up with Mystique storing the illegally obtained substance in a Louis Vuitton bag which shows how far she’ll go to get what she wants.
Chris Bachalo’s pencils are fantastic this issue, though not without flaw. In one panel showing Eva, Emma, and two of the Stepford Cuckoos — all the women have the same face with only their hair and uniforms to differentiate them. Not that it looks bad — Bachalo’s attention to detail and backgrounds helps create some very dynamic panels with devastating spells and destructive explosions opening it up for how epic these battles can be.
And if I can say one thing about the costumes — Goldballs’ retro look is at the same time hilarious and a hot mess. I’m not sure if he’s a parody of something else — maybe on DC as a whole — but he’s basically the team’s de facto comic relief now.
Everything else about this issue is pretty pitch perfect — the inkers’ squad has another member this issue bringing the count to five. Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba all contribute on bringing those penciled sketches to bear with clean lines, dramatic shadows, and darkly dark backgrounds.
In terms of color, Bachalo handled 100% of the work before, but this time we get a few pages by Jose Villarrubia that are reminiscent of Frazer Irving’s filtered green textures. Seeing Villarrubia’s colors — if just for a page or two — on Bachalo’s work makes me wonder what kind of tone an issue would take if someone else was brought in for color. I’m still not totally keen on Bachalo’s choice of hues, but to each their own.
And while I’m not the best at judging at a letterer’s work — Joe Caramagna should be commended for his work this issue. Explosions, laser blasts, and power beams get their own personalities, and it makes the battle sequences feel very epic.
The previous issues with their character sketches were a good detour, but it’s time for the Uncanny X-Men to get back on track. While new readers joining the rest of us will benefit the most this issue, it’s a good reminder for the pull-list subscribers of the particular threads left untied and loose. For some, it’s an “about time” moment when the story they’ve waited patiently (or not) for is finally getting its round.
And while the training is never over — at least from Cyclops’ perspective — it’s time for these kids to use what they’ve practiced. The threat is there, whether it’s S.H.I.E.L.D., the mysterious Sentinel builder, or both, and these X-Men have proven themselves to be more than apt for the task.
Uncanny X-Men #19.NOW (2013)
Words: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olazaba
Colors: Chris Bachalo and Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Joe Caramagna
A few days ago, I imagined what I’d ask Brian Michael Bendis if I could get one question in for an interview.
“What is it about you that Marvel would put their X-Men franchise in your hands?”
Bendis is talented, obviously, and he’s shaping up to be the Chris Claremont of this generation. But that question wasn’t meant to get more information about what we already know — it’s what quality Bendis sees in himself.
What makes him the best man for this job, specifically? More than just work ethic or the ability to meet deadlines — what’s required of the man who would lead the X-Men back to its glory days as Marvel’s most dynamic and storied team?
In the way that Scott Snyder and Batman are tied together, Bendis is now the legal guardian of the X-Men, and after reading All-New X-Men #23, I feel one step closer to understanding why he’s the right wordsmith for the job.