salinea: Emma Frost, sitting comfortably (chill)
[personal profile] salinea posting in [community profile] comics_reviews_etc


In the aftermath of Avengers vs X-Men, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik and Magneto are hunted fugitives who set themselves up as revolutionary mutants leaders recruiting among the newly powered mutants. At Jean Grey's School for Gifted Student, Beasts is undergoing yet another transformation - one he thinks will kill him - and decides that the best way to deal with the current Cyclops is to travel back in the past to bring the young versions of Xavier's students to confront Cyclops.



When Bendis was announced as the new main writer on X-Men my first reaction was "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" (and I've seen many other X-Men fans react the same way). It's not that I hate Bendis' work - it's that it doesn't feel to me like his strengths are well adapted to X-Men's intricate and colorful continuity, thematic depth, and importance of faithful characterization, distinctive voices and team dynamics. Also I really liked what Gillen was doing on UXM and I was sorry to see it cut short.

There was also the premise. While playing our current X-Men status quo as the dystopia and the Original Five X-Men as the horrified visitors from another time is a clever and fitting reversal of classic X-Men stories like "Days of Future Past", it also doesn't seem like a premise that would be good for more than one or two arcs, better suited to a miniseries, which is odd for what is announced as the new X-Men flagship title. It also gives precedence to Silver Age characters over contemporary X-Men - and therefore a set of WASP and mostly male characters over the multicultural and diverse cast of character that's currently the X-Men student body. And considering how long awaited a return of Jean Grey has been since her death in 2004, it feels like a cop out to bring her back as a teenage and much less powerful version of herself.

For the most part, those first 6 issues have laid down most of my worries. They are not without flaws - but they are very entertaining and gripping, and the freshness and enthusiasm of Bendis' writing is immediately felt.

The pacing is breathtaking and juggles with a pretty large cast of characters smoothly, highlighting emotional moments in a suitable dramatic fashion. They are well served by gorgeous art and efficient paneling. This is fun, this is intense, this is melodramatic. All very playing to X-Men's strength. The storytelling is very decompressed but between the quickness of release of the issues and the density of the emotions, it doesn't feel empty by any mean.

The quality of the characterizations is more hazy. Jean Grey and Kitty Pryde stand out as the better written. Magneto also has his moment of excellent writing when he scolds Scott in a bitter reflection of his own past. Most of the rest of the cast - Angel and Angel, Iceman and Iceman, Cyclops and Cyclops, Beast and Beast - are there and well done enough but without being stellar. Storm has one brilliant moment early on, but then is much too little assertive faced to Wolverine later on. Wolverine himself feels a bit too close to a caricature of himself. Or perhaps threatening to murder children regularly really how he should be behaving since it happens so frequently under so many different writers, in which case I can't believe why anyone allows him to stay at the school or how he can be legitimately seen as Xavier's successor as the leader of the school.



The ones who get the worst deals are Emma Frost - whose arrogance and Boston upper class voice Bendis completely fails to capture - and Magik who barely shows any characterizations. (Then again Magik tends to play it close to the chest, although given her past with Magneto, I would really like to see a scene between the two of them).

I'm also a bit irritated by some of the most gratuitous flourish for drama, such as Beast announcing to the O5 that present Cyclops will cause a mutant genocide - a news that he apparently pulled out of his ass and which nobody calls him out for - or Iceman's clumsy foreshadowing of the time travel story. Most of those happen early on, though, and it feels like as he went Bendis settled more comfortably with the story and the characters and was able to play some wonderful emotional moments like Storm acknowledging her long friendship with Jean with an understated and touching "Very good friend", or Cyclops' befuddlement with bottled water.



Continuity is mostly felt through the art, I feel. The '60s quality of the O5 - the gorgeous spread in which Jean gets an telepathic infodump of her future self life's story. In writing the big, glaring mistake is Jean Grey being surprised to learn she has telepathic power (while Xavier had put blockers on them, she was aware of it), and to a lesser extent the idea that her and Scott were already dating.
On the other hand, the use of the O5 as the fresh, new eyes into X-Men that will lead the reader into a complicated history is a pretty fun and intriguing idea.



Overall and despite those minor gripping, this is an exciting start to the relaunch of the X-Men franchise and I'll be looking forward to what Bendis will bring next, here and in Uncanny X-Men.

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