Ever ridden on a roller coaster, an old wooden one, and felt that it might be shaking too much? That this damn cart might go right off the rails at any second and smash into oblivion? Those initial shakes and rattles are creaking through issue 4 of Brian Michael Bendis’ All-New X-Men. Don’t fret, there haven’t been any kind of dangerous shakes, but those initial vibrations that Bendis might lose control of this cart and crash it are very real.
It’s confrontation time in All-New X-Men. Hank McCoy, aka The Beast, went back in time to get the original X-Men of the '60s so that past Cyclops could confront present Cyclops about this mutant terrorist romp he’s on. Finally, these two get to be in the same place at the same time, and the effect is disastrous. Present Cyclops gets a little freaked out by seeing a living Jean Grey as well as his younger self. At first, he’s sure this is a mind trick game from Emma Frost, who continues to be angry with him, or some other powerful psychic. When it becomes clear this is no trick, the battle rages on.
On the side of the past X-Men, questions abound. Past Cyclops has no idea why his present self is acting so foolishly (neither do any of us, to be honest), Jean almost has an aneurysm as her untapped psychic powers come on full blast in the future, and the rest of the past X-Men have their own questions. Why is present Iceman looking so weird, why is present Hank dying and, above all else, why the hell is anyone from X-Men of the future kicking it with Magneto? As these questions begin to resolve themselves, past Hank McCoy thinks he may know why preset Hank is mutating again. The issue ends with our furry blue Beast going into cardiac arrest.
Lots going on here and Bendis doesn’t seem to have control over it. Too many loose ends, too many ways this could effect all the continuity of the Marvel Universe. Part of the problem is the whole time travel thing. At some point, Marvel decided that time travel would no longer create a new timeline or affect anything - it was just to be used as a plot device. Bendis takes full advantage of that here, and the load he’s trying to bear is way too much, which causes All-New X-Men to feel like it’s losing control. What will make or break this time travel plot is how Bendis wraps up the arc. If Bendis can work through all of these issues and pull together a satisfying ending then great, if not, All-New X-Men could join the other mutant titles as just another convoluted X-Men series.
As always, Stuart Immonen’s art is first rate. First and foremost, I enjoy how he draws all the modern X-Men and surroundings in a very modern style, but gives the past X-Men he gives a very Silver Age feel. Making that work isn’t easy, and Immonen executes it perfectly. Outside of his obvious skill with human forms and action scenes, Immonen knows how to use panel placement for movement and impact. The battle in All-New X-Men #4 is not just technically wonderful as far as the pencils go, but the various ways each panel is laid out heighten the entire story.
All-New X-Men is still a top-notch book with great art. I just hope Bendis doesn’t crush his new creation under the unbearable load of time travel.
(3 Story, 4 Art)