Let’s play catch-up.
The original five X-Men (Bobby Drake/Iceman, Hank McCoy/Beast, Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, Scott Summers/Cyclops, and Warren Worthington III/Angel) were plucked from their timeline but modern Hank McCoy in order to help the X-Men of current continuity find their way again. Adult Cyclops had killed Xavier at the climax of Avengers VS X-Men & X’s pupils split into two separate factions, Wolverine’s school and Scott’s school. The original students were brought to Logan’s school, but defected to Scott’s where they thought they were going to be better prepared for the future they had in store for them (also in hopes to change it). That didn’t go so well. As of issue All-New X-Men #31, young Cyclops is gallivanting in space with his father while the other members are stuck waiting for “the adults” to get back from reading Xavier’s Last Will & Testament at the Jean Grey Academy.
It is as perfect a moment as any for something else to go wrong.
There are several great reasons to pick up this issue and all the other issues of this series. A truly paramount factor as to what makes this particular issue work so well is the perfect grasp on differences in character that Bendis has. This is how a team book, especially a team book featuring teenagers, should read. This issue showcases Bendis’ incredible handle with characters as egotistical as Ultimate Tony Stark to characters as insecure as Bobby Drake, and all the varieties in between.
All-New X-Men #31 briefly introduces the readers to Carmen, a mutant whose gift is the ability to open up other dimensions in her abdomen. We don’t get a lot of character development from her, other than her general uncomfortable awareness with a group of mutants, calling themselves X-Men, trying to rescue her. During a school photograph for her marching band her mutant abilities manifest and we see these other alternate dimensions where Spider-Man fights alongside the X-Men, and even Asgard itself (or a version of it?). Even though they had been given strict orders to stay put in the protected area of Canada where adult Scott has located his new Xavier Academy, the All-New X-Men show up right on time. As fellow teenagers they try to relate to Carmen and she is, of course, completely freaked out. Incapable of consoling her, they try to insist they take her away before the cops arrive and in a moment of fear and confusion, her power is used again and readers, and X-Men, are brought to the Ultimate Universe.
Miles’ appearance is on the final panel, which should come as no surprise given that the series’ focus is on the X-Men. The more we understand about who these characters are going into this story arc, the better it will be for the readers. Bendis understands that some people may be joining the party late in order to see what Miles Morales is doing running around with four of the original X-Men and X-23. He does a great job of landscaping the metaphorical yard; he’s trimming the backstory thus far and grooming the action so it can flow quickly, but naturally, into Miles’ story.
Mahmud Asrar’s art and Marte Garcia and Jason Keith’s colors are another driving force in this issue. The group shots of the X-Men, the final full-page panel of Miles meeting Jean, and the scene inside Cerebro are the best examples of their collaborative abilities. Asrar’s art is all about empathy in this issue. He takes the key players and gets the details of their face and properly lays out the panels so that you forget they’re even there. This all helps to emote whatever the character is going through. He pulls this off multiple times; from Jean’s realization of her sudden displacement in time and space to the sparkle in Hank’s eye when he’s on a roll, scientifically speaking. It’s also comforting that Asrar’s teenage women don’t feed into the trend of super-babes and run around with gigantic breasts and hips that don’t lie. Jean and Laura specifically come off as athletic and heroic in their figures, rather than busty supermodels.
This is a great introduction issue to new readers and it’s another notch in Bendis’ belt. Once again he collides two worlds in a way that doesn’t feel cheap or tacky and places real characters in real dilemmas, as well as extraordinary ones. If you missed the issues leading up to this one, be sure to grab them. They are a tasteful and entertaining re-visiting of the classic characters and the events leading up to this story arc are some of Marvel’s best work in years, at least in terms of X-Men.