In “All New X-Men” #12, Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen continue to raise the bar on what makes this book so fascinating: complicated personal relationships with the very odd wrench of time travel thrown into them. When the Uncanny Avengers (including former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants super villain, The Scarlet Witch) intercept the X-Men and Original X-Men, all hell breaks loose — and with good reason.
Bendis’ continued focus — both on what these young Original X-Men mean to the world and all the people that know them so well — is fascinating. There is brutal emotional resonance in nearly every revelation and it’s hard to blame either side for being confused emotional basket cases. It’s exceptional when a creator can put characters we love in such complicated circumstances that leave them with conflicting feelings (and loyalties).
Jean Grey acts out badly in this issue thanks to the horrific news she keeps learning. It’s clear she’s suffering from some extreme version of PTSD, and it’s hard to blame her. I don’t love this Jean Grey, but I think it’s probably a very accurate and fair extrapolation of what would happen to a young and powerful individual if they found themselves in a future in which they’re dead and everything has seemingly turned to crap — especially if they don’t have the tools to deal with such a thing.
Tossing Jean Grey against Scarlet Witch is rather brilliant, and the painfully obvious parallels drawn between what Wanda did when she said “No More Mutants” and what Scott Summers did while possessed by the Phoenix is utterly fantastic. In fact, it calls everything — both in the past and present — into question in wonderfully explicit ways.
As if all of that emotion wasn’t enough, the scene between Alex Summers and young/original Scott Summers, who now of course feels like the little brother to Alex instead of the reverse, is a gut punch in the best of ways. It’s bittersweet and devastating.
The least interesting stuff going on is the continued side story with Mystique, Mastermind and Sabertooth stealing all the money they can get their hands on. It’s clearly a necessary evil that’s going to pay off down the line and readers get a glimpse of Fing Fang Foom, which is never bad.
Immonen’s art with inks by Wade Von Grawbadger and colors by Rain Beredo is to die for. It’s amazing that he can put all these players in the same scene — and we’re talking current X-Men, Original X-Men, Avengers, and X-Men/Avenger hybrids — and still have it all not only make sense, but look gorgeous. This issue is heavy on emotion and talking heads, with violence only as a byproduct of other more important things going on, but not a moment of it is boring. The violence looks gorgeous as well (especially that full page of the magnificent Fing Fang Foom), but it’s Immonen’s ability to get his characters to emote so effortlessly that continues to stun. Bendis is lucky to have Immonen as this book would risk not succeeding at all with a lesser artist incapable for executing the drama needed. When a huge muscle-bound (in comparison), adult Alex Summers hugs his teenaged brother Scott “Slim” Summers, it’s a reminder of how much these small details matter. Immonen knows it and controls them to absolute perfection.
I was an early skeptic of this title and it has impressed me from go, regularly subverting my expectations. I’m still not sure if it can go the distance (is there a very clear plot strategy here? I hope so.), but from sheer emotional weight alone, “All New X-Men” remains a book that stands out from the pack, and continues to be one of the most beautiful books on the shelf.