I agreed with fellow reviewer Kelly Thompson’s assessment that “All New X-Men” #2 was excellent, with lots of fun character interactions between the five young original X-Men and the current-day team. The story felt fresh and graced with joy, and the characterization for the original team felt right — innocent and wholesome without being excessively naÃ¯ve or dated. Unfortunately, “All-New X-Men” #3 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen is a clunky continuation of a strong debut. The character interactions are joyless, the plot drags and the ending is predictable.
If “All-New X-Men” #2 was Bendis at his kinetic and witty best, “All New X-Men”#3 features some of his worse writing. Bendis’ dialogue has an appealing back-and-forth, but lines like Magik quipping, “it’s what you’d call a fixer-upper” ring false for that character, as does Emma Frost using the word “fellas” without irony. It is a common complaint about Bendis’ writing that sometimes all the characters’ voices blur into one, jarring the reader out of the story, and it is unfortunately true for nearly all of the dialogue in “All New X-Men” #3.
The characters “All-New X-Men” #3 spotlights are not at their best, variously appearing self-obsessed, immature and in denial. On one hand, this is exactly why current-day Beast decided on his risky mission. However, it is unpleasant to spend an entire comic’s worth of time in the company of characters that display the maturity level of kindergarteners melded with the neuroses of adults and the power of gods. If Bendis was intent on proving that arrogance cooked with revolutionary zeal is a recipe for disaster, he’s made his point, but it’s an unappetizing dish.
Stuart Immonen has great panel-to-panel transitions, and the only reason “All New X-Men” #3 doesn’t feel any slower is due to his energetic, fluid page and panel layouts. However, when Emma Frost shows up, I didn’t recognize her for a second, because her face and flailing body language make her look like she’s a sixteen-year old girl yelling at her dad, rather than the mature woman that she is.
Even aside from the issue of characters’ voices and appearances, character development stalls or takes strange turns in “All-New X-Men” #3. Magento’s behavior is bizarre, and his psychological age seems to jump between sixteen and sixty. He plays the wise father figure and elder statesman, and then, without stopping for breath in a speech to Cyclops, he morphs into a teenager full of bluster and personal-space invading aggression. This is particularly unfortunate, because the interaction between past Cyclops, present Cyclops and Magneto has potential to be so much more powerful and interesting.
The pacing and construction of “All-New X-Men” #3 feels clumsy, too, and an interlude scene with a separate cast of mostly humans is just a cardboard setup for the ending double-page spread, which is sapped of dramatic power by all the filler that preceded it. Bendis’ narrative requires that the entire cast will inevitably converge, and when that happens, I hope that “All-New X-Men” finds its sweet spot again.