In “All-New X-Men” #3, young Cyclops continues to inadvertently cause some headaches for the time-displaced X-Men, while the older (and dead) Cyclops does just the same thanks to the Ghosts of Cyclops gang. Likewise, Dennis Hopeless carries on the saga of the original X-Men stuck living in their own future, but sidesteps all of the headaches and potential time-travel paradoxes to focus on a young group of heroes who are establishing a comfortable new status quo in an unfamiliar time. Instead of space battles or off-the-chart superhero throw downs, Mark Bagley and Andrew Hennessy render a simple but engrossing three-way standoff between superheroes, bad guys and law enforcement that gives the issue a refreshingly approachable atmosphere.
When the X-Men aren’t facing off against a mutant street gang, they’re enjoying pizza, tooling around Scooby Doo-style in their retro van and interacting like true friends, not just teammates. Hopeless brings a sense of optimism to the team that has been lost over the past few decades. Hopeless makes sure readers remember these characters are people, not just costumed superheroes, and brings a likeable feel of family and camaraderie that’s rarely been seen since the Chris Claremont era. In place of posturing and macho displays of power, punches are only thrown when necessary, and teamwork is evident when they are.
Hopeless also brings out a genuine sense of tension, playing on the uncertainties of the Ghosts of Cyclops as they question their own methods during their self-inflicted standoff, as well as the X-Men’s own tentative approach when they try to avoid escalating the situation. The potentially volatile situation escalates steadily as the issue progresses, and Hopeless builds up this tension responsibly; there’s always a sense that any one side could blow the whole confrontation wide open at any moment, but brains ultimately prevail over brawn for all parties involved. A battle does indeed ensue, but it’s an intelligent one rather than just another mindless fight scene.
Bagley and Hennessy are comfortable maintaining the tension in an everyday setting and add to the approachable nature of Hopeless’ story. Hennessy’s inks nicely soften Bagley’s lines and — along with Nolan Woodard’s rich but sedate colors — enhance Bagley’s layouts and compositions. Bagley constructs an effective spread that looks imposing, even while it provides a moment of comic relief (not that any relief is needed from such a pleasant and enjoyable story). Proving himself the veteran artist, Bagley also flawlessly shifts scenes, which keeps Hopeless’ story moving with nary a bump in the cohesion or pacing.
The evolution of young Scott Summers’ character is a key moment in both the issue and Hopeless’ introductory arc. The moment almost seems overly convenient and sentimental, but it’s actually a welcome change of pace from the expected violence. The good guys all win, the bad guys are rounded up and there are no last-minute betrayals or backstabbing in the name of surprise or sensationalism. “All-New X-Men” #3 is a pleasant reminder that the X-Men don’t have to be about revolutions and genocidal agendas; Hopeless and Bagley show readers that the X-Men can be fun, too.