The original X-Men find themselves stranded on, and spread across, the world of Miles Morales and the rest of the Ultimate Universe in “All-New X-Men” #33 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mahmud Asrar. The situation makes for several somewhat interesting interactions between the characters of two worlds, but not much else, as Bendis’ focus on these introductions comes at the expense of any real progress in the story; progress that would have helped a drifting storyline that has largely been directionless.
Iceman fights the Ultimate Mole Man, The Beast encounters Ultimate Doctor Doom, Jean Grey is still hanging around with Ultimate Spider-Man, and so on. Ultimately, the issue largely reads like an anthology built around a random social experiment; pair up a bunch of seemingly random characters and see what happens. Expectedly, some pairings work better than others. Collectively, the issue feels like Marvel Team-Up meets speed dating; the weaker sequences are thankfully over soon enough, but the better ones don’t get enough page time.
Bendis ironically concocts a story that’s symbolically representative of the series’ overall vibe: scattered and aimless. The X-Men are about as dispersed as they can be, lost across distance, time, and now dimensions, with no apparent resolution, or even the intent of one, in sight. Despite all of the incongruity, though, Bendis manages to keep the story engaging via all of the various character dynamics; there’s an odd kind of appeal to the wandering, snappy nature of the issue that works because Bendis doesn’t make his story too serious, despite the team’s dire situation. Iceman’s line “You have a Mole Man problem!” stands out as genuine humor above the usual banter, and Doctor Doom’s response to The Beast’s trademark quotation is a fair response that doesn’t belie the villain’s stern-faced nature too much.
Asrar keeps the mood light as well, with his usual idiosyncratic panache that complements the story’s tone. His Iceman looks completely like the inexperienced but formidable rookie that Bendis portrays, and his Beast seems perfectly capable of taking on a squad of Doombots solo. X-23 appears to be every bit as grumpy as she’s acting, and that giant underground monster is no less intimidating than one of Jack Kirby’s classics. Asrar employs a pair of double-page layouts in the opening sequence that gives him plenty of opportunity to show just how powerful a young Iceman can be, and he effectively spans both spreads with single horizontal panels on the top half of each page that evoke the more claustrophobic confines of the Mole Man’s underground realm.
“All-New X-Men” #33 has its faults, but Bendis makes it hard to totally dismiss by throwing in enough characterization to keep it entertaining, and Asrar cleans it all up nicely.