With Marvel NOW! launching a large group of new titles, one of the stranger concepts to show up in the shuffle is almost certainly Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen’s “All-New X-Men” #1, which plucks the original five X-Men from the past and deposits them firmly into the present day. At the time, it sounded extremely gimmicky. But with the first issue on sale this week, it’s in many ways just an extension of the last year or so of the various “X-Men” titles.
“All-New X-Men” #1 picks up almost directly from “AvX: Consequences” #5, which set up Cyclops, Magneto and Magik as a new renegade/outlaw group of X-Men. Bendis has since added one more member to the team, but we get to see the characters in action and exactly what their approach is for how they choose to aid mutantkind. It’s a very familiar set-up, but I feel like that’s deliberate. Bendis echoes the older, classic stories by creators like Chris Claremont as this group swoops in and pulls young mutants to their side. I did appreciate the nod to this being a global issue rather than a local one this time through. Hopping to places like the Gold Coast in Australia or Ann Arbor, Michigan are nice touches, although there’s almost nothing to actually differentiate them from anything else.
We’re also seeing parallels to other stories emerge in this first issue. Beast’s latest predicament is just another prime example of this; in the narration Bendis gives a nod to the idea that this problem is something that’s happened before, but perhaps with a different resolution when the dust settles. All of these echoes to earlier times culminate, of course, in an actual jump into the past for when the core five X-Men were still students under Professor Xavier. In many ways, it makes “All-New X-Men” #1 feel like a “Greatest Hits” compilation. While that pushes a lot of familiar and pleasing buttons, it does make the “All-New” adjective in the title feel more than a little phony as a result. That’s ultimately what I think will be the biggest problem readers may have with this issue; it doesn’t feel new at all. It’s a pleasant opening issue, but there needs to be some more bite in the next installments.
Immonen’s pencils (along with inks by regular collaborator Wade von Grawbadger) look pretty great, as always. Immonen can draw both familiar and new characters in ways that make them stand out on the page, and the smooth lines are always pleasing. When Eva’s powers activate, Immonen and company make it instantly easy to follow, and the attacks from Cyclops’s team in both the Gold Coast and Ann Arbor fairly explode with energy; there’s a lot on those brief splash images, but they’re quite easy to follow. I still can’t decide if colorist Marte Garcia was supposed to change Eva’s hair-color from brown to black halfway through the issue (once her powers activate), but if not it’s at least a minor artistic glitch, and if so it’s an odd physical transformation but still something that readers can roll with.
“All-New X-Men” #1 is a nice enough start, even as it ends up being a bit too familiar. Still, there’s certainly a lot of set-up here for the main push of the series, and with the second issue on sale in just two weeks it will help with the pacing a bit. Still, “All-New X-Men” #1 could benefit from a little more energy and new ideas in the issues to come. How that pans out, only time will tell.