As the post-“Secret Wars” series continue to roll out (despite the lack of “Secret Wars” actually concluding), the X-Men titles are starting to fill out, hinting more and more about just what happened between “Uncanny X-Men” #600 and now. Dennis Hopeless, Mark Bagley and Andrew Hennessy have inherited the “All-New X-Men” title, and — while they’ve lost one main character and added a couple of new ones — it’s the book that’s the most unchanged. It’s all the more perplexing, then, that “All-New X-Men” #1 devotes so many of its pages to re-establishing the cast.
Most of “All-New X-Men” #1 reintroduces the previously existing members of the series (the younger versions of Angel, Beast, Iceman and Cyclops, plus Wolverine/X-23). This is all the more ironic when you consider the new additions — Kid Apocalypse and Idie — barely get any panel time. Kid Apocalypse gets to wrestle an alligator in one panel, but otherwise they’re delegated to showing up in the background and a couple of non-descript lines of dialogue. There’s not a lot new being given to us either for most of these characters. With the exception of Cyclops, the only revelation so far is that Beast has created a TARDIS that looks like a trailer but is really powered by a Bamf named Pickles.
To be fair, the one plot thread in “All-New X-Men” #1 wraps around younger Cyclops. As with in “Extraordinary X-Men,” we’re getting hints of what happened to the older Cyclops, with greater doom and negativity surrounding his actions. Along those lines, Hopeless has a good idea that there would be Cyclops-inspired mutants acting out and attacking in older-Cyclops’ name. I like the concept of there being copycats who are escalating the violence and that they’ve become a real threat in human/mutant relations. It’s a good usage of the new mutant status quo in the Marvel Universe.
On the other hand, Hopeless also seems to be willfully ignoring or at least setting aside the bigger shift for mutant kind when it doesn’t fit his plot. Though the other books all talk about the toxicity of the Terrigen Mists and how mutants themselves are not only numbered but mostly gone or in hiding, these ideas only pop in when it’s convenient. Iceman using his powers blatantly in public is shrugged off as being in a good city, and Kid Apocalypse’s arms wrapping around a gator are similarly ignored. For a phenomenon that seems to be all over the planet and slowly killing mutants, that hasn’t stopped Cyclops-wannabes and the cast of “All-New X-Men” in general from bouncing around without a care in the world. This book seems to exist off to one side from what’s been established up until this point, until it’s needed for a minor plot point.
Bagley and Hennessy’s art in “All-New X-Men” #1 is exactly what you’d expect from this duo. Characters are drawn in Bagley’s trademark style; slender bodies, tight hair styles for most characters and a certain perkiness to everyone. Bagley likes close-ups on faces to bring expressions to life, and the panel-to-panel progression is smooth and easy to follow. I did find myself particularly liking how Bagley put the Cyclops X mask on the wannabes; it’s both recognizable and slightly odd, which is exactly what Hopeless’s script seems to aim towards. The only part where the book falls down a little bit is when Cyclops finally uses his power; for a moment getting its own splash page, it feels curiously muted and lacking in any real visual power. If anything, it comes across more as a coloring trick from Nolan Woodward.
“All-New X-Men” #1 feels like its priorities are misplaced. This isn’t a very riveting first issue; if this was a brand new cast of characters, it might be more understandable, but it’s really just business as usual. Right now, “All-New X-Men” #1 feels like it’s coasting on good will to have readers come back. There have been enough other X-Men titles cancelled in recent years, though, that it’s a dangerous assumption. Here’s hoping for something with a little more pep next issue.