“All-New X-Men” #32 goes dimension-hopping and drops the time-tossed X-Men plus X-23 onto a strange, yet very familiar world in this story written by Brian Bendis and drawn by Mahmud Asrar with colors from Marte Gracia and letters by Cory Petit. Actually, it is less “dimension-hopping” than simply dimensionally displaced. As has been revealed elsewhere and shown on the cover, the All-New X-Men meet Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man, on Miles’ home turf: the Ultimate Universe.
Having set the precedent for the main Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe to cross over in the “Spider-Men” series, Bendis simply treats this as naturally as it should be handled. Miles, being considerably more affable than some other Ultimate Universe residents, makes the best interface for the X-Men, except only Jean Grey makes introductions. Bendis scatters the rest of the team (minus Cyclops, who is out in space with his father) across the Ultimate Universe in what is ultimately a fun story, but not a particularly memorable one as pieces are slid across the board and scenarios are set up. Bendis focuses on character, including Beast, who is dropped into the Ultimate Universe facing a pair of sharks. In this instance, in particular, action is sacrificed for story. It plays to Bendis’ strengths and provides an entertaining read, but does little to entice the reader to emotionally invest in Hank McCoy.
Mahmud Asrar is afforded the luxury of every Marvel artists’ dream gig, as Bendis serves up one appealing visual after another for his artistic collaborator. From sharks underwater to dinosaurs in the Savage Land, a football game interrupted by X-23 and Ultimate Amadeus Cho’s lab, Asrar proves his mettle in the Marvel Universe, Ultimate and otherwise. He doesn’t skimp on detail, and masterfully sculpts emotion on the faces of all the characters in “All-New X-Men” #32. Amazingly, the artist is able to transcribe expressive gestures from Miles that help communicate his emotion despite the lack of expression through the mask just as easily as he manipulates the shape of Iceman’s eyes to convey the range of emotions running through Bobby Drake as he encounters a fantastic subterranean denizen.
Marte Gracia is the perfect match for Asrar, as the two artists mesh nicely, each amplifying the others’ strengths. The pinnacle of this issue, however, is the summary of Miles Morales’ life as Jean Grey works to understand her surroundings. If anyone asks who Miles Morales is (or what his relationship to Spider-Man) is, this one spread covers it all with a jaw-dropping collage of black, gray and red images. “All-New X-Men” #32 is worth the price on the cover solely to get the one-page
The issue provides Asrar with a chance to stretch a little bit and gives Bendis more than enough time to establish directions for his characters, but this issue feels light on action. X-23 is involved in the most active part of “All-New X-Men” #32, while the other characters have nice movements in their personal narratives. While I can appreciate what Bendis is attempting to accomplish, Miles Morales steals the spotlight and the All-New X-Men feel like supporting characters in their own book. Hopefully next issue balances out a bit now that the base introductions are complete.