Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagley’s “All-New X-Men” #7 is an odd comic. Cyclops was kidnapped in the previous issue by Toad, and this new installment continues that storyline even as it spins out of the X-Men’s fight with the Blob in Paris. It tries to mix mental health issues with France’s catacombs, but it never quite comes together.
I appreciate that Hopeless is trying to do something different here. After all, one of the big thrusts of the first story arc involved the legacy of the “adult” Cyclops and the way his actions and death would have affected other mutants. That’s picked up again here with Toad, who has become increasingly unhinged ever since the discovery of the M-Pox and his departure from the Jean Grey School. It’s intriguing that he sees the teenaged Cyclops and jumps to the conclusion that destroying him will somehow undo all of the bad things that’s happened to both Toad and the world at large, though he makes some seriously large leaps of logic even for someone who’s supposed to be unstable.
The problem is that there are too many moments where characters either have to be absent or make bad decisions in order for the story to succeed. Wolverine is absent from this issue, so she can’t use her heightened senses to sniff Cyclops out. Beast and the rest of the team have to completely fail to understand the third dimension so that they don’t comprehend why they can’t see Cyclops. Toad’s aforementioned leaps of logic are dubious, even for someone who’s cracking up at this point. The basic idea ultimately gets lost because the path there has major structural issues.
The art is much more consistent, which is unsurprising considering how much Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy and Nolan Woodard have worked together by this point. For instance, look at the panicked expressions on the characters’ faces, the slow visual deterioration of Toad on his video channel or even how Beast comes across very blocky and large compared to his teammates. While I’m not sure that the Paris catacombs are still just coated with skulls these days, the stonework certainly looks attractive under their care. Woodard’s colors help too, giving the underground scenes a wonderfully dingy tint that brings across the lack of light in the enclosed space.
“All-New X-Men” #7 gets a lot of credit for really trying to go in a direction different than characters beating each other up, similar to the way Blob had to point out to the X-Men that they were the ones causing the ruckus, not him. This is a comic that feels like it needs another draft; there needs to be less coincidence or confusion on the story’s part for there to be stronger roadblocks. Not bad, but this had the potential to be so much better.