We all grow and change as we get older, shaped by the sum of our life experiences. It's common to read interviews where someone is asked what they wish they had known when they were younger, or what advice they would give their teenage self. What's less common is to consider how the teenager would view their adult self, and what they would make of the choices and actions that had led them to this point. This generational conflict, this theme of opportunities missed and optimism replaced by pragmatism, has been at the heart of one of Marvel's longest running X-Men storylines.
In 2012, Brian Bendis launched his All New X-Men run with a storyline in which Beast brought the original five X-Men forward to the present day, allowing these teenagers to see where the intervening years had taken them. The main goal was to try and influence the adult Scott Summers by showing him how far he had come from the by-the-book leader that fully believed in Professor Xavier's dream. As a concept, the idea had undoubted potential, but, unfortunately, the execution has too often been lacking. It seems like the original five's time in the present is finally coming to an end after six years, which makes this the opportune time to look back at their run and consider their success.
The teenage X-Men were recruited just after the events of Uncanny X-Men #8, published in 1964, or approximately 12 years ago in Marvel time. Their reaction to the present day was an interesting one, as they not only came to terms with how their own lives turned out, but also how the X-Men and the livelihood of mutants in general had changed. These initial moments -- when the students were confronted with such far-reaching changes -- were undeniably effective, with Bendis effectively mining the comedic and dramatic potential.
For teenagers who were still defining who they wanted to be, both as X-Men and as people, arriving in a future where their destiny seemed preconceived, was an almighty shock to the system. This was doubly true for Scott Summers, who had to deal with the ramifications of his older self's actions and ponder why he ended up taking a path that seemed so contrary to his beliefs. The encounters of other members were arguably just as interesting. Angel realized that his older self was essentially a blank slate, Jean found that she had died and Beast confronted the fact that he had mutated even more over the years.
So far, so good. But where their tale differed is that it wasn't the standard comic fare of visiting a strange future and returning to the present, with memories of the event slowly fading. Instead, the young mutants decided to stay. While the students' desire to 'fix' their futures might have been understandable, their older counterparts seemed all too relaxed about their staying in the present. Jean's attempt to mentally force Warren into staying on multiple occasions also seemed to be glossed over by other characters too readily, with her character frequently being portrayed in an unflattering light.