Thee Comic Column #34: Bendis’ All-New X-Men

Brian Michael Bendis X-Men

image courtesy of ifanboy.com

When I first heard Brian Michael Bendis was jumping from writing Avengers to X-Men I was pretty interested. However, I learned early on with his Avengers run that I just could not keep up. I’ve gone back and read the first few trades of New Avengers and really dig it, but BMB writes A LOT of the Marvel Universe and I’m weary of books/arcs that are too close to the main continuity, as when you read them you tend to get pulled into crossovers. And although I trust Bendis I don’t 100% trust the overall editorial department at Marvel. Sorry, but I have my reasons, chieft among them dating back to around 2007. At that time I had disavowed crossovers for well over a decade but with all the run-up on Civil War at the time I truly thought things had changed (i.e. the crossover formula: a major, world-or-universe-threatening menace that is defeated in the last few pages of the last issue so that status quo can be re-instated). I decided to give Civil War a chance and though I enjoyed most of it the end left me walking around mumbling the old, “Fool me once,” parable, and that made me look crazy.

I don’t like looking crazy. Not at the comic shop at least…

There is also the little caveat to my love of comic books that dictates that I only have so much space in my head for superhero stuff and so much money in my wallet (though I’m often willing to spend most of that on comics, as long as I have a decent supply of good beer in the fridge). I know the superhero stuff has come a long way. I know an awful lot of it is amazing, especially thanks to a large degree to guys like BMB. This was what argued for my giving this new X-men stuff a change. And with All-New X-Men as a new jumping on point – especially with the palette-cleansing Marvel Now! in place and doing really just a great job of being everything the New52 failed to be from the outset and then floundered after about a year – it was just destined to be. Still, I watched the first eight issues of All-New X-Men and the first three of Uncanny X-men land on the shelf and successfully managed to not buy them. Every week was like the episode of Breaking Bad where Walt and Jessie were trapped in the Pollo lab, trying to find the fly. Only I was trapped once a week in the comic shop with all those issues of BMB’s X-Men taunting me with their awesome covers and promises of a new, level playing field where I could read about characters I love but have ignored since Grant Morrison’s run. OH! The tension!

Finally it happened: I had a slow week at the shop and a slip in diligence and I picked up the first three issues of All-New and issue one of Uncanny. I brought them home, giddy with excitement and read them. How were they?

The next day I went back to the comic shop and bought every issue of both books on the stand. They’re that F#$KING good.

If you don’t know the set-up for this new era of X-men here it is in a nutshell: Cyclops murdered Xavier and is basically a villian because he is willing to protect the newly re-emerging mutant race at any cost, a la Magneto in the old days (who just happens to be on ol’ one-eye’s team these days). In order to try and talk some sense into Scott Beast goes back in time and brings the original class of X-Men back to our time. That means teen-age versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Ice Man and Angel all arrive at the Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters and learn what has become of their older selves, and in most of their cases (especially Scott’s) that ain’t very pretty. Awesomeness ensues.

The entire time I ignored the various Avengers titles BMB wrote for Marvel I missed his voice. New Avengers had come pretty much right out of his runs on Alias and Daredevil and I was a HUGE fan of both of those, following them rabidly from month-to-month. Before that I read Jinx and some of AKA Goldfish and marveled at the way Bendis was able to bring his street-level brilliance to the Marvel Universe, even when dealing with some of the most outlandish concepts and characters. I’ve had his short re-birthing of Moon Knight (BRILLIANT!) and his wonderful Scarlet to remind me of this now and again, but man, let me tell you, sinking into those X-books really reminded me how masterful Bendis is at not only re-imagining classic characters, but writing them in very believable, identifiable ways. There’s a moment in one of the books where teen-age old Scott finds a wedding invitation from his and Jean’s wedding – an event that although in the past of the timeline he now finds himself in, is still in his own personal future. The emotional reaction is fantastic, as is the way Scott acts out against Wolverine’s authority as one of the heads of the school. The way all of the young X-Men, now displaced from the 1960’s (?)to our time, act in this tremendously outlandish situation goes beyond well-written; it’s as though Bendis can really find the heart of the character as a human being first and a character second, and that makes all the difference in the world in the way big franchise books like this read. There’s enough light-hearted moments coupled of course with plenty of end-of-everything dread to make these books absolute joys ot read, and as such, I am HOOKED!!!

……………………..

Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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