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Jan 26

All-New X-Men #18-21 – “All-Different”

Posted on Sunday, January 26, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

One thing about the solicitation system is that, by requiring even cryptic plot details to be released months in advance, it can make it abundantly clear when plans have changed.  These four issues will form the majority of All-New X-Men vol 4 (the volume being rounded out, rather oddly, with issue #22, which is the first part of “The Trial of Jean Grey”).  Over on Amazon UK, that volume is still listed alongside copy that first appeared in the solicitation for issue #18:

“The X-Men are shaken to the core by the Battle of the Atom.  Kitty Pryde is particularly shaken by the events of the X-Men crossover.  With her students gone, what is Kitty to do?”

And indeed, the cover of issue #18 shows a distraught Kitty kneeling amongst the discarded uniforms of the teenage X-Men.

But what actually happened at the end of “Battle of the Atom” was that Kitty decided to defect to Scott’s faction, and the teenagers decided to follow her.  So there’s pretty obviously been some rewriting going on here – the entire original point of issue #18 appears to have been jettisoned somewhere along the way, to live on only in a now incongruous cover and a solicitation for the upcoming collection that somebody really ought to get around to updating.

Here’s what actually happens in these issues.  Kitty and the Silver Age X-Men arrive at the “New Xavier School”, which remains a rather optimistic name for a repurposed supervillain bunker.   Issue #18 features assorted introductions to the cast of Uncanny X-Men, and Bendis rightly takes some time to re-establish the relationship between Kitty and Illyana.  And the teen team get some new uniforms which are pleasant enough but a bit bland.  It’s a downtime issue, for the most part, but it plays to Bendis’ strengths, gives everyone something to do, and sets up some relationships with the new cast, as well as reasserting the old Scott/Jean/Warren  love triangle that was on hold while Warren was separated from the rest of his group.  It’s a perfectly fine issue.

Then we have a three-parter which serves to introduce X-23 into the cast, and throw her into the romantic mix as a potential love interest for Cyclops.  As somebody makes sure to point out, that’s a particularly weird idea since she’s, well, a clone of Wolverine.  But it does actually feel reasonably natural, since X-23, unlike Wolverine, is even more massively uptight than Scott is.  You can sort of see how they might identify with one another.

X-23 is wandering around Miami after escaping from Avengers Arena (or however that story ended – wisely enough, Bendis acknowledges it as a Recent Traumatic Event but doesn’t bother worrying about the details).  She’s being hunted by the Purifiers, in their classic role of anti-mutant religious nut jobs.  And that attracts the X-Men to her rescue.  All nice and simple.

About half of issue #19 is taken up with a fairly routine fight scene, something that has never been Bendis’ strength, though it picks up with a cute subplot about Scott simply refusing to run from the police because he’s a Golden Age hero and he’s sure it’ll be fine.  At any rate, the X-Men retrieve X-23 and take her back to the New Xavier School.  Strangely enough, finding herself in the former Weapon X Project headquarters does little to soothe X-23′s nerves, and much of the rest of that issue consists of her going nuts until Scott calms her down.  In terms of the relationship building, this is pretty decent.

Then we detour into an issue and a half of the X-Men going after the Purifiers.  This isn’t so good.  Bendis is certainly trying to acknowledge the Purifiers as sincere in their religious beliefs, but this really boils down to them loudly proclaiming their zealotry, without much more behind it.  One of the Purifiers is the son of William Stryker, who turns out to have been given super-powers by AIM as part of a deal by Stryker to save him from some illness or other.  This flashback works – Stryker trying to enlist a bemused and uncomfortable AIM rep in a prayer circle has a genuine sense of  a worldview which is both sincere and detached from reality.  The Purifiers themselves, including Stryker’s said son, are considerably less interesting.

There’s a ton of artists on this – Stuart Immonen on issue #18, Brandon Peterson on #19 and #21 with Mahmud Asrar helping out on #20, and even Brent Anderson popping in to do the William Stryker flashback on #21.  It’s all rather bitty, as the above synopsis might lead you to suspect, and it doesn’t help that the whole final issue is spent in the Purifiers’ base, a murky collection of generic machinery backdrops that offer about as much visual interest as a below average underpass.

Still, these four issues do serve as a solid set-up of the book’s new status quo and a strong introduction for X-23.  The material with the Purifiers isn’t great, which is unfortunate since they’re the closest thing these issues have to a through-plot, but the remainder has enough of Bendis’ strengths to carry the book through.

Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    Wait, isn’t the entire concept of William Stryker that his wife gave birth to a mutant monster and that sent him over the edge? Him having another son, with super powers no less, seems completely wrong.

  2. Tdubs says:

    I really thought the Purifiers stuff was bad and reminded me of Bendis last two years of the Avengers, Marvel villain group attacking heroes and monolouging that doesn’t need to be read. I thought Petersons art was a real letdown and somebody really needs to tell him he’s drawing the wrong Iceman.

    I think this is the point where we will look back and see these titles becoming what Avengers ended up as with its constant event waiting.

    The good part was the Kitty and Magik relationship picking back up.

  3. Living Tribunal says:

    So Paul, do you really enjoy Bendis as a writer on the X-Books (or even overall as a writer of team books), or are you agonizingly trying to look at his writing in the best light possible. Let’s face it, if you like the X-Men, as much as I know that you do, then you really have no choice but to stomach Bendis’ tenure. Am I wrong?

  4. Chaos McKenzie says:

    Does Bendis use Lockheed? I would love to see him with Kitty and Illyana on some adventure. I’m super curious to see what Bendis’ plans are for Magik, and I was oddly happy to have X-23 back. It wasn’t that long ago when I thought she was forced on us.

  5. Michael says:

    I was really bothered by Brandon Peterson’s art. He’s one of those artists – Tony Daniel is the other major one that comes to mind – whose art has become more angular, more stiff and less fluid as the years have gone on. I used to like both of those artist’s art at one time, but not any longer.

  6. Toboe says:

    Man, Bendis just doesn’t get X-23′s voice at all, does he?

  7. mchan says:

    It’s certainly playing to Bendis’ strengths, which is writing fish-out-of-water teenage protagonists (at least Marvel-wise). X-23 was pretty bad though, and here’s hoping that any kind of romance with Cyclops is out of the question.

    I don’t know if the effect of bringing the All-New X-Men cast into the Uncanny cast was to make the New Xavier School seem more real, but I think it’s not working. And I think that’s a good thing. I’m happy that the book is still in its own bubble away from Uncanny, which is still a pretty weak book as far as character development or…anything…goes.

    I’m creeped out by the Kitty/Illyana relationship. I don’t remember the plotline from old Uncanny that well, but isn’t Illyana one soul stone short? I guess it’s nice to gesture to the old relationship, but she’s technically not Illyana, which I think is the reason why the personality shift was justified. Maybe I’m babbling, but I wish that someone would deal with this to at least try to explain away the change in character.

    Likewise, this is why I’m antsy about the events of #22.

  8. Ben Kimball says:

    mchan, I fully concur with your point about Illyana not actually being the same person who used to be Kitty’s best friend in the UXM #168-ish era. I keep wondering when someone, anyone, will address it again. It definitely bugged me during the Fear Itself/Schism/AvX period when Colossus was treating her like his real sister. And it really bugs me now with Kitty, of all people who you would think would be thoughtful enough to acknowledge that it’s not the same person as before.

    I had a similar problem with the return of Doug Ramsey in most of the recent New Mutants run. His social awkwardness was a constant plot point (and an often amusing one at that), and all the others kept treating him like he was just a wounded soul who needed some helping along to re-find himself… but unless I missed a scene somewhere where he stopped being a Necrosha-tainted techno organic virus zombie thing, he WASN’T himself.

    And I keep wondering… would it really be that hard to just dedicate one story beat somewhere in all of the X-books to addressing characters in such states? Like have one of the B-stories in A+X be about Cypher and Magik’s resurrection issues, or about some other character (preferably a non-comic-relief one, like Armor) admitting to an Avenger friend to being kind of creeped out by all the resurrected X-Men in the house?

  9. wwk5d says:

    “Man, Bendis just doesn’t get X-23′s voice at all, does he?”

    No surprise there.

    This is Bendis, which means it will have a decent enough start before falling apart and becoming a boring disjointed mess the further we go along.

  10. halapeno says:

    “…the cover of issue #18 shows a distraught Kitty kneeling amongst the discarded uniforms of the teenage X-Men.”

    I think Bendis must really like that image or something. One of the Avengers Disassembled covers had Cap solemnly kneeling over the discarded uniforms of the Avengers.

    Someone should do the same cover and have the story turn out to be that the team leader is upset because his/her team mates keep throwing their uniforms on the floor after missions instead of hanging them up.

  11. JG says:

    Ah, I wondered where all the X-Men reviews had gone.

    Probably a good idea to review an whole batch of issues at a time. That way you’re almost certain to get a complete story!

  12. Jamie says:

    I want there to be a twist where it’s discovered that young Cyclops had contracted a mild case of polio before he was brought to the present, and has reintroduced polio to the American public, and it ravages the country and everybody dies and blames Cyclops.

  13. moose n squirrel says:

    It’s kind of astonishing to me how badly Bendis mangles any character with a distinctive voice. Emma, Doom, X-23… one would think that the fact that these characters have such distinctive manners of speaking would make it easier to write them (even if that results in bleeding over into caricature, as many writers seem to do). Instead, Bendis writes X-23 with the same cadences and verbal tics as Ultimate Peter Parker, which is to say, the same as he writes any character.

    It’s become common to note that Bendis writes solid solo titles and terrible team books, and I think that’s correct. But one of the clear reasons for this is that Bendis really has only one voice as a writer, and this is far more tolerable on a book with one main character and a small supporting cast, and an utter disaster on a book with a huge sprawling ensemble who all suddenly sound like confused teenagers/petulant valley-girl hybrids.

  14. Niall says:

    There are a lot of things Bendis feics up when it comes to his X-Books. Voices are off, plots go on forever, people act like idiots without any real point . . . In those respects, it’s exactly what I expected.

    All of that said, it is enjoyable. There are good ideas, good dialogue and the subplots have the potential to go somewhere really interesting.

    The run could go either way, but for now, the pluses outweigh the minuses and if he manages to make the subplots pay off, this could be Bendis’ best non-Ultimate Spiderman work for some time.

  15. wwk5d says:

    The problem (for me) with regards to Bendis is…the ideas are good but the execution is lousy, the dialogue becomes grating after a while and everyone has the same “voice”, the subplots usually end up going nowhere…or nowhere interesting.

  16. Suzene says:

    I’m another who finds Kitty “reconnecting” with a golem who is carrying her dead friend’s memories and had a habit of torturing one of the school’s other students weird.

    Now, I can buy Colossus’ reaction 1) because Petey has been on the obsessive and unbalanced side since the Lobdell era and 2) because Gillen made it pay off so damn well during AvX. But I expect Kitty to, frankly, be more protective of Illyana’s memory than to go up and hug the thing.

  17. Neil Kapit says:

    ” Someone should do the same cover and have the story turn out to be that the team leader is upset because his/her team mates keep throwing their uniforms on the floor after missions instead of hanging them up. ”

    How about they reveal that the real reason Magneto stopped being headmaster of the old Xavier school was because he was sick of picking up after the New Mutants and wanted to go back to the old days when he could just electro-shock the Brotherhood into putting away their laundry?

  18. lambnesio says:

    Bendis is definitely missing the point with X-23. She’s obviously meant to be a person of few words, and she’s also a character who shouldn’t be alluding to her general wants/needs/preferences/opinions since the core of her character is that she’s not sure those things are there.

    As far as Illyana, I generally like it the way he’s working the relationship between Kitty and Illyana, but I think it’s a relationship that needed more work. I’m cool with this more reasonable version of Illyana (as opposed to the insane nihilist of the last few years), but there should be some explanation.

    As far as this not being the real Illyana- it’s not the one that was friends with our Kitty, but the way I remember it, she is A real Illyana with basically the same backstory and relationships, no? She definitely isn’t any soulstones short, as of the end of Zeb Wells’ New Mutants.

    Anyway- althought I thought this story was pretty dreadul, I actually thought #18 might have been the strongest issue so far.

  19. The original Matt says:

    I only bought these issues for x-23. Bendis sucks at x-23.

  20. Tim O'Neil says:

    As was said above, Illyana did get her soul back at the end of the last NEW MUTANTS run – the problem being that in order to do so she betrayed every one of her friends and endangered the whole planet. So now she gets to be human again but has to live with the consequences of what that has cost her. The fact that she’s got her soul back makes her “real,” and the events of her return following HOUSE OF M and NEW X-MEN indicate that she is for all intents and purposes the same person.

    And Cypher was cured of the Transmode virus (I think, although that should be impossible for anyone but a Hulk-level healer?) after his connection to Selene was severed during NECROSHA. He’s the real Doug just as the resurrected Blink is the real 616 (not AoA) Blink – all the characters treat them as such and we’re not supposed to question the veracity of their rebirth for ongoing stories unless the writer decides to pick up on the thread at some point in the future. The purpose of bringing them back was obviously to put them – the original characters – back on the table, not to tell stories about strange carbon-copy soul zombies or whatever.

  21. Tim O'Neil says:

    Also: hands-down the worst victim of Bendis’ inability to write voices was Mantis in a recent issue of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. One of the most distinctive (and, yes, mildly annoying) speech patterns in all of comics, completely ignored. Why have a character named Mantis if she’s not going to do the thing Mantis is most famous for doing? (That is, refusing to ever refer to herself with a first-person pronoun.)

  22. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    @Living Tribunal

    Anyone who thinks Paul puts a brave face on it when he’s not enjoying X-Men really needs to read his reviews of the Chuck Austen era.

  23. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    @Tim O’Neil

    Does he at least get Groot right? (I would not be at all surprised if the answer was no.)

  24. Ben Kimball says:

    @Tim O’Neil

    Didn’t know either of those details! You’d think I wasn’t actually paying attention during the New Mutants run or something… Anyway, yes, glad to have them move on and not dwell on the (not very interesting) Illyana and Doug as soulless zombies thing, I just wanted them to have actually dealt with it (which it sounds like they did) rather than conveniently ignoring it.

  25. halapeno says:

    Speaking of Mantis, I wish Engelhart never saddled her with that Celestial Madonna stuff. She could have been a kickass down-to-earth fighter character. Great name. Great fighting style (throttling her opponents with her legs). She could have been really cool and fit in nicely with the “street-level” hero pantheon.

  26. wwk5d says:

    @halapeno

    This one thinks there is some truth in what you say.

  27. joseph says:

    I’m not reading GotG but I dont think Mantis appears in Bendis’ run.

  28. Matt Andersen says:

    I think Bendis knows that Illyana isn’t meant to be the original Illyana, and just doesn’t care. I can’t really blame him if that’s the case, since we had to suffer through, what, 5 years of that going nowhere and never being acknowledged by anyone?

    Either way he clearly just wants to write about the characters he remembers from the 80s, and isn’t interested wrapping up a dead plotline before he can do that

  29. Billy says:

    @jospeh

    Star-Lord visits Mantis in issue #5. She is the one who sends him to Thanos. If the book hadn’t used her name, I wouldn’t have realized that it was Mantis.

    @Daibhid Ceannaideach

    I really want to recall one of the early issues having a Groot scene that felt wrong, but I’m not going to dig out those books to check.

    Bendis has however:

    Given Rocket Raccoon the catch phrase “Blam! I just murdered you!”

    Given Gamora massive daddy issues. For several issues straight, Bendis also was incapable of having anyone speak about or to Gamora without referring to her as Thanos’s daughter. Bendis also had Gamora completely flip out because Star-Lord and Drax didn’t kill Thanos during the Cancerverse story when Thanos was unkillable (and Drax had tried.) Mind, Thanos’ unkillable status has likely been silently retconned by Marvel. (See also the Thanos Rising miniseries that puts out the idea that Thanos’s dealings with Death were hallucinations.)

    Effectively turned the Guardians of the Galaxy into the Guardians of the Earth.

  30. Tim O'Neil says:

    I don’t think the unkillable status has been retconned so much as unmentioned. He was turned into a statue at the end of INFINITY, after all, not destroyed or killed.

    And he’s apparently up and running again in the forthcoming Starlin OGN, so there’s that. (Sure, it could be set in the past, but since his statue is going to be a plot point in NEW AVENGERS I assume it’s not a permanent condition.)

  31. Illyana isn’t the original? The one who died in that one X-Men story where Jubilee has a bit of telepathy over her death and Psylocke helps her come to terms with it?

    Well I never. I’ve been reading bits and bobs in the Panini reprints, and this is the first I’ve heard of it.

    Aaaaaaand now I’ve read the wiki, and I can see why. That’s a lotta recap, right so. “Soul-clone of a dead New Mutant out on license from the X-Brig” raises more questions than it answers.

    There should be an X-Men character called Parole. Maybe he (or she?) could be an enemy of Gambit, a kind of mutant bail bondsman. Always a step behind Le Grand Pinson, always a moment too late. Forever chasing him, finding nothing but empty safes and discarded underpants in his way OH WAIT THAT’S LUPIN AND ZENIGATA.

    //\Oo/\\

  32. Nu-D says:

    I’m finally going to give up and ask: What does ” //\Oo/\\ ” mean?

  33. It’s just a spider. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I kinda like Spider-Man. Been signing everything from emails to beaches with it for twenty years…this month. Holy smokes. Reflex.

    Buddy of mine was corresponding with a chum in London via Telnet or something – we only really started to get online at Uni in 1994. Brought home a printout with a load of these silly spider-things in various configurations – happy, sad, dead, etc. – and I started adding to the list.

    You have to kind of imagine the spider running at you along a flat plane. Like one of those cute wee jumping spiders with the big eyes – all you see is the front bit.

    //\Oo/\\

  34. wwk5d says:

    “Given Rocket Raccoon the catch phrase “Blam! I just murdered you!””

    Yikes. I guess he’s hoping that’ll be RR’s catch phrase in the movie as well, and it’ll be a break out phrase, and can take credit for it or something?

  35. Billy says:

    @Tim O’Neil

    Bendis made a plot hook mention of the Cancerverse story ending, where Star-Lord is trapped with Thanos. Gamora wants to know what kind of deal Star-Lord might have cut with Thanos to get out.

    But, as I said, Bendis also made a plot point of Gamora being upset that Star-Lord and Drax chose to work with Thanos (during the Cancerverse story) rather than kill him. Star-Lord couldn’t kill Thanos as Death had made him unkillable. Which they found out when Drax tried to kill Thanos.

    I don’t entirely blame that on Bendis, though. I’ve a feeling it is a general Marvel idea. Thanos is the big bad of the movie universe, and Marvel decided to retool and streamline comic book Thanos to a simpler big bad. That probably means fewer or no shades of grey to his actions for the near future. It likely means simplifying his story and history, and pruning extraneous or problematic bits. (Like being immortal, and insane from rage from finding out he is immortal.)

    It also may mean the reining in of his involvement with Death. Death as a character might not fit the movie universe, but she is integral to Thanos as a character. The Thanos Rising miniseries portrays Death as a potential hallucination/insanity of Thanos. With Death a long standing known character, that very much seems movie driven. (Marvel might not know whether the movies will use Death, but this allows sweeping Death under the rug without actually denying her previous existence.)

    And if Marvel is trying to minimalize Death’s involvement with Thanos, then removing the results of her obvious presence from a recent story fits. Thanos was still left trapped at the end of the Cancerverse story. But why he was trapped may now be changed. (Gamora’s arguments about him being evil and dangerous connected with Thanos’s stories in the last year portray a universe-threatening evil that needs to be contained, versus the actual Cancerverse ending where Thanos needs to be contained because he’d gone into an insane rage when Death spurned him again.) If reducing Death’s actual presence was the goal, then getting rid of that unkillable status may just be a side benefit for Marvel.

  36. Daniel says:

    Solicit copy says the trade is: the above issues, a Bendis story from A+X, and the X-Men Gold one-shot to fill it out. X-Men/GoTG will be unnumbered presumably so it can be slotted into either run.

  37. halapeno says:

    “It also may mean the reining in of his involvement with Death. Death as a character might not fit the movie universe…”

    I don’t have the Avengers film handy, but I thought that alien fellow said something like “To oppose the humans is to court death.” at which point Thanos turns around and smiles.

    Granted, that doesn’t necessarily ensure Death will turn up as an actual character but I wouldn’t rule it out.

  38. Nu-D says:

    @Matthew Craig — I see it. Thanks for clearing it up. I’ve been wondering about it ever since Paul moved to this site.

  39. Tim O'Neil says:

    Whate I liked about Thanos in THE THANOS IMPERATIVE was how D&A took the character to a logical end-point. It felt of a piece with Starlin’s version, which almost never happens . . . essentially, coming back to life again and being told it was a one-way trip made him snap. Gone was the subtlety, the calculation, and the dry humor, in its place a bull elephant who wanted nothing more than to demolish every single thing in his path.

    The problem was that this wasn’t a direction that could continue indefinitely. In many ways the problem with Thanos is that he is such a massive threat every story sort of HAS to be the “last Thanos story” because he’s one of a few threats, like Ultron and Annihilus, who raise the stakes sky-high simply by showing up. (Ultron has been neutered a bit since the end of Annihilation, but the principle still stands.)

    I haven’t reread THANOS IMPERATIVE since it first came out, maybe I should go back to it. (Been meaning to do an ANNIHILATION reread for a while now.) But I do remember the whole point of the ending was the Nova and Star Lord sacrificed themselves to ensure Thanos didn’t escape. I don’t think that the ending would have been significantly different if Thanos hadn’t been death-crazed – he’s still unbelievably dangerous, and for most people the difference between regular Thanos and murderous rage Thanos is probably academic.

  40. Tim O'Neil says:

    I meant that Annihilus has been neutered a bit, duh. If anything, never actually showing up in AGE OF ULTRON until the very end was probably for the best.

  41. Kreniigh says:

    >> Does he at least get Groot right? (I would not be at all surprised if the answer was no.)

    “I am — and listen to me when I say this to you — I am Groot!”

    >> For several issues straight, Bendis also was incapable of having anyone speak about or to Gamora without referring to her as Thanos’s daughter.

    Wasn’t the point of Thanos’s story in Infinity that he was gung-ho to find and kill all of his children?

    >> I meant that Annihilus has been neutered a bit

    Yeah, warming a bench on the Council of Random Space Leaders is a far cry from the Annihilation Wave.

  42. Tim O'Neil says:

    Gamora is adopted, not biological, hence doesn’t really matter in terms of cleaning up his biological progeny.

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