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Jan 27

All-New X-Men #1-3 – “Ghost of the Cyclops”

Posted on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 by Paul in x-axis

The most striking thing about the opening arc of Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagley’s All-New X-Men might be how low key it is.  A three parter, instead of the traditional six – this will be the first half of the first trade paperback collection.  No big name villains.  No big villains at all, in fact – the bad guys here are pretty much at the bottom of the pecking order.  The stakes, at least in that sense, are determinedly low.

Which is actually quite a pleasant change.  It’s not that there isn’t melodrama and hand-wringing in here – of course there is, Cyclops is in the book.  But this series turns out to be an open-ended teen road trip, entirely unbothered about the whole Terrigen Mists thing.

As seems to be the norm these days, this may be billed as an X-Men comic, but it’s really a spin-off book, picking up on the time travelling Silver Age X-Men from Brian Bendis’s run.  They’ve struck out on their own, but not with any particular interest in being superheroes.  Jean has wandered off to be in another book, and Bendis’s last-minute subplot setting up her and Hank as a couple is no more.  (Jeff Lemire quietly spiked it in a single line in Extraordinary X-Men, so evidently it’s to be filed under We Shall Not Speak Of This Again.)  But X-23/Wolverine is still here, and the rest of the cast is filled out by the somewhat random choices of Idie and Evan.

The story starts with most of the group aiming to meet up at Vail, but Scott is ignoring them so he can go off and sulk on his own.  We still haven’t found out what Big Cyclops actually did during the eight-month gap, but whatever it was, it apparently made him really, really unpopular with pretty much everybody.  Which is unfortunate if you’re Cyclops too and have an instantly recognisable power.

With typical levels of displacement, Scott is spending his time hunting down a bunch of low-level mutants calling themselves the Ghosts of Cyclops, who do count as supervillains, but really, only just.  They’re basically just a bunch of college students who wear Cyclops masks and do a bit of property damage and petty theft while yelling incoherently about how Cyclops was definitely right about something or other.  They haven’t really got a clue what they’re doing, and they’re not exactly an insuperable challenge even for the regular cops.  It’s pretty obvious that it’s the use of his name that’s driving Scott to get involved, rather than the inherent significance of anything they’re doing.  And of course it’s his encounter with the Ghosts that brings the rest of the regular cast looking for him.

Where this all leads is to a fight between Scott and the Ghosts’ leader, who has water powers and rejoices in the name of Thirst, which winds up with both guys being hauled off to jail to calm down – something Scott pretty much acquiesces in, because it really is just a case of the cops breaking up a fight.  This leads the Ghosts into botching a jailbreak and finding themselves under siege by the police, at which point everyone realises that they may have crossed the point of no return and gone from being petty criminals to imminently dead at the hands of a panicky armed response team.

Hopeless certainly has a decent angle on young Scott, who’s stuck between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand, he can see that his older self turned into a raving cult leader with a baffling plan about a mutant revolution that did no good for anyone.  But on the other, he can also see that the world has singularly failed to get better in the way that Xavier promised it would.  Xavier’s great strategy to realise his dream pretty much boiled down to fending off evil mutants while waiting patiently for human nature to bring about the march of progress.  And it didn’t work.  So Scott is trying to escape the shadow of not one failed agenda, but two.  And of course, the point where he starts to become sympathetic to the Ghosts is where they tip from being dimwit followers of his older self, to another group of teenagers who’ve made a terrible mistake that the world won’t let them take back.  First and foremost, this version of Scott just wants to earn himself a second chance, even if he doesn’t yet know quite what he wants to do with it.

All this is very interesting, and it also plays quite nicely to Mark Bagley’s strengths as a fairly traditional, character-focussed superhero artist.  But the thing is, this is a team book, and the first three issues are more or less a Cyclops solo story.  The rest of the cast have a nice jovial time of it, which helps balance out Scott’s angst and keep the general tone light (again, something that suits Bagley fine), but they don’t really have all that much to do.

There are a couple of good scenes with Warren and Laura.  She’s a lot more chatty than she has been in the past, but that’s the case in All-New Wolverine too, so there’s evidently been an editorial decision somewhere along the line there.  Nonetheless, she’s still stubbornly unwilling to accept any sort of help from Warren, to the point of exposing herself to gratuitous injury – something Warren’s meekly coming to accept as a health part of showing respect for her independence, and which is obviously leading to trouble down the line.  But Hank and Bobby don’t have much to work with, and Evan and Idie are a problem.  Both feel blandly out of character, and neither has any particularly discernible reason to be here.  Right now, they’re dead wood.

Still, the general tone and road trip set-up seem like they could be fun, and hopefully the focus will broaden beyond Scott in the next arc.  There’s some promise here, and at least it sets up a clear and workable direction for Scott himself as he struggles to redefine himself.


Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    I was shocked to find that I loved this title, considering I care very little about any of the characters. I actually went back and bought the first trade of All-New X-Men by Mr. Bendis, but I didn’t like it at all. But this new iteration is brilliant. The premise of the characters being trapped in a dark dystopian future, being our modern day, has a lot more potential than I originally considered. Especially considering these guys joined a paramilitary group and sacrificed their youth to a cause that was futile and actually counter-productive.

    I hope it stays low-level and teenagerish, because it is very enjoyable and there’s not much of it to be found these days.

    I do find it curious that Idie is on the team. Both her character’s role and her powers seem way too close to Iceman’s to be really relevant. I suppose she’s there to add a bit of diversity to the white male American team, but I can’t help but think about how the all-new all-different team originally had Wolverine and Thunderbird on it, and how that redundancy was quickly dealt with.

  2. Nu-D says:

    Two XAaxis columns in just a week! Yay!

    I’ve missed these.

  3. Evan kind of fits, in that, like all the others, he’s a junior version of a well-known character. But that just makes Idie stand out more.

    I really enjoyed the comic too, and I was also surprised by that. Between this, the Avengers titles, and a few other books, Marvel seems to be hitting a tone similar to their Heroic Age banner a few years back. (Except for the “end of mutants” thing, I guess.) It’s my favorite of the team X-titles at the moment, though the Extraordinary issue this week was pretty good.

  4. Berry Teddy says:

    Okay, the whole O5 brought to the current 616 (or version thereof) storyline is no longer a time travel story but more of a parallel world story, right? More Rachel summers than Nathan Christopher Summers? Surely, way too much time has passed, too much has happened, and the whole time travel aspect of the story was quietly dropped, I guess?

    That would be despite Cyclops disappearing or whatever, which proved that these kids are this timeline’s 05 (as in, if teen Cyclops dies, so does original Cyke.)

    I don’t get it. Teen Jean even went to college! Now she’s off with Storm. It makes no sense, the 05 should have gone home.

    Anyway, I really hate the art on this book. In fact, I never liked Bagley. For me his art looks like bad house art. A spiritual successor to late 90s Marvel.

    I had higher hopes for Hopeless. I enjoyed some of his work before but as far I’m concerned this book is a nonstarter. I do think it would improve if it became more of an ensemble, less Scott-specific. But it’s really lacking a coherent reason for existing (that’s something I used to frown at when Paul pointed that out about a particular book, but it’s true for a lot of X-Men books unfortunately.)

    The more I think about it, the less I like the concept. Hopefully we get at least one good (not mopey or pathetic) Iceman story out of it. I’d rather see him as the book’s main actually. (Sorry to be such a downer.)

  5. ZZZ says:

    I’m wondering if some of the Ghosts of Cyclops are going to become regulars. I will say that, while the Claremont tradition of groups of new villains pointedly declaring their names in the first panel of a fight was a bit silly, the alternative of having them act like vaguely normal people has resulted in me being completely incapable of remembering any their names or powers except for Thirst’s. I thought Pillar and Sebastian were the same person at points in the latest issue.

    Evan hasn’t really seemed out of character to me so much as slightly de-emphasized, but that could just mean that I didn’t really have a good grasp on his previous personality. But I thought he’d always been an idealistic pacifist, which he still seems to be.

    Idie does seem entirely out of character, that’s frankly a relief to me, considering that her new personality seems downright pleasant while her old personality was just “remember when Wolfsbane referred to herself as ‘wicked’ six times an issue and needed to be talked out of the fetal position even when bad things happened to OTHER people? Yeah, let’s do that again, but this time instead of a subtext that Scottish people are all horrible superstitious bigots we’ll have a subtext that Nigerian people are all horrible superstitious bigots.”

  6. Niall says:

    Evan’s inclusion will probably be important when the next Apocalypse crossover/event happens. He’s also in a similar position to Cyclops in that he is living his life in the shadow of the reputation of a different version of himself.

    Idie could be useful to the storyline further too but I’m not sure just how yet. She has a different experience and viewpoint. I also hope that her inclusion, alongside Evan, points to an intention to introduce Quire as an antagonist in the future.

    If the book is going to be about how Cyclops and the other original X-Men find their place in the future and how they deal with how things turned out, then it probably will be important to have a plurality of views. Quire, Idie and Evan have all lived through these times and had direct experiences of what happened. While it is easy for the originals to bemoan the fact that Xavier’s dream didn’t work out, Beast broke the universe and Cyclops became viewed as Namor, the newbies are only alive because of the actions the older versions of originals.

  7. Neil Kapit says:

    This was a really pleasant surprise, and I look forward to seeing O5 Scott “taking Cyclops back”.

  8. Joseph says:

    No mention of Pickles?!

  9. Kreniigh says:

    Hopeless did eventually get around to fleshing out his cast in Avengers Arena, by focusing narrowly on one character at a time. I assume that’s his plan here.

    Agreed that the Ghosts needed more details. That happens a lot these days, groups of characters show up, do their thing, and exit the story without all of them being named or having their powers stated (or sometimes even used). I miss those little captions with names/powers that got used a lot in the Legion of Super-Heroes or Claremont’s X-Men. Si Spurrier gets a lot of mileage out of them these days.

    That Ghost with the weird claw hands has GOT to be somehow related to old Mutant Force character Shocker, right?

    Laura started getting chatty when she got the Bendis speech template implant. At least she sounds more like herself now.

    I’ve been re-reading Claremont’s early Uncanny run (thanks to discovering the Rachel & Miles podcasts) and I know it sounds stupid but I almost want to see a miniseries where that team (circa Uncanny #100) gets pulled into the present and bounces off the O5 and the current team. It will happen some day, I’m sure.

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