Thankfully, the cover to this issue is misleading, as we don’t get a kiss between young Cyclops and X-23 and all of the weird ickiness that goes with that… yet. It’s clear that Scott has a thing for X-23, but Bendis is going to take it a bit more slowly than the cover would suggest. It’s a heck of a cover though, the sort of surprising image that probably would attract new readers back when the comics industry had new readers.
The story here, much like the last issue of ANXM, is fairly simple. X-23 (now with hair) wakes up and is angry and freaked out about where she is, especially because where she is, is Weapon X and for some reason teenage versions of the original X-Men are there. It’s pretty bloody confusing, so X-23 understandably tries to escape, but she is talked down by Cyclops, who has a crush on her, and explains just what the fuck is going on. Interestingly, Jean Grey starts to read X-23’s mind and discover what happened to her in Avengers Arena, but Kitty tells her to stop, so it looks like that truth is going to be teased out for a while too, or maybe Bendis is just leaving it for Dennis Hopeless.
Throughout the conversation between Cyclops and X-23, Bendis’ dialogue excels, both in the main back and forth, and also the stuff on the sidelines from Iceman and Beast. Bendis’ dialogue is unique enough that people either love it or hate it, but if you love it like I do, it makes even slower issues like this one a real pleasure. So, X-23 is talked round, and agrees to help Kitty and the team track down the Purifiers who were after her.
I just praised Bendis’ dialogue, and here, he goes full on monologue, as the head Purifier (who turns out to be the son of William Stryker) goes on a big spiel about why he hates Mutants, and how the existence in the present of the original team is proof that they are not human, as no human would tamper with the timeline like this. The X-Men bust into their compound, and after shutting down the power and alerting the Purifiers to their presence, and a hilarious bit where Jean makes Stryker Jnr say some stupid things, the fight is on. It’s a pretty good fight, and it was cool to see X-23 in action with this group, I think every X-Team needs at least one angry person with claws. The fight ends with Stryker freaking out and blasting everyone with some strange power. It looks like Stryker Jnr is a mutant, much like in X2, so that adds a cool wrinkle to him as a villain, making him a massive fucking hypocrite as well as a religious zealot.
This was another brilliant issue of All-New, as I said, Bendis’ dialogue makes even quieter issues sparkle, and the addition of X-23 to the cast is going to be a lot of fun, especially as we inch closer to the cover becoming a reality. The artwork from Mahmud Asrar and Brandon Peterson was very good too, both of them fit into the template that Stuart Immonen has established for this title, and they way they split it, with Asrar handling the opening dialogue-heavy scenes, and Peterson the fight against the Purifiers, worked really well.