For all the (well-deserved) criticism piled on last summer's Avengers vs. X-Men event, it did manage to make the X-Books the most exciting they've been in years. Between All New X-Men and its sister title Uncanny X-Men, Brian Bendis is building what could be the most complex and entertaining X-Men story since Grant Morrison departed Marvel a decade ago. With ten issues under its belt, All New X-Men continues to be one of the best superhero books on the stands and shows exactly why Bendis has earned his "Great One" moniker.
All New X-Men #10 opens with a savage attack by the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants before shifting to a tense confrontation between the present day Cyclops and his former teammates. There's a lot of standing around and talking during the issue, but unlike Bendis's infamous breakfast scenes in New Avengers, readers aren't left begging for something to happen. The tension amongst the X-Men practically leaps off the page, especially between Beast and Cyclops. At one point, a character notes that Cyclops seems as disappointed in the X-Men as they are in him. The art and dialogue really hammer that observation home.
It's amazing how different All New X-Men feels from Bendis's past work. While both this series and New Avengers/Avengers/Mighty Avengers/Dark Avengers featured ensemble casts, drawn out arcs, and plenty of dialogue, something just feels different about his current work. All New X-Men, while decompressed, still has substance to it. His characters maintain that patented level of "Bendis banter" without going overboard or coming off as generic. While there's humor in the book, it doesn't undermine the tension or emotion on display throughout the book. Bendis is using all of his strengths in a surprisingly balanced fashion.
What's more, Bendis's method of slowly and organically building conflict between characters stands out in stark contrast to other attempts made in X-books in the past. Unlike the hackneyed attempts made in Avengers vs. X-Men and X-Men: Schism, the conflict between present-day Cyclops and the other X-Men actually has weight and depth to it. There's no Mary Sues or writer's favorites here: both Cyclops and his former teammates make persuasive but flawed arguments. Better yet, Bendis somehow manages to do this in a way that doesn't bring up accusations of insensitivity to minorities. Who knew that such a thing could be possible?
Of course, all of this is possible because of Stuart Immonen's art. One can't pile enough compliments on how great his art is. Immonen is the perfect compliment to Bendis; I doubt there's another artist that could draw 16 pages of characters in such an engaging and nuanced way.
If someone had told me that I'd be enjoying a Bendis X-Men title dealing with the aftermath of Avengers vs. X-Men a few months ago, I would have laughed and asked for your drug dealer's number. But ten issues in, All New X-Men trails only Daredevil and Hawkeye in terms of being the best Big Two superhero comic on the stands. If you want to see how to do a serial comic right, pick up All New X-Men today.
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