All-New X-Men 6

all new x-men 6

Today, Drew and guest writer Ethan Andyshack are discussing All-New X-Men 6, originally released January 16th, 2013.

Drew: Like the characters in All-New X-Men, comics have a complicated relationship with their own histories. Some fans love the richness imparted by a long, cohesive history, while others are put off by the notion of needing to know every little detail for a story to make any sense. Obviously, the situation with All-New X-Men is made even more complicated by the notion of time travel (what narrative isn’t?), but that complexity might just allow it to comment directly on comics history. That wasn’t a revelation I was expecting out of this series, but it’s one that comes through with piercing clarity in All-New X-Men 6.

The issue begins with a dream, where Jean Grey imagines herself dying and has a vision of the Phoenix Force. Kitty Pryde is there to comfort her when she wakes, helping her tame her telepathic abilities. Meanwhile, Young Scott is feeling like a pariah, so decides to strike out on his own. Wolverine catches up with him, insisting that Scott and the rest of the original X-Men need to go back to their time, but Scott seems to have other plans: he blasts him with a quick wink and escapes. Elsewhere, these events are brought to the attention of Mystique.

This series continues to impress me with the sophisticated way it approaches X-Men history. It’s one thing to pay homage to what has come before — comics do it all the time — but it’s quite another to make the relationship to that history the very crux of the story, forcing each character to confront their past in fascinating ways. I’m no expert on X-Men continuity, but the way Brian Michael Bendis has approached it here has made me feel incredibly welcome.

Take Jean’s story here. She’s still struggling to keep her telepathy in check, so Kitty offers some helpful advice.

Kitty and Jean

David Marquez stages this scene brilliantly, as we slowly and steadily zoom in on the two of them. The panels get progressively smaller and more isolated, enhancing the sense of isolation we’re given in that final panel of Jean alone, without anyone’s thoughts in her head. When Jean asks Kitty where she learned that technique, Kitty replies, “You did.” This (and the glimmer of the Phoenix in Jean’s dream) all shows us that Jean is becoming the character we all know her to be.

Scott, on the other hand, is not empowered by the specter of his future. He resents being judged for something he hasn’t done, missing desperately the time when he was judged based on his own accomplishments. I can’t help but read this as a lamentation over the stifling continuity of 50 years of X-Men comics. Obviously, Bendis can’t have too many gripes about the state Old, Evil Scott finds himself in, but it’s interesting to see that Scott’s future (that is, our comics past) isn’t depicted as a wondrous thing to behold. Even Mystique’s interest is piqued at the prospect of Young Scott’s adventures, which she hilariously learns about through her tablet (just like our very own all-digital comic fan, Patrick).

William finds himself somewhere in between, as his future self doesn’t exactly remember the past. The different states of these characters each seems to represent a different take on the value of comics history: One of value that we can learn from, one that actually damages the characters by holding them to it, and one that is seemingly neutral on the value of the past, but suggests that we might be okay if we forget about it. Bendis doesn’t come to any conclusions (yet), but each take seems poised to yield some fascinating results.

Needless to say, I enjoyed this issue. My only gripe is Marquez’s over-enthusiasm for double-page spreads. It’s not even that he overuses them, really, just that it’s not always clear that they are, in fact, meant to be read as a single spread.

Wolverine and Scott

I’m willing to accept that maybe I’m just dense, but to me, the cues that this is a single spread are very subtle. So subtle, in fact, that I missed them altogether initially, which made for some confusion and forced me to go back and re-read it properly. It pulled me out of the scene right as the tension should be mounting. Ultimately, I think my problem is that we don’t actually get anything out of this being a double-pager (other than, you know, that little sliver of Wolverine’s shoulder), which makes me wonder why this choice was made in the first place.

At any rate, this was a beautiful issue, and tackled some big ideas I really wasn’t expecting. Ethan, you have much more experience with X-Men history than I do, so I’m sure you can speak more elegantly about the details here. Are you enjoying putting the very relationship we have to comics history under the microscope?

Ethan: I definitely agree with you, Drew, on the argument that All-New X-Men offers a neat opportunity to look at the idea of comic book history and continuity. While I might be a bit more familiar with X-Men than some, my obsessive X-Men card-collecting days ended quite a while ago. That said, I do have enough of a background that, while I’m reading these issues, it feels a lot like the experience of going back to my hometown and seeing a friend with whom I’ve fallen out of touch. The constant references to the reams of backstory that each of these characters has accrued over the decades honestly makes me feel like it’s not a very accessible story in some ways unless you really have been paying attention to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters for quite a long time.

Granted, some pieces of X-Men trivia are pretty well-known, e.g. “Magneto’s done a lot of bad things — I’m pretty sure he’s a VILLAIN, in fact…” so most readers probably understand that the fact that Old Evil Scott is buddies with Magneto is kind of shocking. On the other hand, some interactions lean almost entirely on less famous storylines, so those moments seem incredibly opaque to the average reader. For example, look at the comments by and interactions with Warren / Angel / Archangel / Death, Horseman of the Apocalypse. His list of aliases alone gives you an idea of the fact that he’s been through a lot. This means that for me, Warren’s cryptic remarks in #1-5 and his run-in with his future self in #6 are incredibly fun to think about.

In #6, Young Angel is perched on a roof (something I guess you do a lot when you have wings) and Adult Been-To-Hell-And-Back Angel flies up to him, and, after establishing the fact that they are the same person from two different timeframes, Adult Angel fixes him with a contemplative look. Understandably a little intimidated by the scrutiny, Young Angel asks the first question that pops into his head:

Worthington & Worthington

Again, I love this meeting exactly because of the way All-New X-Men highlights the comic book history that Drew is calling attention to. When I saw these panels, I thought about a thousand things. First – what is going through Adult Angel’s head while he looks at his younger self? Possible ponderings might include:

“Why is he here? Wow, he’s just a baby!” “Whoa, he still has our original organic wings. Oh, and he’s never met Apocalypse. And he’s never had his skin turned blue, and then back, and then blue again, and- yeah, this is really weird.” “I can’t believe I used to have hair that short.” “I wonder if him being here means he won’t have to go through all of that… or if he’ll ever hook up with Psylocke. Guess it wasn’t ALL bad.”

Meanwhile, Young Angel is tripping out on the whole metal-wings thing. His wings define so much of who he is — how he identifies himself — that seeing such a radical change to seems to be drowning out everything else.

In the end, Adult Angel brushes all of the questions and takes Young Angel off “go flying.” This actually makes sense to me — it seems like the equivalent of “let’s go for a walk” for flight-empowered mutants. I’m looking forward to seeing where the Angels’ conversations lead.

The other pairing-off from this issue that did catch my eye was Young Cyclops and Wolverine. Rather than mutually freaking each other out (like the Young and Old Icemans) or finding a mutual sense of curiosity/wonder (like the Young and Old Angel), Cyclops and Wolverine end up fighting. That’s pretty in keeping with Wolverine’s relationship with Old Evil Scott. I could see, many issues in the future, Young Cyclops and Wolverine finding some kind of slightly antagonistic mentor/student vibe… maybe. Their default and current trajectory definitely seems to be one of simple loathing. As much as that makes sense given their completely different leadership styles and their love triangle issues with Jean Grey, I really do hope Bendis tries a new spin on them. I wonder what a friendship would look like, so I hope he explores the possibility.

Overall, this issue was definitely all about the one-on-one interactions among the past and present X-Men. While it served to settle the youngsters into the future – both in terms of culture shock and engaging with their older teammates – I’m looking forward to some more action. I hope we see some mixed-team missions soon; I imagine that there are some fun scenes ahead of seeing the young and adult groups cooperate with each other, learn from each other, and trip over each other in hilarious ways.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

14 comments on “All-New X-Men 6

  1. Damn guys, you just blew my mind. I didn’t catch any of the comments on comic book history but it really is right in front of me. I guess I’m too busy waiting for either reality to collapse or the Angel’s turning into bloody mass and disappearing ala Time Cop after they hug. Great catch!

    • Funny story: Drew pitched me a comic book concept about time-travelers going back to fix the past that didn’t have a solid understanding of history. So, like, they’d be guessing. I jokingly referred to the project as “Time Cops.” Drew was disappointed about an hour later to discover that “Time Cop” is already a thing and not quite as hilarious as the concept he pitched.

  2. I wouldn’t call myself a newcomer to the X-Men mythos, but this series is certainly my first experience with X-Men comics, and I feel totally welcome in Bendis’ world. Ethan sorta points this out, but so far, the characters have just sort of acclimated to the situation they’re in – and not gone out on any stop-the-bad-guys missions. Which means we’re treading a lot of interesting emotional territory and really taking our time to get to know these characters. If it weren’t so consistently beautiful, I would suggest that it was moving too slowly. I haven’t been paying attention to the general critical reception of this series; anyone know if X-Men fans at large are into this less-actiony series?

    • It’s funny, I’ve gotten the impression from folks with more Bendis experience that he tends to draw things out a lot more than this. They’ve said that he seems to be much better about having things actually happen in this series, which was probably a specific directive from editorial. I’ve been very happy with his pacing here, and I know some people swear by his other stuff (Piv was just singing the praises of Ultimate Spider-Man here yesterday), but I wonder how I’d like slower Bendis.

      • I’m not sure if this recommendation is “slower Bendis,” but it is older Bendis so it probably is much slower by default. Pick up his Alias. It’s probably the best thing he’s ever done within the Marvel U, or at least it’s my favorite thing he’s ever done. Fun fact, it’s a Marvel MAX book and as such, the first word uttered in the book is “fuck.”

        • Well, that’s a tough one to field. I would say that you are absolutely safe to just start with Miles. However, the Peter stuff is also fantastic. You get to see him as a teen in modern society. It really is a lot of fun. Here’s the thing tho, I actually missed quite a bit of the Peter stuff towards the end of his run but started picking it up again when I knew he’d be biting the bullet.

          That said, I don’t think you’d be lost with just picking up the Miles stuff, but watching Peter die was pretty heartbreaking, and since this is the Ultimate U, you actually get the sense that he’s going to stay dead. This makes Miles’ journey to Spider-Man so emotionally resonant it’s unbelievable. Whereas Peter strove to be a hero to atone for the death of his uncle, Miles strives to be a hero to honor Peter. There’s more to it than that of course, but Bendis is doing a bang-up job.

        • The pre-Miles stuff is definitely worth it, and even moreso now that it’s basically a complete story, from Peter becoming Spider-Man to his death. Really, that’s the best way to read Ultimate Spider-Man anyway, it reads quickly and I always seem to be done an issue (or hell, a trade) before I know it, so it’s nice to have large chunks to go through at once. It’s also nice that’s a fairly self-contained story; it all takes place in one book (as opposed to however many books Peter has [had] right now) with few to no crossovers, so you can sit down and read the trades in chronological order and pretty much get the whole story. I need to do that myself someday soon if I can, I’ve missed chunks of issues here and there and read them all out of order, but its a fun, fast-paced series with a lot of twist and turns, definitely worth the time.

          I haven’t gotten the opportunity to read Miles’ title yet beyond a few scans on Tumblr, but what I’ve seen of it looks to be up to the same quality, and Miles is adorable.

        • I prefer the Miles stuff, for two reasons. One: art. I don’t like Bagley that much. Two: It’s modern and I like the serialized nature of comics rather than just picking up trades when I can get them. (That said, I have done that and read most of them and cried like a little boy when Peter died, so it had something going for it.) I think the best things Bendis has done has been Ultimate Spidey and his Daredevil run.

          You will have no problem picking up if you just start with Miles. So far, it’s been very, very good.

        • I would second the opinion that the pre-Miles stuff is worth reading. I’m a huge fan of Bendis’ dialogue, so 100ish issues of Spidey’s one-liners is pretty un-missable my book. That said, as was mentioned, it’s all in the Ultimate U, which is FREAKING WEIRD. *SPOILERS-ish*

          One of the main characters gets killed in Peter’s backyard? Venom turns out to NOT be an alien symbiote from space? Spider-Man dating X-Men’s Kitty Pryde? WEIRD. But enjoyable

  3. Side note: I haven’t read this. No interest. However, this book crosses over into Wolverine and the X-Men this month (I think it’s 24, it’s the one with Wolverine and Storm smooching on the cover), if you’re into more All New X-Men.

  4. Note: Whilst your theory about Angel is interesting….he’s currently been reborn and has no memories of Death/Archangel/Psylocke etc…so his ‘wanna go fly?’ isn’t mature ‘lets walk’ but more like a five year old going ‘oh? let’s pretend to be firetrucks now’

  5. Pingback: All-New X-Men 11 | Retcon Punch

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