Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing All-New X-Men 25, originally released April 9th, 2014.
Taylor: They, the ever shifting and nebulous authority that knows more than us, is always saying that hindsight is 20/20. Once events have played out, we know exactly what we should have done in a given situation to obtain our desired results. It’s a damned feeling; there’s nothing you can do about it but you kick yourself for not doing the right thing. This feeling is often so frustrating that it can keep us up at night, pondering the grand “what if?” While that can be crushing, just imagine what the feeling would be like if perhaps you could change the past, if only you thought about it hard enough. Hank McCoy (the one in his proper time) knows this feeling and All-New X-Men 25 shows us just how deep and dark that hole can be.
Beast can’t sleep. A mysterious stranger appears in his bedroom and starts posing questions that would keep any morally conscious person awake at night. To make matters worse, this mysterious visitor starts to regale Beast with all of the ways he’s totally fucked up EVERYTHING by bringing the X-Men of the past to the future. Next he tells Hank about some possible futures where everything isn’t so bad. At the end of the issue it is revealed that the mysterious visitor is the giant headed Watcher, who is disgusted by Hank.
The defining feature of this issue that it employs over 30 creative types to flesh out its pages. Each possible future posed to Beast by the watcher is designed and arted (I’m making that verb) by a different creative team. These different scenes are broken apart by the art of David Marquez whenever we return to the sleepless Beast’s room. This whole scheme of multiple artists is one that’s been done before but also one I find I highly enjoy. While it always runs the risk of feeling gimmicky, this issue feels anything but. Instead, the use of different artists to depict different futures or pasts is actually pretty fun. I simply love seeing different artistic renditions of the same subject so it was a delight to see some of our favorite X-Men depicted in various modes all in one issue.
While there are a lot of pages I liked, my favorite pages involved the art of JG Jones. In this section of the book, the Watcher is telling Beast of a future where all mutants have become slave to their own powers. That is, they have completely given up on the human side of their evolution and gone all Colonel Kurtz on us so to speak. One of the mutants depicted as becoming the most savage is Beast, the one mutant who above all else prides his intellect.
I simply love how Jones chose to depict Beast in, pardon me, Beast Mode. Not only is he foaming at the mouth and looking like a rabid gorilla, but he’s taking on a Tyrannosaurs Rex. It literally is a primal encounter and it effectively shows just how animal like Beast could become in this future. It’s hard to say exactly how much direction each artist(ic team) was given by Bendis, but given the wildly different scenes we encounter through the issue, I’m willing to bet they had a large amount of leeway. If that’s the case, Bendis was more than rewarded for his trust in his art teams. The above panels are an exemplar of what a talented artist can do when allowed to flex his or her creative muscles.
A page later we get a much brighter image of what could happen to all of the mutants in the future given Hank’s choice to bring some mutants to the future.
In this case, the X-Men are known heroes to the world and accepted by society for who they are. It’s a stark change and once again that is appropriately reflected in the art on the page. Yet while the above and other pages are pretty to look at, I found myself kind of disappointed in where this series is projecting to go. It seems that once again the focus will be directed on the time-traveling and the paradoxes and/or consequences of doing such. I understand that All-New X-Men is about time traveling mutants, but the conclusion of The Trial of Jean Grey had me thinking we had finally put all of that time business, ahem, in the past. I suppose Marvel has good reason to focus our attention on time travel, given that Days of Future Past hits theaters this summer, but the hands of time are proving heavy at the moment.
Shelby! What did you think of this artistic orgy? Is this all gimmick and no substance or did the issue satisfy you? Are you as tired of time travelling X-Men as I am? Also, what’s your favorite page from the issue?
Shelby: Can I say I thought this issue was both gimmick and substance? The multiple artist trick is one we’ve seen before, and while I think this vignette-style of story-telling is one of the more effective ways to employ it, it’s still just a trick. Its the scenes between Beast and the Watcher that really make this story hit hard. The anguish and shame Beast displays is gorgeously rendered with Marquez’s painterly style.
The acting on these pages is really superb, and it lends a lot of weight to the parade of artists. I’m going to have to humbly disagree with you, Taylor, in regards to where the story is headed. While there will almost certainly be more time-travel fallout to deal with in this title, I don’t know that we’re going to have more actual time-traveling for a while. If the Watcher had had words of comfort and support for Beast, I think we’d have a lot more time-travel in our future (ha!). Instead, the Watcher is cold and cruel. “Oh, do you feel sad about what you did? Well, YOU SHOULD BECAUSE YOU FUCKED UP EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE IMPORTANT TO YOU.” It’s an unexpectedly dark message for this book that literally leaves Beast exactly where he started. I can see why the Watcher is so disgusted; his entire existence is to observe what happens on Earth. To interfere in the way Beast is, in the eyes of the Watcher, an unpardonable sin.
Enough of that sad stuff, let’s talk about some of that amazing art! Unfortunately, I’m not sure who all is responsible for which pages; my apologies to the artists, no disrespect intended. The unfortunate White Queen Future is unsettling and gorgeous.
Beautiful. With no background to speak of, she’s left alone with everyone’s thoughts and her madness. There’s a very Dave McKean Sandman-esque vibe to it, it’s the perfect blend of meloncholy and beauty. But as much as I love this page, and many more in this book (love you, Skottie Young!), my favorite has got to be Bruce Timm.
I mean, come on; it’s Bruce Timm, for crying out loud! He captures Jean in the ways we know and love her best, in the style we have known and loved best ever since Batman: The Animated Series.
I know I said earlier I don’t think we’ll see more time travel for a while in this title, but honestly I couldn’t begin to guess where this book will go next. All I do know is we’ve got an all-new chance to experience the classic X-Men in ways we’ve never seen before. If Bendis can manage to stop pulling in other titles and getting this book involved in cross-over events, that is.
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?
I think this issue totally transcended gimickry, and made an interesting statement about the influence the artists has over the tone of a series. These pages are all so drastically different, but I could see reading All New X-Men drawn by any one of these art teams. Obviously, that would have an influence on the tone of the series — and more importantly, the future of the series — and I think illustrating that concept more than justifies the use of multiple artists. Plus: it’s often gorgeous and a heck of a lot of fun.
Anyone else think the thing Hank needs (where he trails off at the end of the issue) is Professor X? The Watcher in silhouette throughout the issue was obviously meant to evoke his image, and this issue makes a pretty big point about the importance of Xavier’s influence on the lives of the original X-Men. I’ve long thought that this series might be the mechanism for Xavier’s eventual return, and this issue makes me think that might be a more direct action than the Doc Brown at the end of Back to the Future I assumed it was going to be.
Well, there’s a timeline out there missing its Original X-Men — because Hank snatched them up — so Hank might as well go snatch up their Professor X as well.
I feel like I mentioned this in the last write-up, but I’d like to see a story set in that universe: just like normal Marvel, but the original X-Men simply vanished. How much would that change stuff?