Taylor: A sense of belonging is important for our day-to-day lives. The city we live in, the place we work, where we sleep, and who we interact with are in some way or another based on our desire to feel we belong. Now, whether this sense borders on the quasi-mystical or is a simple impulse to feel comfortable is unimportant. Rather, humans being social animals just want to belong to part of the whole. When you’re a mutant, however, finding a place where you feel that sense of belonging becomes all the more difficult. It’s hard to relate to others when they very may well despise you (and also when they don’t know what it’s like to levitate and the like). The All-New X-Men, more so than their regular X-Men counterpart,s know this quandary, as they’re displaced in time along with being displaced socially. So what happen’s when their sense of belonging is stretched even further?
The All-New X-Men find themselves suddenly in different places. Ice-Man is fighting mole men; Laura and Angel are at the birthplace of Weapon X; Beast in Latveria; and Jean is with Miles Morales of Ultimate Spider-Man fame. Why each is in this particular place is a mystery, but they do know that something is wrong. The issue follows their various adventures with the climatic reveal of the X-Men of Earth 1610.
This issue embodies a lot of the things that are both the calling card of this series and the reason why I look forward to it every month. More so than a lot of titles I read, I feel like an issue of All-New can go in basically any direction. Sometimes that’s for the best and sometimes that’s not so great. Still, if anything, this series is unafraid to be zany in the best possible way.
Issue 33 is no exception to this rule. The same sense of endless possibilities rules this issue and is multiplied several times over by splitting up our team each into a different locale. There are several things to like about this move as each mini-story featuring an X-(Wo)Man reflects the characters personality. I found myself laughing the whole time during Ice-Man’s romp in the underground with the mole men. First: what? Did I miss something? What do mole men have to do with anything? Turns out it doesn’t matter because it’s just so gosh-dern fun. Writer Brian Michael Bendis has his usual wit on display here and is spoon feeding Ice-Man great lines like this one:
Astilasagna. That’s one I’ll have to start using on my friends. They’ll hate me for it, but that’s kind of the point. This kind of tom-foolery is Ice-Man’s forte and while it sometimes comes off as a bit forced in an issue, here it’s the perfect response to fighting giant moles. Add to this the receding “yesssssss” and it’s comedic gold and rendered so perfectly here.
Similarly, the tone of Jean story is much more somber, matching her character. Jean, as we all know, is in no way as happy-go-lucky as Ice-Man. This shift in character focus is mirrored by how Bendis presents this section of the story. Throughout, it’s serious and almost a little sad. Aside from a failed comedic aside when Jean first makes her appearance, this is pretty reflective story telling. While driving to the location of the Jean Grey school (at least in her universe), Jean reflects on how she and her teammates belong virtually nowhere in any universe of time.
It’s a sad realization of the facts and one I hadn’t really considered before. Things are all well and good (relatively) when you’re an X-Man. But when you belong to no time or place, how can you be all that happy? And at this point, aren’t the All-New team too far removed from their lives in the past to ever go back? Basically they have nowhere or no time to call their own. This of course is compounded by their being mutants. Basically, they are unique and alone in the entire Marvel Universe.
Drew, for all that I said I enjoyed about this issue, there were parts I didn’t like. That part where Jean appears in Ganke and Mile’s dorm room? Pretty bad when you considering it’s sole purpose was to serve as a base for sex jokes. Your thoughts? Also, Mahmud Asrar’s pencils are a little wonky a few times throughout the issue. Did that distract you like it did me?
Drew: I think the biggest downside for me was another of those calling cards of this series: Bendis’ seemingly unslakable thirst for mashing his series together. I know, I know, I wasn’t complaining about that habit when All-New X-Men was crossing over with Uncanny X-Men (which, let’s admit, at least makes some sense), or even Guardians of the Galaxy (which I’ll be the first to admit makes infinitely less sense), and while my discomfort here certainly comes in part from not reading Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, I think this particular crossover is different in a number of ways. The biggest difference is that this isn’t just a crossover with Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man — this issue alone also introduces Victor Van Damme and the Ultimate X-Men — this is a crossover with the whole Ultimate Universe. That requires significantly more buy-in (and room for confusion) than any of the other crossovers we’ve seen with this series. Again, this reflects my own unfamiliarity with the Ultimate Universe, but being unfamiliar with an entire universe is decidedly more daunting than being unfamiliar with a given comic book series.
But maybe that’s okay? Recognizing all of these elements from the Ultimate Universe might let us in on some dramatic irony, but not recognizing them puts us firmly in the place of our intrepid heroes, so there might not be a wrong amount of familiarity. Subtle hints like the use of lowercase lettering throughout this issue can tip us off that our characters are all in the same place, but that’s not even all that important to know at this juncture.
That kind of X-Men-focused perspective on this issue lends to an easy-to-follow thread, as each of our heroes is presented with something unexpected, but it kind of breaks down in the Jean sections, largely because Bendis still wants to treat it like a crossover with Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man. Miles and Ganke hog valuable screen time, and while it’s charming enough, it’s not what anyone picks up All-New X-Men for — as Taylor noted, it’s really just there to make some easy sex jokes. I tend to be a sucker for terrible sex jokes, but these all come at the expense of anything resembling believable dialogue.
Having been a teenage dude, I can assure you that nobody in the Multiverse would ever refer to themselves as “a teenage young man”. It’s both awkward and redundant, and while I appreciate the sentiment — I certainly wouldn’t have wanted a cute girl reading my thoughts when I was a teenager — this is the second time this issue makes the same joke. Why are these guys so aware of how different their thoughts are from non-teenage young men?
In spite of my problems with it, I actually found a lot to like in this issue. I’m particularly enamored of the way Bendis is developing Warren and Laura’s relationship — she’s maybe even more bristly now that they’ve shared…whatever it is that they shared. Touchingly, Warren seems almost heartbroken when Laura and James Hudson are having their little standoff.
There’s a lot to like in this issue, but there’s also plenty to be frustrated by. In true Bendis fashion, the end reveal has me certain that more will happen next time. At the very least, we’ll get to see Bobby face off against a giant mole monster — who could ask for more than that?
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?