Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing All-New X-Men 35, originally released January 21st, 2015.
Ryan: The “how” of All-New X-Men 35 may come off as complicated, but is fairly straightforward compared to some of the dimension and timeline hopping we have seen recently. With the grown-up, 616-proper X-men all converging on the last will and testament of one Charles Xavier, the temporally and dimensionally-displaced All-New (plus X-23) find themselves in the Ultimate Universe thanks to the powers of a new mutant named Carmen. These X-men find the heroes on Earth-1610 still recovering from the devastation of Gah Lak Tus’s attack during Cataclysm, and a general populace wherein mutants are not only marginalized, but actively outlawed. See? Simple.
This particular issue centers around rescuing young Hank McCoy from the nefarious — yet quite polite — clutches of Victor Van Damme (Doom, to some) and sees the likes of the Ultimate X-Men, the First Class, and the Miles Morales Spider-Man joining forces against the villain and his legion of Doombots.
To say that this issue feels happily like a Bendis title should make sense to many. Unlike his exposition-heavy last issue, #35 feels more objective driven, and pauses only briefly on its way to bring readers to the payoff: the huge brawl with Doom featuring Spider-Man’s Hail Mary of an attack on him. One of the nice in-between moments is another one of those “talking to someone from a different universe LoL” conversations, but handled charmingly:
Bendis’ characterizations and resulting dialogues showcase his penchant for both humor and humanity, and, to me, are the reasons why he is so consistently chosen for the large cross-overs: many authors can write a cool plot, but the intimacy with we see of his characters makes their reactions and fall-out to large happenings all the more compelling. This may partially explains his “unslakable thirst for mashing his series together”, as Drew so eloquently stated back in issue #33. Also, these mash-ups may explain the “why” of this arc a bit more.
Why visit the wilting Ultimate universe? Why the seemingly redundant meet-up of Jeans Grey in the last issue? Why have Hank’s multi-continuity timeline featured as a running visual motif?
The writing is on the wall. Secret Wars: The End of the Marvel Universe (as we know it). What do we need to get there? Well, we want Miles Morales in the big picture, ostensibly even the movies — hence, we visit Earth-1610 to tie him in. As my friend and confidante Andy pointed out, Marvel needs Wolverine alive again, Cyclops to function like Cyclops again, and Beast has been teased to be the one to fix all of these scary time-travel repercussions. The only thing that can allow these things to pass is to kill Jean Grey — ALL of the Jeans Grey — thus making young Jean’s encounters with herself in other Earths important. Eva Bell and Professor Xavier already said so much in the pages of Uncanny. And remember, Bendis himself wrote this cheeky panel in issue #3 of Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man:
Even if one views this series as nothing more than an excuse to set up dream scenarios, fan-pleasing cameos, or inter-dimensional reunions, it still exceeds all expectations in regards to the fun factor. The same can be said even if the wheels within wheels setting up the next big cross-over become more visible. Patrick, do you think I am crazy, or is your spider-sense tingling as well in regards to the objects being set in motion? Also, do you think the action in this issue made up for the lack thereof you mentioned in the last?
Patrick: Ryan, before I answer either of those prompts, I just wanted to address an idea that you mentioned that got my head spinning: the death of all Jeans Grey. If I’m keeping track of all the various versions of her running around (in Bendis books, no less) there are there: Ultimate, Time-Displaced and Xorn (from the non-2099 future of 616). Jean is such a compelling character, and her original death(s) so effective that a couple of things are true about her. 1) The version of Jean Grey that became the Dark Phoenix and died needs to stay dead. That was a death that mattered then, and it matters now. 2) Jean is too useful a dramatic tool for authors not to have access to, which is precisely why there are three versions of her in current continuity, none of which can be described without some wonky adjective in front of it. What I think I’m getting from you, Ryan, is that there’s no way to divorce Jean from her baggage — we will all always think of her as the X-Man we lost — and any clean narrative break would involve making that statement true. As of right now, we haven’t really lost Jean — there are two of her in this issue alone.
I think that might be true. While I love the central conceit of All-New X-Men, the whole series has been traveling on emotionally dishonest ground, at least as far as the X-Men uber-narrative is concerned. I don’t really think that’s a problem: no matter how meandering the plot, I’ve been rapt by All-New X-Men since the first issue. Within its own pages, this has been a massively rewarding series, but I can see where it might be time to close that chapter on the X-Men saga.
Now, let’s quit with the big-picture stuff and zoom way in on some of the amazing sequences artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Marte Gracia deliver in this issue. There are an absurd number of characters on display in just about every page, and it’s remarkable how many poster-ready spreads this creative team produces. There’s that opening splash, which casts X-23 a the perspective character in the final brawl.
They’re all there, if you want to check. Interestingly, in the penultimate page, we get the moment just before this occurs, in a panel that’s every bit as dynamic, but redistributes priority.
Notice how much of these images share with each other. Bobby and Bobby are basically side-by-side in both. Jean is awash in a telekinetic glow. And both images use Storm’s lightning bolt as a guiding line for focus and composition. What about X-23 though? When we start the issue, it seems like she’s our point of view, but by the end, she’s shunted way to the back of the formation. I don’t totally know what to make of that, but it does reinforce the idea that there’s no single character at the heart of All-New X-Men. We can think that X-23’s the hero, but from another perspective, Storm’s in the lead.
And that speaks to a phenomenon that ANXM has been expertly executing since day-one — a constantly moving set of narrative goal posts. At what point did we stop asking if we could get the Original X-Men back to their time? At what point did we absolve Jeanie of her future crimes? At what point did they stop trying to convince Old, Evil Scott (ah, we haven’t used “OE Scott” in a long time) that there’s a better way? This series, like this fight, isn’t so simple, with a clear front and a clear rear.
Oh and I definitely think it’s cool how many threads from around the Marvel universe are really careening out of control toward this idea of multiversal-failure. Spider-Verse, the Original X-Men, Angela, Ultron, the Illuminati — there’s a remarkably consistent emphasis of the consequences of fucking with the reality of time and space. Guess it’s just time to pay the piper, then, huh?
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?