Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing All-New X-Men 1, originally released December 2nd, 2015.
Michael: Crisis on Infinite Earths is often talked about as an editorial cleaning of house, continuity-wise. In a way, I think it contributed to the the opposite effect, with comic books becoming more and more concerned with continuity. I have no problem with that – the soap opera roller coaster that is superhero relationships has always been very appealing to me. More than any other series (maybe tied with Batman) the X-Men books have always been very concerned with the continuity and its ramifications.
Like its predecessors, the latest “all-new” All-New X-Men embraces the latest status quo of X-continuity while simultaneously trying to outrun its shadow. The cast of Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagley’s All-New X-Men consists of the time-displaced original X-Men — Angel, Iceman, Beast and Cyclops — as well as Kid Apocalypse and Wolverine (X-23.) In the wake of elder Cyclops’ mysterious death, the young Scott Summers is trying to lay low, avoiding both his mutant friends and the self-styled “Ghosts of Cyclops.” Though every comic book character who tries to live the quiet life finds trouble eventually. Because: story. Scott finds himself confronted by the ghosts and once he uses his powers, cerebro locks in on his location and the X-Men come to his unconscious aid.
Earlier, I used the term “continuity,” but when examined from within the world of the comic, it would probably be referred to as “legacy.” Scott Summers is desperately trying to escape the legacy of his “once and future self” but is foiled in his efforts by those who (maybe) misinterpret the late Cyclops’ legacy. Scott is running from the potential future but also from all of mutantdom. It’s interesting that though he and Jean Grey are no longer together, they are both trying to separate themselves from who they are and who they might become. In All-New X-Men 1, Scott meets a girl who at first glance seems to be quite charming but eventually reveals herself to be a mutant-hating bigot. Jean has a nearly identical scene with a boy in Extraordinary X-Men 2. While it’s possible that it’s a mere coincidence, I find it very interesting how similar their paths are; despite being on different X-Men teams/titles. (Hey, how many teams are there currently, anyway?)
As much as Scott doesn’t want to become “X-faced d-bag Scott,” in a way, he is still protective of Cyclops’ legacy; he’s tracking the ghosts down after all. Once again I’m reminded of some DC analogies: the ghosts are to Cyclops as the “Sons of Batman” (The Dark Knight Returns) were to Batman. As Scott says himself, they are just thugs who are uniting for a “cause” simply to do whatever they want. You could argue that Scott doesn’t want d-bag mutants doing d-bag things because he’s a hero, but the fact of the matter is that is this is inseparably personal. Dead Cyclops (ooo that name makes things so much easier now!) is like Scott’s older brother that he didn’t completely understand or agree with, but he loved him so he defends him. Except…he IS him so it’s 100% more personal and 1000% more complicated. But the basic conceit is: “he was family and what you’re doing is disrespecting his memory.”
The interesting thing about All-New X-Men is that the entire team consists of characters with that kind of legacy-inspired emotional baggage. Beast, Angel and Iceman all get filed under the same type of legacy problems that Scott faces (to varying extents), then you have Laura trying live up to her clone father Logan and Evan who fears that someday he might become Apocalypse. The X-Men are the misfits of misfit heroes, so I think having this particular brand of misfit heroes is a cool idea; to go for the DC-reference-hat-trick, it reminds me of Teen Titans.
I focused a lot on Scott – dude gets a bad rap, and I appreciate that Hopeless is trying to help salvage young Scott’s future. Patrick, what else do you got? The rest of the team wasn’t featured as heavily – especially with Angel and Wolverine starring in All-New Wolverine – any thoughts on them or the ghosts? Two observations: 1) I found Thirst’s powers to be a little unsanitary myself. 2) I’d like to have Pickles the Bamf’s job. And… how hard do you think it must’ve been for Cyclops to abstain from… blasting?
Patrick: That last one is a great question. If mutations are, indeed, evolutionary responses to changing conditions, then there must be some sort of biological imperative for using those powers, right? Scott’s powers give him a pretty clear evolutionary advantage — he can basically destroy any one or any thing with a well-placed blast — but what if it also felt good to let those puppies out? Hopeless does sort of invite the question: Scott’s powerless walkabout does sort of look like a spiritual journey, and Scott abstaining from using his powers boarders on monastic. He’s even sort of following in the path of spiritual leader, denying his own connection to the movement’s diety. AND! They even use (modern) religious language when talking about Cyclops: Scott big optic blast is precipitated by a co-opting of What Would Jesus Do?
WWCD? Quentin Quire, I expect to see that on a t-shirt soon.
Michael, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that this issue is more concerned with legacy than with continuity. That seems like a stark contrast to Extraordinary X-Men 1, which requires an insane about of X-Men knowledge (and a fair bit of Inhumans knowledge) coming in. Everything a new reader would need to understand the emotional beats of what these characters are going through is contained within this issue. In particular, Scott’s relationship to the Old, Evil Scott (or “OE Scott,” a term Drew and I started using when the Original Five were first pulled into the present) is well explored through Scottie’s journaling, his reaction to the Ghosts of Cyclops, and his conversation with Marla.
There’s also the fact that Hopeless and Bagley are embracing the future of mutant-hood in a way that Extraordinary refused to. Let’s put that “No New Mutants” rumor to bed with this issue, which by my count introduces six.
And even from just that first panel, it’s clear that Bagley and Hopeless have put some work into these guys. There are three bold designs in this bunch, and at all six of them express personality in this panel (I’m counting that pink tank-top with “YO” printed on it as personality). But the simple fact of the matter is that there’s a group that wants to carry the ideas that OE Scott stood for into the future. Young, Idealistic Scott (YI Scott?) is similarly focused on the future, a elucidated by his powerful journal entry:
So how can a time traveler say the future is dead? This is not the future. Not for you. Not for me. Not for anyone. My friends and I came here from the past. Yes. But as soon as we got here, this became the present. This place swallowed us whole. I’m not talking about paradoxes or alternate timelines or anything like that. I’m saying people adapt. People ignore. People get used to things. Even terrible things. And they move on. The X-Men didn’t change the future. It changed us.
That really is a beautiful statement of purpose for anyone writing these characters. The past is immaterial, and the only thing that matters is what a creator can do with them now. That’s part of what makes Scott’s journey so much more engaging that Jean’s – while she is too stymied by future-past to take meaningful action, Scott is motivated to make the world a better, safer place.
I think you see that in the rest of the issue too. The ol’ Mutant Metaphor is alive and kicking Bobby’s one-and-a-half-page story. He’s living it up in Austin, which he describes as “super mutant-friendly.” It’s a place where his powers are displayed and celebrated in public – which caries Austin’s real-life reputation for acceptance into the Marvel Universe. It’s a small, small moment in the issue, but it proves that there’s still some juice left in the old metaphor-machine that has nothing to do with time-traveling legacy-dodgers.
I loved this issue, but if there’s one place is falls short it’s in how it treats Idie Okonkwo. The first-page preamble explains that she’s part of the series, but she mostly skates by in the background as Kid Apocalypse’s un-identified friend. It wasn’t until that final page splash that I was like “wait… who is that?”
Every single one of the Ghosts of Cyclops gets more page-time that she does. Sorta weird!
But it is a jam-packed issue, and by every other measure, I’m very happy with it. Plus, I assume we’ll get more of Idie’s stuff in the future. Hey, that’s what this series is about, right? “The future?” And speaking of the future – check out them new costumes.
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?