I recently read an entire year’s worth of X-Men comics in a single weekend.  Well, technically it was only ten months but, with Marvel double shipping some months, it was more than 25 single issues. 

 

The Adventure

 

For starters, it was a lot of fun simply tracking down the assorted issues I had skipped.  As I rushed from store to store looking for All New X-Men 1-16 and Uncanny X-Men 1-11, I recalled that the thrill of the search is one of the great joys of collecting comics. 

 

I stopped by Comics Etc. first.  They’re the largest comics store in the area and they’re a lot more customer friendly since they moved to a new location last year. They also have the best selection of recent back issues; I think they tend to over-order but it works to my benefit so I’m not complaining.  Indeed, they had more than half of the issues I was missing including the debuts.  I had to settle for a few second and third printings but I’m a reader, not an investor, so I was happy. 

 

My next stop was Comics Wonderland.  They’re the closest store to my house but I only drop by occasionally as they don’t offer a membership discount.  However, they’re a decent fallback and I sometimes shop there for back issues.  In this case, they had a scattered assortment of recent X-Men comics.  Amazingly, their sparse selection matched a few of the remaining holes so I snatched them up. 

 

I headed back downtown to my regular store, Comic Book Heaven.  I hadn’t stopped there originally because I knew they wouldn’t have that many recent issues.  They tend to sell-out, particularly since they picked up an influx of new customers after another local store, Empire Comics, closed down.  That’s actually a sad story.  Empire had been owned by two brothers- twins actually- who died a couple of months apart last year.   Empire used to be part of my regular circuit and I miss it.  Anyway, I was right about my regular shop.  They only had a couple of issues that I still needed. 

 

Finally, I went home and bought the last four issues online.  I know that some of the older fans think that the world wide web has ruined the joy of the search but I respectfully disagree.  I can still enjoy rummaging through flea markets or running from store to store if I want.  But I also know that any disappointment in not finding something is only temporary.  Chances are good that the comic in question is only a click away. 

 

The Hesitation

 

I suppose I should explain why all of this was necessary.   I am an avid X-Men fan after all and it’s unusual for me to skip a year (okay, ten months) of any of their major titles.  But I’ll admit that I was skeptical when All-New X-Men and a new Uncanny X-Men were initially announced. 

 

For one thing, I was already collecting three other X-Men titles: Astonishing X-Men, Wolverine & the X-Men and regular ol’ X-Men.  I was also planning to give the upcoming Avengers/X-Men hybrid title, Uncanny Avengers, a try.  That seemed like more than enough X-Men for anyone.

 

Secondly, and more significantly, I hesitated to buy an X-Men comic by Brian Michael Bendis.  I had grown tired of his work on Powers and had been disappointed by his work on Avengers and I didn’t want to be burned again. 

 

Finally, I was skeptical of the proposal to bring the ‘60s X-Men forward in time to today.  Comics tend to indulge in too much nostalgia as it is.  Nostalgia is definitely part of their appeal.  It’s one of the great joys, right up there with the search.  But I don’t want my comics to wallow in it.  I’d rather look forward, thank you very much. I’m also not particularly nostalgic for a line-up that disbanded several years before I was born.  Plus, I was concerned that this would become a platform for baby boomers to bash everything that occurred in the last 40 years and I didn’t want to sign up for that.

 

However, over the past year (okay, ten months), my resistance slowly wore down.  I do have a bit of a completist streak in me (they should have a recovery group for that) and it was hard to see X-Men comics sitting on the shelf month after month and pass them by.  Yet I’ve resisted that urge before- and will probably have to again.

 

The bigger factor was the positive reviews that kept rolling in.  I can ignore positive reviews too, as I know I don’t always agree with the self-appointed pundits.  But I couldn’t so easily ignore the raves I was reading on my Facebook feed from fellow comic book fans like Doc Beechler.  These were people whose opinions I trust-whose tastes often align with my own- and they were telling me that these were great comics. 

 

So I started to peak at shelf copies of All-New and Uncanny.  I discovered that they weren’t the generational screed I had feared.  Bendis was exploring new angles, like having Jean Grey and the Beast become an item- something that never happened in the ‘60s.   That scene convinced me to give Bendis’ X-Men a try.  After that, it was only a matter of time before I picked up all of those issues I had skipped.

 

Coincidentally, the X-Men titles were about to embark on one of their notorious crossovers.  It was the perfect time to catch up- and find out what the fuss was all about.   

 

The Reaction

 

I have to say my friends were right.  These are really good comics.  I’d finish one and want to read the next one immediately.  They were that engrossing.  They have to be good if I’m going to read that many of them in a single weekend. 

 

More than anything, I appreciated the sense of humor.  Lots of comics try to be funny.  Few of them succeed.  Yet Bendis had me laughing out loud every few issues.  I liked the situational humor, like Jean Grey-from-the-past and Rachel Grey-from-the-future intentionally avoiding each other.  But I absolutely loved the witty repartee.  My favorite scene was one in which Captain America and the Avengers visit the new Jean Grey School.  Captain America has learned about the presence of the past X-Men and has come to confront Beast about his irresponsible action.  While Captain America and Beast have their conversation just out of earshot, Kitty Pryde and Iceman perform their own version.  The impression of Captain America’s “stern” voice had me roaring with laughter.  When I finished the scene, I performed a rendition for my wife who found it just as funny.  Congratulations, Brian Michael Bendis, for crafting one of the funniest scenes I’ve read in 25 plus years of comics. 

 

Bendis also does a good job depicting the convoluted relationships of the X-Men family.  From the flirty first steps between Kitty and Iceman to the cold demeanor of former lovers Emma and Cyclops, Bendis paints a panorama of human relationships- each as real as the next.  I kind of knew that this would be Bendis’ strong suit- and had once suggested him as a good fit for the X-Men because of it- so I’m glad to see that he pulls it off.

 

I was particularly pleased with the unpredictability of these stories.  I was worried that the presence of the old X-Men would result in a lack of progress.  Yet, as previously noted, Bendis had no problem throwing out the status quo.  And then doing it again.  For example, the young Angel quit the team and joined old Cyclops’ band of revolutionaries.   To my surprise, Bendis didn’t bring the original X-Men forward to keep them together.  Instead, they’ve become a huge complicating factor in everyone’s lives and I’m never quite sure what is going to happen next.  I certainly didn’t predict that the Battle of the Atom crossover would include yet another X-Men team from the future.  It’s been a blast watching the shifting alliances as different X-Men squads pursue different agendas.

 

So, yeah, I’m fully on board.  Maybe five X-Men titles aren’t too many after all.  And maybe Bendis is the perfect fit for the X-Men I once thought he would be- and not the disappointment I feared.

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I am enjoying the Battle of the Atom arc, which is The All-New X-men basically....and I'm enjoying Bendis' take on it.

It's thoughtful, everyone is in character, and the addition of new characters, or version of characters, is enjoyable, but as they geometrically increase, everyone is mopping their brow and wondering how much more they can take.


The thing that I find interesting is that one faction has decided to put the genie back in the bottle, they must return the x-men to their original time. (That's a given: Duh!)

But the new wrinkle seems to be that they CAN'T!  I am on the edge of the seat waiting for the explanation...and I am wondering if this is going to be a premise for a new series....the all new original x-men in present day, hunting the horocruxes....er, trying to right the things that have gone wrong since they've arrived, so that they can eventually.... go home again.

 

Why don't they just click Jean's heels together three times and repeat, "There's no place like Professor X's school...There's no place like home."

I've looked at it but the idea that Hank was so dumb as to mess with time just removes the story from any serious consideration for me. Also why anyone facing the sort of life that the young X-men are going to face would want to continue that life puzzled me. Jean gets to look forward to becoming Phoenix and see the man she's going to love become lovers with the woman who helped engineer Dark Pheonix? Scott gets to see the future version of himself and learns that he threw Jean over for Emma and killed Xavier as well? He's going to go from being a nice guy to Magneto's best friend? Warren gets to look forward to having his wings amputated? I can't see the original X-men going back just to go through that which probably means that (yet again) the marvel heroes will have to fight each other to force them to go back, first capture, then mind alter and then shove through a time portal, real heroic stuff.
And again Hank being willing to risk smashing all of time and space...

How is messing with time dumb?  Hank is a scientist.  He would have a natural curiosity.

And what do you mean "why anyone would want to continue that life", are you saying killing themselves would be the proper reaction to seeing their futures?

Also, some of us may wait to see how the story unfolds before we crap all over it.  Maybe it's only me, I don't know, but I judge a story on what actually happens as opposed to what only may happen.

Messing with time, generating a paradox that could put all of causality in danger simply to fulfill an emotional need? Yes I call that dumb. Hank's been around, he's seen how fragile time and space truly are. Then again he's currently with the Illuminati and they are blowing up planets so maybe he's willing to risk all of time and space to play with a new toy.

What I mean is exactly what is happening, exactly what anyone with any sense would have predicted: They don't want to go back to horrible fates. In all of the years to come for the young X-men starting from the point that Hank took them from they have perhaps a few weeks of happiness. Sentinel robots rise, they are hunted constantly by more and more dangerous foes, none of them find any sort of happiness that lasts more than a few months, a few of them die a few times and in the end they see most of the mutants who haven't been killed or experimented on by SHIELD or the US government wiped out by the Scarlet Witch. That doesn't even bring to mind the personal pain they'll each have to go through with every betrayal, Xavier faking his own death and such. No sane person goes back just to go through that and Hank of all people should have realized that. He had to be dumbed down to get this story started.

And I'm not some of us, I'm just me.

Well, YMMV.  That's what makes horse races.

I thought they made a pretty good case for why Hank might be tempted to do so now....it was a matter of life and death...for HIM.  When you're facing the end, you're willing to take risks.... and Hank decided since he was dying, he'd take one big gamble to try to save his friends (and himself, indirectly) with the intent to send them back immediately...but he collapsed.

and it grew like topsey, and is proving very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.

 

I've just now realized that Illiana/Magic could take them back in time through her stepping discs and get them back in time for Prof X or some other mentalist to mind wipe them.  That might be the Deus Machine that we'll see later this month!

 

I'm enjoying All New X-Men right now but eventually the issue over who exactly these "original" X-Men are has to be addressed. I agree with Mark. There's no way these kids go back to experience all that pain willingly. And if you do mindwipe them, then what's the point of bringing them to the future in the first place?

And you have to send them back soon! These are growing teenagers. You can't keep them for months or, God forbid, years in the future then send them back to the instant they left. Someone (their families, Professor X) would definitely notice that!

Anyway, the obvious answer is that the kids are now part of an alternate timeline. That's not dramatically satisfactory nor does it solve anyone's problems but I don't think that was possible in the first place.

But it's still one of Marvel's best right now.

There's a lot that I could say to my younger self and a lot my younger self could say to me, but if we had that communication I wouldn't exist because my younger self would not become my current older self and I'd be a different older self. There was an episode of Phineas and Ferb that explained this. Hank thought he was dying, he figured that he had nothing left to loose but what about the rest of the universe? An X-men, an Avenger, a Defender who had seen the dangers of time travel and alternate universes was willing to generate a time paradox that would put all of time and space at risk? Sure what came after might be a great story but the start of that story is in my opinion a bit of character tearing down.

Well when you are banging on death's door your perspective changes. If Beast is egotistical enough to mess with time, then he also believes after seeing everyone else's scheme that he can avoid the pitfalls they had. In most cases he just creates an alternate timeline. In the world of comics that is no big deal.

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

There's a lot that I could say to my younger self and a lot my younger self could say to me, but if we had that communication I wouldn't exist because my younger self would not become my current older self and I'd be a different older self. There was an episode of Phineas and Ferb that explained this. Hank thought he was dying, he figured that he had nothing left to loose but what about the rest of the universe? An X-men, an Avenger, a Defender who had seen the dangers of time travel and alternate universes was willing to generate a time paradox that would put all of time and space at risk? Sure what came after might be a great story but the start of that story is in my opinion a bit of character tearing down.

People make bad decisions all the time.  That's true in real life.  It should be true in fiction as well.  The relevant questions are "is it believable?" and "is it interesting?"  I was concerned about the latter answer.  I had doubts that I would be interested in the younger X-Men telling the current X-Men that they've messed up the future.  That was enough to keep me from buying the book when it first came out.  Now that I've read the story, Bendis more than adequately answered that question for me.  Yes, it's interesting.   Very interesting.  It isn't trite or formulaic or at all what I expected.  It's funny and unpredictable and surprisingly nuanced. 

I hadn't really thought about the first question at length, even before reading this story.  Superheroes have long had access to time-travel technology.  Spider-Man 2099 is currently guest-starring in Superior Spider-Man for Pete's sake.  So, of course, the temptation is there for someone to use time travel for arguably selfish purposes.  I believe it of comics in general, and I believe it of Hank McCoy.  

One other thing: the world is not always clear-cut.  While some might condemn Hank for making a bad decision, others might defend him for making the right call.  Indeed, that's part of what makes this so interesting.  The characters themselves are split as to whether this is a good or a bad idea.  That creates conflict and dynamic tension.  Most of the X-Men are incredibly upset with Hank for doing something so dumb, but others are sympathetic to his viewpoint and they quietly agree with him.  In the broader context, it's not a bad thing for a story to spark a conversation about morality. Bad decisions are more likely to cause debate that correct ones, and conversely, good stories are more likely to generate that kind of conversation than bad ones. 

Marvel characters have excelled at making bad decisions for the past few years, it's actually a surprise to me when they make good ones anymore. It's one of the reasons I cheer the bad guys and can laugh at Luke's speech at the end of a recent Avengers issue. Far from coming together the marvel characters are more likely to betray each other than work together.

When Sue and Logan murdered Hank Pym in Age of Ultron the time changes were quick to show up. Now it seems as if time has given the X-men a grace period to work things out. The time travel authority that once threatened to wipe Jennifer out of existence for her time travel wrongs is nowhere to be found.

I didn't write about this in the article but I would've liked to see Uncanny X-Men do a better job of developing the new mutants.  So far, they're mostly bystanders/comic relief while the action focuses on Cyclops, Emma Frost and Magneto.  Personally, I like that there's a new generation of mutants every decade or so.  The New Mutants were the kids of the '80s, Generation X in the '90s and the Academy X kids for the 'aughts.  However, Marvel hasn't quite found their new generation for the 'teens yet.  Generation Hope kind of fizzled and for the same reason.  They seemed like supporting characters in their own title while the early focus was on the rivalry between Cyclops and Wolverine.  So far, Jason Aaron has done a much better job with the kids in Wolverine & the X-Men but I wouldn't mind if an issue or two focused on Goldballs and the rest of the gang.  Let's see them do more than crack jokes while Cyclops speechifies. 

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