Friday, 24 April 2015

All-New X-Men Vol 3: Out of Their Depth (Marvel NOW!) Review


All-New X-Men Vol.3: Out of Their Depth (Marvel NOW!)
So many circles...
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Stuart Immonen and David Lauente

Collects: All-New X-Men #11-15

Background Information:

The X-Men have been Marvel’s whooping boy for many years, now; and not just because Marvel doesn’t own the movie rights. A few years ago, the entire mutant population was reduced to one-hundred-or-so. This made everyone a bit tense to the point where the X-Men split into factions led by Wolverine and Cyclops. After the team fought the Avengers (in an event called The X-Men are Stupid so Stop Liking Them Avengers Vs. X-Men), Cyclops decided to become far more militant. He’s hiding from the authorities and being rather violent. Wolverine’s X-Men don’t like that so Beast brought the original five X-men from back in time to now. And that has resulted in no problems whatsoever.

Pfft… sorry, can’t keep a straight face there.

Review:

I’ll admit, I’m a little bitter about what Marvel is doing to the X-Men. It’s childish, stupid and I can’t think of a single person who thinks that the Inhumans are a suitable replacement for mutants in the Marvel universe. On the other hand, it’s let Brian Michael Bendis do what he does best; write character-focussed drama with great dialogue instead of bang-kaboom-crash action.

In Out of Their Depth, old Cyclops takes one of the original X-Men with him. I won’t spoil it, but  
those who have read the first volume of Uncanny X-Men will know who it is straight away. This raises quite a few concerns within the team and everyone’s feeling more than a little unsettled. In the meantime, a group of mutants consisting of Mystique, Sabretooth and Lady Mastermind are finally revealing what they’ve been planning to do with all their money, and the All-New X-Men need to stop them.

Wolverine's the best at what he does. What he does isn't
fight Magneto.
Art’s always been a strong point for All-New X-Men. Stuart Immonen has had a real talent for drawing awe-inspiring feats of power, and that doesn’t let up here. We see the phoenix force, psychic powers, magnetism and various other powers in all their chaotic glory. Each power seems to burst out of the page and lends a sense of epicness to the whole volume. The real treat though, is in issue 15, where David Lafuente takes over. I like it when artists are chosen for the sole fact that they suit the story, and that happens here. Bendis’ character drama is complimented perfectly by Lafuente’s adorable chubby little faces. Never have the young X-Men looked as innocent as they are here, and it’s fantastic.

Of all the All-New X-Men volumes thus far, none have milked emotions the same way that Bendis does in Out of Their Depth. This volume sees young Beast confess his crush on young Jean Grey, said young Jean Grey develop a greater friendship with Kitty Pryde and Iceman make friends with humans. People laugh, cry and get genuinely freaked out. Probably the best of these moments, though, is young Cyclops being reunited with his brother, Havoc, who now leads the Uncanny Avengers. There’s a real tenderness to the whole scene, and it one of those rare happy moments in a franchise defined by the “hated and feared” tagline. There are plenty of scenes here that are so dripping with warm fuzzies that occasionally you need to check the cover of the book to make sure you’re not reading a comic based on 7th Heaven or Gilmore Girls.

One of the best things about this volume, though, is that we finally get to see the end of a particular story arc. Namely, what’s been going on Mystique and Co. It’s a pretty inconsequential story, with no real impact on anything or anyone, but it gives us something the last volume was missing; action that was important to the plot. It’s also genuinely funny, as the fight mostly revolves around two characters- Jean Grey and Lady Mastermind- who constantly try to win by making the other team hallucinate. That doesn’t sound particularly funny, until you consider that Jean Grey is only just getting a grip on her powers, so she send hallucinations to the wrong people, the lines between hallucination and reality get blurred enough for characters to stick their foot in it, and there are just some great results to the whole thing.

Awww... you just wanna' pinch their lil' cheeks!
That said, this is a story that still feels like it’s about to get somewhere. For a third volume, this is a bad thing. Usually, Marvel trades spend the first volume pushing character development and planting the seeds of stories to come, so that the following trades can let those seeds grow. In Out of Their Depth, I couldn’t help but feel like someone planted those seeds in concrete, because there is very little growing here.

I think the trick to enjoying Out of Their Depth, or any other All-New X-Men trade is to treat it as a window into the lives of its characters. You do that, and you’ll find that the book is well worth its four and out of five straight faces.

****

+ Character development is a joy to read.

+ A story arc finally ends, and is really fun to read.

+ Art continues to be phenomenal.

- Series doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere.

Alternate Option: Uncanny X-Men: Revolution

Here’s what the other Cyclops-led X-Men are doing, savvy?