Thursday, August 15, 2013

All-New X-Men #13 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Man, this series just keeps getting better and better.

One of the many things that makes this series so outstanding is that Bendis continues to give us really refreshing new takes on old characters.  Beyond the obvious examples of the original X-Men, he's also doing great work with other characters, such as Mystique.  As a character, Mystique has suffered from a long history of inconsistent portrayals, in part because so many writers overplay a connection between her shape-shifting ability and her fluid moral compass.  But, Bendis actually makes her more complicated than that.  Rather than portraying her as she usually is portrayed, as someone willing to play all sides against each other for unclear reasons, Bendis explains her as someone who has never been particularly convinced by either side, causing her to switch between them with some frequency.  In other words, she wasn't just amorally using everyone to her own ends (though she certainly did that, too); she was also weighing the various philosophies presented to her to see which one fit better.  Now, after everything, she finds both philosophies wanting and wonders why she spent so much time worried about making a choice between them in the first place.  In all honesty, it feels like the first accurate portrayal of Mystique that we've ever had.  Moreover, her conclusion, that she should stop worrying and use her power to benefit herself, flows directly from that portrayal.  That said, Bendis also makes it clear that she probably has something up her sleeve, so it's not like he's playing her like someone with simple criminal motivations.  But, her portrayal as someone finally deciding to stop letting others influence her and develop some plans of her own adds a level of nuance to her portrayal that I honestly don't think that she's previously had.

Moreover, Bendis continues to throw in great small moments that make the characters feel more like human beings and less like plot devices.  My favorite one this issue is Bobby wondering how Alex managed to confront them in "All-New X-Men" #12 and deliver his speech in "Uncanny Avengers" #5, all in the same day.  (Be careful, Bobby:  questioning the mechanics of the Wolverine Space/Time Continuum is a dangerous thing.)  Speaking of Bobby, Bendis continues to use him to express the group's time shock, but finally has him do something other than exclaim things like, "People have phones without cords!"  It's a welcome development.  Also, not all the great character moments are small or humorous.  Kitty's speech about Alex's plea to be seen as a human (from "Uncanny Avengers" #5) is a tour de force and raises a number of interesting issues.  (After seeing the Avengers discuss the speech in "Uncanny Avengers" #10, I thought Marvel did a great job by having Bendis raise it as well, showing how closely connected its titles are lately.)  I generally agree with Kitty's sentiment here; as a gay man, it's hard to argue that I'd want to be hiding my sexuality.  But, I'm also sympathetic to Alex's argument; it's hard to be seen as different all the time.  Taken together, Alex and Kitty's views are representative of the discussion every minority group has about its role in society and Remender and Bendis really should be applauded for handling the discussion so well.

In other words, it's a particularly strong issue.

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