Thursday, September 12, 2013

All-New X-Men #14 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

"Konnichiwa, fancy pants" is perhaps my favorite line of the month.

This issue doesn't exactly advance any plot lines, but, man, it really delivers a fun fight.  Bendis does a great job of showing the original X-Men learning how to use their powers and work as a team, but still capable of kicking some serious ass in the process.  For example, even if it didn't go exactly as planned, Kitty was right in applauding Jean for her ballsy Dark Phoenix gambit.  It shows that she's growing increasingly comfortable using her powers, even if she needs to work on her execution.  Similarly, Beast and Cyclops switching off sparring partners shows Scott getting more effective in moving the X-Men around the battlefield as a team and not just individuals.  Add in Kitty and Wolverine kicking their own share of ass and a good time is had by all.

Moreover, Bendis brings the story to a conclusion in a reasonable way.  The Avengers arrive to clean up the mess and realize that Mystique was manipulating everyone.  It's a pretty straightforward story, the type that we almost don't see anymore, obsessed as we are with lurking sub-plots and cross-over spectaculars.  Bendis is usually guilty of exactly this problem, but he doesn't overstay the story's welcome here.  Instead he delivers a great arc that establishes a foundation for the team on which he'll obviously continue to build in future issues.  They're learning their powers, trusting the older crew while still challenging them, and working as a team.  We weren't necessarily there in the first issue, but we are now.

As usual, we also have a series of great moments.  I loved Bobby throwing a snowball at Thor to see if he was real and, on a more emotional level, Alex getting a chance to develop a relationship with Scott that he didn't have in his own reality.  Of course, all these moments are made better by Immonen, who infuses them with the necessary humor and emotion to deliver the reaction that Bendis wants you to have.  He also does a great job of reminding us that they are, at the end of the day, still kids; Alex towers over Scott, reminding you how inverted their usual younger/older brother dynamic is and making the "high-five moment" all the more meaningful.

The only negative here, for me, was that I wasn't quite sure how Mastermind came into play.  Last issue, Lady Mastermind seemed to be using the image of her father to prod Jean into becoming Dark Phoenix, but, here, Jean seemed to be in control of the situation from the start.  Bendis clearly wanted us all shocked by the image of Jean becoming Dark Phoenix in part because she seemed to have been manipulated into it, so it was weird for her not to address the manipulation during her fight with Lady Mastermind.  She could've at least acknowledged that she turned Regan's trick to her advantage.  It's not exactly a minor complaint, since we were either supposed to believe that Jean was manipulating everyone else into thinking that she was Dark Phoenix or that Lady Mastermind was manipulating her; instead, we got something in-between.

But, regardless of this complaint, this issue shows why this series is one of the most consistently satisfying titles on the racks today.  Action, emotion, humor, visuals -- I can't find anything that I don't love here.

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