Today’s Super Comic — All-New X-Men #40 (2015)

all-new_x-men_vol_1_40Late in the original run of ­All-New X-Men, we get a quiet, talky issue, which provides a good opportunity to check in with how extended time-displacement is affecting some of the teenaged original X-Men trapped in the present. The experience is changing some of them, and others are trying to change as a result of what they’ve learned about their futures.

A good chunk of issue #40 focuses on Iceman during a revelatory heart-to-heart with Jean Grey, and also on Angel as he shares a moment with X-23, the young female Wolverine clone. The issue comes after a big cosmic storyline, so pacing-wise, it’s an excellent way to bring us back down to Earth.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis also works in several comedic beats that keep everything fun, while artist Mahmud Asrar deftly handles the shifting facial expressions—which is essential in making a talking-heads issue work in a visual medium.

Remarkably, this time-travel premise was not running out of gas 40 issues in.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Mahmud Asrar

Cover: Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in All-New X-Men vol. 7: The Utopians (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — All-New X-Men #1-5 (2012-13)

all-new_x-men_vol_1_1Pop culture, you may have noticed, is locked in a trend of repeatedly resurrecting old stuff in the modern era. Results have varied, but at least with All-New X-Men, nostalgia serves an interesting story.

The original five X-Men are transported from their early days to the much darker present, and these inexperienced teenagers confront the decades’ worth of convoluted backstory that lie ahead of them (decades to us, about one decade to them).

The X-Men had kind of gone off the rails in the time leading up to this—no X-Man more so than Cyclops, who’s basically on his way to becoming the next Magneto. While possessed by the Phoenix force, Cyclops killed Professor Xavier…and yeah, that sentence pretty much sums up the state of affairs.

So the Beast decides to bring their innocent younger selves to the present as the ultimate guilt-trip to Cyclops. Of course, the plan is to send them right back after modern Cyclops comes to his senses, but also of course, things don’t go according to plan, and five very young founding X-Men must integrate with the present.

Young Cyclops must deal with the fact that he grows up to become basically a villain. Young Beast witnesses the hubris his future self has developed. Young Iceman sees how little his future self has achieved. Young Angel observes that his future self is kind of crazy and not at all himself due to Apocalypse-related machinations. And young Jean Grey learns she’s dead and it wasn’t even the first time she died (she’s truly the standout character in this series).

These five issues are just the beginning of a story that’s yet to be resolved, and it’s a strong start. It’s time-travel shenanigans without a reset button in sight, brought about by one X-Man’s misguided good intentions.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Stuart Immonen

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; ­All-New X-Men vol. 1: Yesterday’s X-Men (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — All-New X-Men #7 (2016)

all-new-x-men-7This may be the strongest issue thus far of the relaunched ­All-New X-Men (among what’s available on Marvel Unlimited).

Old-school villain the Toad has kidnapped young Cyclops with the intent of murdering him, in hopes of erasing the adult Cyclops’s misguided actions from the timeline. Toad doesn’t actually want to kill him, but he’s convinced himself that it must be done for the good of the world. So he gets really drunk to work himself up to the deed. The character has often come across as the stereotypical lackey, so this may be his most human portrayal yet—which makes him all the more monstrous the closer he gets to going through with it (Mark Bagley’s art deserves lots of credit on that front, too).

Dennis Hopeless’s script exploits the limitations of Cyclops’s power to superb dramatic effect, and the result is a riveting, tense issue that compels you to pick up the next one.

It does help to know at least the basics of what’s been going on in recent years’ X-books, though. Otherwise—excellent issue.

Writer: Dennis Hopeless

Penciler: Mark Bagley

Inker: Andrew Hennessy

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Guardians of the Galaxy #12 (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy 12The problem with crossovers if sometimes you’re not reading both or all series involved, which then requires a decision. Do you spring for the extra books and potentially feel coerced into buying them? Or do you just skip them and try to make sense of a partial storyline?

I’ve gotten pretty good at the second option over the years. It’s not ideal, but it works well enough. One recent time was when All-New X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy, both written by Brian Michael Bendis, crossed over for “The Trial of Jean Grey.”

I read the X-Men parts as they came out and enjoyed those issues, even with the other half of the story missing. But thanks to Marvel Unlimited, I’ve finally caught up on the other half, and it’s also full of good stuff.

A particularly strong part was Guardians of the Galaxy #12, during which young, time-displaced Cyclops learns his father is not dead, and present-day Corsair experiences a second difficult reunion with his son. Also, the Shi’ar confront young Jean Grey with the horrors she will someday commit as Phoenix. It’s an interesting sci-fi conundrum—is someone culpable for crimes they haven’t yet committed but are destined to?

My only quibble is that the story demotes the Guardians to guest stars in their own book. But it’s a solid X-Men story.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Pencilers: Sara Pichelli and Stuart Immonen

Inkers: Sara Pichelle and Wade Von Grawbadger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — All-New X-Men #4 (2016)

All New X-Men 4Back in 2012, writer Brian Michael Bendis kicked off a brilliant concept—plucking the original teenage X-Men from their relatively innocent youth, sending them forward in time, and dropping them in the middle of the convoluted present-day continuity.

I would have thought Bendis and/or other writers would have resolved this tale of time-displaced X-Men by now. But I’m glad they haven’t. They haven’t nearly exhausted the creative possibilities yet, as evidenced by the relaunched ­All-New X-Men title, written by Dennis Hopeless and drawn by Mark Bagley.

I picked up the first trade paperback, and while the whole thing is solid the strongest issue within is the fourth, which kicks off the second storyline. By this point, the mission statement of the series comes into focus—this series will follow a group of seven young mutants trying to figure out their crazy lives and seize their own destinies after the adult Cyclops has totally made a mess of things.

The cast consists of the time-displaced younger versions of Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, and Angel (Jean Grey is hanging out with the adults in Extraordinary X-Men), the young female clone of Wolverine, and Idie and Kid Apocalypse from Wolverine and the X-Men. Too many X-titles over the past twenty-some years have juggled too many characters, so narrowing the focus to just these seven is a wise move.

Angel and the new Wolverine’s relationship gets the most attention in this particular issue, but every character is grappling with some personal problem or another. Cyclops’s is the most interesting—he’s seen that he’ll grow up to become basically a villain, so how does he avoid a future that has already played out?

Also, Angel and Wolverine run into the Blob, who’s a bit more formidable than he was in the good ol’ days.

Fun stuff so far, and I suspect the best is yet to come.

Writer: Dennis Hopeless

Penciler: Mark Bagley

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in All-New X-Men: Ghosts of Cyclops (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up