Brian Michael Bendis
(p) Stuart Immonen
(i) Wade Von Grawbadger, Craig Yeung
The first four issues of All-New X-Men were fun, but lacked a sense of real plot advancement due to most of the narrative focusing on the original five X-Men getting acclimated to the present day. All-New X-Men #5 raises the stakes in a number of different ways, some of which are more successful than others.
First off, we discover that Brian Michael Bendis has trouble writing Wolverine outside of the Avengers. When he’s out and about with Earth’s Mightiest, Logan is nearly always depicted as the most hard-edged and angry of the group. Unfortunately for Bendis, Wolverine has a soft side and it comes out when he’s around two things: kids and Jean Grey. Bendis’ characterization turns Logan into a giant asshole in the course of two pages, all in front of Jean and the students at his school. There’s really no excuse for how Wolverine acted in this sequence: it was totally out of character.
The next two big revelations from this issue are pretty big ones. Not only will these events have lasting ramifications for the X-Men and mutantkind as a whole, but also for the Marvel universe at-large.
Present-day Hank McCoy and Jean Grey spend most of the issue in a psychic discussion held inside Hank’s brain. In Beast’s brain, he gets to decide how everyone looks, and it’s very nostalgic seeing Jean in her Marvel Girl get-up and Beast before he became more feral. Both Hanks agree that tackling present-Beast’s dying problem physically and psychically was the best course of action, so a lot of this issue’s events revolve around stopping Hank’s death in the 11th hour. That being said, everything’s about Jean the moment she psychically experiences her long, tragic adult life through Hank’s memories. In the span of a moment, Jean sees her life play out — all the pain, misery, destruction, death, and hopelessness — and feeling every second of it all at once.
Hank’s third (I think?) mutation gives everyone’s favorite blue beast a more human appearance once again, trading feline characteristics — such as cat-like ears, snout, and hair — for more anthropomorphic features like elf-like ears, a small nose, and shorter hair that’s a more muted blue that before. While not strictly necessary in terms of the overall narrative of the series, Hank’s recovery piles on top of Jean’s mental anguish as cause to send the original five X-Men back home; present-day Beast is alive and better than ever, the original five have seen their future, and present-day Cyclops carries the burden of seeing himself before he became a worldwide pariah.
Of course, things rarely go as planned in comic books, and Jean decides that she wants to stay in the present day until the world resembles Charles Xavier’s dream once and for all. This is how All-New X-Men stays interesting; by making these time-displaced characters more than just a novel plot device and giving them real emotional depth outside their perceived behavior.
Bendis and Stuart Immonen have a very good thing going here and it’s just poised to get better. Kitty Pride decides to be the team’s supervisior, Wolverine seemingly doesn’t want anything to do with the younger X-Men, Angel has yet to learn what’s become of his adult self, the Beasts and the Icemen start going through the motions of existing side by side with one another, all while Jean Grey has to come to terms with all the pain and suffering associated with her older self. All-New X-Men #5 concludes this opening arc extremely well while also moving pieces around on the board in preparation for the future of the series.
Brian Michael Bendis