Brian Michael Bendis
(i) Wade Von Grawbadger
** SPOILERS AHEAD **
It’s hard to review a comic book issue that’s mostly fighting. I’m not saying there’s nothing to talk about, just that little gets achieved by massive brawls. Even though most readers convince themselves that’s what we want, in the end, the build-up and the anticipation are often more satisfying than the throwdown. Marvel attempted to alleviate this weird occurrence with AvX: VS, the companion series to Avengers vs. X-Men that let creators write a ten-page fight between an Avenger and an X-Man. It was successful, and that concept became A+X, wherein an Avenger and X-Man work together in a short vignette.
All-New X-Men #14 is one big brawl. Wolverine and Kitty Pride lead the original X-Men against Mystique, Sabertooth, and Lady Mastermind. At the end of the last issue, Jean Grey suddenly manifested the Dark Phoenix and pretty much petrified everyone present. Within a few pages, though, it’s revealed that Jean is simply projecting this idea into everyone’s head mistakenly; she meant to aim her psychic reality at the villains, not her friends. After this sequence, the rest of the issue is rather boring.
Sure, there are classic Brian Michael Bendis humor bits — Iceman shooting Thor to make sure he’s real is golden — but the fight itself is just that, and the arrival of the Uncanny Avengers only serves to reinforce a confrontation we saw in a previous issue. Nothing much changes for the characters this issue, and the plot doesn’t move forward at all. I know every issue can’t be a rousing success, but even for a filler issue, I found myself uninterested in what was going on.
One of my biggest concerns with All-New X-Men was that it seemed gimmicky. While my initial skepticism was dashed as Bendis wove an emotionally-driven tale of culture shock and self-actualization, these more recent issues have felt lacking in their drive and direction. X-Men: Battle of the Atom is a new crossover event for the X-Men titles coming this fall, and knowing that somewhat puts All-New X-Men #14 in perspective as a build-up to this large mutant conflict. Unfortunately, it’s unfair to judge an issue by the series’ future potentials, so I have to look at this issue as it stands. With that in mind, All-New X-Men #14 is lackluster. Also, I have a major pet peeve about misleading covers, and even though the original Mastermind has been alluded to in the past, he does not show up in this issue and that is irksome.