All-New X-Men #31

Posted by Donovan McComish 07 September 2014

Hello everybody and welcome to my review of All-New X-Men #31. What’s that you say? This is a review site for Spider-Man related comic books. Not X-Men? Well as it turns out, starting from this issue, the past versions of Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman & Angel will be hurled into the Ultimate Universe and teaming up with it's resident Spider-Man, Miles Morales! Seeing as I’m the current reviewer for Miles’ new series, I thought I’d review the issues that make up this new storyline. The real question is, how exactly do the X-Men wind up in the Ultimate Universe?

Synopsis:

In the Ultimate Universe (also known as Earth-1610), the young Doctor Amadeus Cho is lamenting that the powers-that-be have chosen to close the inter-dimensional gateway used by Mysterio (which led to the events of Spider-Men) to enter that universe. Tony Stark, who is observing the portal along with Cho, explains that the-powers-that-be likely can't afford to keep experiments like the portal with the world being the mess that it is right now. Cho continues to protest, saying that the portal is important because it "proves so much about the fabric of all things". Stark agrees with him and replies that he's going to buy it, keeping Cho on since he's the only leading expert in this field. As the young doctor thanks him, the portal suddenly flares up, overloading all the surrounding tech before imploding on itself disappearing. While Cho is devastated at the loss of the portal and his research, Tony wonders aloud if someone on the other side managed to find a way of closing it, or if something really bad has just happened.

Across dimensions, on Earth-616 over the Canadian wilderness, Warren Worthington III, aka Angel,  are returning to the current base of operations for the time-displaced X-Men with his new friend Laura Kinney, aka X-23 and a female clone of Wolverine, after spending the night away to recover from the recent attack by the Future Brotherhood of Mutants (most of whom were being controlled by the evil child of Professor X). Laura asks Warren if he would do her the courtesy of behaving like a gentleman when they get back, to which Warren jokes that he can't promise that.

As it happens, they arrive back at "The New Xavier School" (*sigh* Cyclops, you are messed up) as the adult members of the Uncanny X-Men, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Dazzler & Magik (I really don't like the last one, she's like a female Namor!) are teleporting away to "The Jean Grey School For Higher Learning". The two asks where all the teachers went. Jean Grey answers they left to hear the last will and testament of Charles Xavier. Beast comments how odd it is that they all let themselves forget that he has passed away so easily (himself included), especially considering that his death at Adult-Cyclops' hands was what caused Adult-Beast to bring them from the past in the first place (and yet you guys are hanging out in with Xavier's murderer?).

As Beast suggests that they all return to their studies and Iceman tries in vain to get "the gory details" on Angel's time with X-23, Jean seeks a conversation with Laura herself, remarking that she looks calm and happy for at least the first time since they met. Laura replies that she knows there are girls in the world who like to do "this" and she's just not one of them, but Jean persists, saying that Warren is a great guy, using his refusal to tell Iceman anything simply because Laura told him to act like a gentleman as proof. For Laura, a good guy is a completely new experience. Jean explains to her that she's trying, knowing what she does now, to enjoy the good stuff, and that Laura should enjoy this for what it is. Laura replies that it's really hard, to which Jean quips "Yeah. Well...welcome to the X-Men. You're not going to survive the experience, so... might as well try to make it worthwhile."

Meanwhile, inside the former Weapon X complex, Beast is tinkering with Cerebro, the mutant finding technology. Angel enters the room, and after a brief back and forth about whether Hank should be messing around with the tech, he marvels over the fact that they can see all the people they're fighting for. Angel remarks that sometimes, he thinks they get lost in all the crazy stuff and forget just what it is they're fighting for. Beast replies "Everyone does sometimes. But we get to turn this on and remind ourselves". Suddenly, the globe hologram Hank is observing swirls with energy. Hank insists that he didn't do this as the a mysterious symbol flashes on the globe, before subsiding. Angel asks why one of the icons is now glowing red. Beast answers that it means a mutant is in need of help. Having heard their thoughts, Jean appears and agrees with Hank that they need to attend to this. A short while later, Cyclops students notice the X-Jet taking off. Celeste, one of the Three-in-One (three mutant siblings who share a telepathic hive mind), tells the others that Jean, Beast, Iceman, Angel & X-23 are "going off on a mission that no one told them to go on". Onboard the jet, Bobby asks Hank what they're doing and where they're going. Beast tells him what he knows, that a new mutant is either being born or discovering a second mutation.

The new mutant in question is Carmen, who is in Austin, Texas having her school photograph taken with the rest of her class. She starts to feel weird and soon after, her mutant powers manifest themselves and the same energy signature that appeared on Cerebro flashes in front of her. The teachers and other students retreat while Carmen uncontrollably starts conjuring up portals to other worlds, including the House of M timeline and Asgard. Naturally freaked out by all of this, Carmen collapses to the ground, at which point the portals disappear. She is then greeted by the X-Men, who try to explain to her that she's a mutant, which she denies. Jean tries to calm her with telepathy, but that just unnerves Carmen even more. To make matters worse, the cops show up en masse. Jean attempts to convince Carmen to come with them, but this is all too much for her. She yells out "NO", her eyes turn blue, the symbol flashes again and everything goes dark.

After a moment's more of darkness, Iceman pipes up, asking if anyone else has noticed the smell. He soon realises however that he's been transported alone to a sewer and as if that weren't enough. He's surrounded by the Mole Man and his minions, the Moloids, though they look noticeably different in appearance?
Elsewhere, Jean Grey appears in the middle of a New York street, causing haywire amongst the surrounding traffic. Using her telekinetic powers to avoid being hit, she flies off to a nearby rooftop to get a better vantage point so as to find the X-Men. As she lands, she is struck on the shoulder by a swift figure, who lands on above her. It's Spider-Man, but instead of Peter Parker, it's Miles Morales! He asks Jean if they've met as she looks familiar, to which Jean replies "I was just about to ask the same thing"...

Thoughts:

After concluding nearly a decade-long run on the Avengers series, Brian Michael Bendis made the switch over to the Children of the Atom, the X-Men, at the end of 2012. This was a fitting transition as one of the biggest status quo shifts in modern X-Men lore, the “No More Mutants” spell by the Scarlet Witch that left the majority of the mutant race depowered (before the events of Avengers VS. X-Men reversed it), was introduced by Bendis in his House of M event. Since then Bendis has made a few more changes to the status quo of Marvel's band of mutants, but none as big as the launch of this series.

While the concept of the original five X-Men being brought from the past to the present may seem rather gimmicky, Bendis has executed it brilliantly, which has resulted in one of the most unique modern comic book experiences of the past few years. Since arriving in the present, the original X-Men have met their modern selves (barring Jean Grey of course), battled a Brotherhood of Mutants from the future and gone on a spacefaring quest with the Guardians of the Galaxy & the Starjammers, but what's been perhaps most interesting about this series is witnessing these younger versions of the X-Men struggling to come to terms with their future. Whether it's Cyclops having to deal with the knowledge that he killed his mentor, Professor X, Jean Grey trying to cope with her own death or Beast getting a look at just how furry things will get for him, Bendis has done a great job in exploring each of these aspects, as well as the present-day X-Men's reactions to this event. So far the only thing I find problematic about the series is the team's switch to the Uncanny X-Men. I just can't buy Kitty Pryde or the past-X-Men forgiving present-day Cyclops for his murder of Professor X so soon.

With this new storyline kicking off, Bendis uses this first part much like the previous issue, as a transition between the previous storyline, which involved the return of the future Brotherhood, and this one. There's a couple of moments where the X-Men slow down and ponder that, with all the crazyness they get caught up in, they sometimes forget  what they are fighting for. Bendis wisely underplays their reaction to Professor X's will being read, as from their perspective, he has still has yet to die, even if they've been living in the future for a while,which makes their feelings on the matter more complicated. The characterisations of the young X-Men are all very good. Angel is now getting some focus after being in the background for much of the series, barring his joining the Uncanny X-Men ahead of his teammates. His budding relationship with X-23 is unexpected given their differences, but I can buy it anyway thanks to Bendis' dialogue, especially after Jean Grey's convo with X-23. As for Jean herself, she's definitely benefited the most from this series, but since her modern self is still dead, that's not surprising.

Unfortunately  Cyclops being off in space in his very title does leave a bit of a void on the team, but it's mostly filled by X-23. I like what's done with her in this issue as she's now starting to move on from all the pain she went through, both physically and emotionally, in Avengers Arena. She's very much the Wolverine of the team (considering she's actually his clone, that's quite fitting), tough on the outside, but with a lot more going on beneath the surface. Iceman and Beast are mostly just the comic relief here, though hopefully the former's predicament near the end will allow for some character development in the next few issues.

As for the Ultimate Universe, we don't see very much of in this first issue, but what we do see is pretty good, though Tony Stark's line regarding Cataclysm might as well have been a giant spoon with which to feed fans unaware of that universe's recent history. Since Age of Ultron we've been getting more and more multi-dimensional crossovers, and with Spider-Verse impending and Bendis teasing a sequel to Spider-Men, the fate of the portal gives the story some extra significance. One almost wonders if by the end of this story, Miles will briefly travel into the 616 universe with the X-Men as a set-up for Spider-Verse?

Newcomer Mahmud Asrar joins the book as it's main artist from this issue onwards, and he gets off to an okay start here. His style is a good fit for this series since there is a slight consistency with previous artist Stuart Immonen, though some of it is loosely detailed and unpolished, mostly in the first half. But there's also plenty of good looking pages too, particularly the final shot of Miles & Jean Grey meeting. The colours by Marte Gracia & Jason Keith are great in establishing the different tones of the Ultimate & 616 dimensions. While the art is off to a shaky start, story-wise this is looking to be another really good story from this series...

Score: 3.5/5.0

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