Graphic Novel Review: All-New X-Men: One Down

All-New X-Men: One Down

All-New X-Men: One Down - Credit: Archant

Cyclops may have left their ranks, but the challenges continue for the teenaged X-Men

(Panini Books)

It was only with this fifth collection of All-New X-Men that I understood how writer Brian Michael Bendis was treating the series – it’s an ongoing drama, rather like a weekly television show, where events happen randomly and resolutions to long-running plot threads are organically woven into the narrative instead of coming at the end of a particular storyline.

Once you accept this, the pace of the series makes much more sense, you stop waiting for a show-stopping conclusion at the end of each volume, and instead start to appreciate Bendis’ long game approach to the book.

It also explains why the motivations of certain characters don’t always make sense (in real life people don’t have “masterplans”), and allows him the opportunity to focus on the interplay between his various protagonists instead of constantly finding excuses for big action sequences.

After an artist jam marking the 25th issue of the series, and basically highlighting how wrong contemporary Beast Henry McCoy was for bringing the original X-Men into the present day, the remainder of this volume is a four-part sequel to the Battle of the Atom crossover event, which saw a future version of the Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants travel to our time and do battle with various teams of X-Men.

Bendis fleshes out the backstories for team leader Charles Xavier Jr, who is revealed as the son of the late Professor X and Mystique, and his half-brother Raze, who can name Sabretooth as his daddy, and explains how the rest of the Brotherhood are actually under Xavier’s mental control.

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Besieging the (Uncanny) X-Men’s base in the former Weapon X facility brings the Brotherhood into conflict with Cyclops’ outlaw team, their protégés, and the All-New X-Men themselves, with no apparent purpose other than to wreak havoc. But then for Bendis the fight scenes are invariably a means to an end rather than the raison d’être for his narratives.

At the heart of this series is the juxtaposition between youthful innocence and resigned adulthood. The All-New X-Men have been forced to see the mess their lives have become, and are obviously determined to avoid this destiny if they can ever return to their own time. Meanwhile their older selves are jealous of their untarnished teenage versions, but at the same time recognise the inevitability of the choices they made over the intervening years.

To further complicate matters from a reader’s perspective, should the young mutants get back to the past, they will in fact change the course of Marvel history, and undermine five decades of comics continuity. But if they don’t get back then it will create a temporal paradox which could very well have the same effect. Uh-oh.

The damage to the timeline is a theme which hasn’t just been seen in this series however, it has also popped up in books like Age of Ultron, Avengers and Spider-Man, which suggests there’s an overarching game plan at work here for the Marvel Universe as a whole.

In the meantime, I’m going to stop wondering where Bendis is heading with this series, and for the first time just appreciate the interplay between his disparate groups of characters and the novelty of seeing these young X-Men operating in the present. The future can wait for another day.