All New X-Men #16
Review by Paul Bowler
When the Beast brought the original X-Men back to the present day to try and restore Charles Xavier’s dream and reunite the divisions that had developed between Mutantkind, everyone was surprised when the young mutants decided to stay. Having struggled to adapt to their new life in the present, events are compounded further when the young Cyclops is almost killed in a battle with the Sentinels – causing a paradox that momentarily rewrites history – so the X-Men decide to send the teen heroes back to their own time. However, before they can act, a second team of time travellers suddenly appears: the X-Men of the future…
The second part of Battle of the Atom continues in All New X-Men #16 as Brian Michael Bendis juggles four teams of X-Men, quickly introducing Cyclops and his renegade team of Uncanny X-Men as Magneto assesses events in the field back at their hidden school. The action then switches to the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning, where a team of X-Men from the future have materialised. They claim the original X-Men should never have remained in the present and say they must return to their own time to avert a series of events unfolding in the future.
It is here, as past, present, and future versions of the X-Men collide, that Brian Michael Bendis really excels. Bendis masterfully bridges the time spanning generation gap between the characters as they begin to interact. While the pace may be slowed by the dialogue and heavy exposition in places, it actually brings an added intensity to the scene, especially when the obligatory misunderstanding that always seems to accompany any larger gathering of X-Men ends in a free for all with everyone attempting to punch each others lights out.
Jean and Scott take advantage of the distraction the fight provides to make a break for it. They take the Black Bird and go on the run from their teachers and friends, in a bid to escape a future that Jean so desperately wants to avoid. Jean feels that everyone is trying to manipulate everyone else, she doesn’t trust these future X-Men either as she cant read their minds, and she doesn’t want to go back to her time and give up this second chance at her life.
I like the way that Wolverine uses his keen sense of smell to identify some of the X-Men from the future, especially when he realises he is talking to an older Kitty Pryde, who then embraces him. The mystery of the X-Men from the future is one of the best aspects of this storyline: the older Kitty Pryde is accompanied by an “old-as-dirt” Beast, Dead pool (now hooded and without his mask), and former Runaway Molly Hayes. There are also some key moments featuring Charles Xavier’s grandson, and a hilarious reaction to the hulking bruit of an Iceman by his younger self and present day counterpart, but it is the identity of the new Xorn that yields the biggest surprise of all in this issue.
The art by Stuart Immonen, with inks by Wade Von Grawbadger and colors by Marte Garcia, looks as great as ever, no mean feat considering the number of characters in this issue. Its incredible how Immonen can bring so many characters to life in one scene. Each moment of Bendis’s intricate story and dialogue is perfectly brought to life by Immonen, the vast array of facial expressions together with the range of emotions the characters experience are all deftly handled, brining an added intensity to the this time travelling storyline.
While this issue may be light on action, the interplay between the generations of X-Men is perfectly managed by Bendis. The surprise reveal at the end of All New X-Men #16 is brilliant, and with Scott Immonen’s spellbinding artwork, this 50th anniversary crossover event is already well on the way to becoming a real epic.