Sunday, November 18, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 31 (All-New X-Men #1)

The new beginning is the end. The train doesn't stop here, but this is where this series of posts is getting off. I was going to do a more general summary/finale post, but I don't want to do one of those. I've 'summed up' Avengers vs. X-Men many times. I've repeated myself many times. The posts are there, go read them if you need to know what it was all about. Or, actually, I'll tell you right now...

All-New X-Men #1 is what it was all about. This was the end goal, this comic. You might think it was Uncanny Avengers #1, but you'd be wrong. That was a book that I considered part of the Avengers vs. X-Men wrap-up/epilogue portion of the event. Avengers vs. X-Men kept going after that comic. All-New X-Men, on the other hand, follows a week after AVX: Consequences #5 shipped. This is the new beginning where Brian Michael Bendis takes over the X-books and does for them what he did for the Avengers titles. Avengers vs. X-Men was, as I've said, an X-Men story about returning to a familiar status quo with a mutant school, mutant terrorists/revolutionaries, and mutants plentiful world wide. It was the anti-"Disassembled" in many ways.

When Bendis took over Avengers, he destroyed the title and the group, leading to New Avengers where you had Captain America and Iron Man and, then, a bunch of 'non-Avenger' characters. During his time on New Avengers, he oversaw the moment where the X-Men were destroyed in a similar fashion and, only now, rebuilt back to what they were. Sure, some roles may have been shifted (Wolverine runs the school, Cyclops is the new Magneto), but it's a very familiar place.

The goal is the event was to get here. Sorry, a goal of the event was to get here. The story told in the event was a goal as well. But, ever since Bendis took over the Avengers titles, one of the major patterns in the Marvel Universe was that each event or new status quo seemed to exist to lead to the next, usually in an alternating pattern. Event A led to New Status Quo A, which led to Event B, which led to New Status Quo B, which led to Event C, which led to New Status Quo C, etc. There were stories in there and I enjoyed quite a few of them. But, there was also a general feeling of the events and new status quos not delivering all that they could, because part of their function was to produce what came next. That was something that I felt really hindered Avengers vs. X-Men where there was such a focus on hitting All-New X-Men #1 that the story being told didn't match the story they were trying to tell. Cyclops needed to be in this role, so everyone ignores that he was right and they never gave him any credit, nor recognised their roles in driving him to extreme measures by the end. There was a sense that they failed to see that, by the end of Avengers vs. X-Men, Cyclops was the hero and Captain America was the villain who just happened to win...

Even in All-New X-Men #1, there's an effort to make Cyclops out to be some sort of bad guy, while also doing everything they can to make sure that the reader can only view him as a good guy. We have two mutants who accidentally stumble on their powers: a timestopper and a healer. Cyclops and company rescue both from authorities -- the healer in particular is such a bad example if you're trying to show that Cyclops is waging war on human authority... he was arrested for healing someone! We're shown some of the 'good' X-Men fretting over all of the damage that Cyclops is doing to mutant/human relations, but they offer no alternatives nor any results. Take the healer -- what would Storm, Kitty Pryde, Beast, and Iceman have done in that mutant's case? Left him in the hands of police that arrested him for healing someone? There was an obvious overreaction at play here. Not only was no harm done, this man actively helped someone -- and was arrested. This is clearly a corrupt system being dealt with, making Cyclops and his group appear nothing but sympathetic, while his old teammates look like bumbling fools, sitting on the sidelines, ready to work with the corrupt and hateful, wringing their hands over the idea that protecting mutants actually requires action. There is no sense of Cyclops placing mutants above any morality: his actions, while illegal, are moral. That wasn't the case at the beginning of Avengers vs. X-Men where he endangered the entire planet on the belief that the Phoenix would save mutantkind. As that story continued, his actions were justified more and more until we get to the point where he's saving innocents from corrupt authority while the superheroes get all pissed off.

I keep wondering if that's what Marvel is striving for. It must be to some extent, but in such a one-sided way? Is the use of the original X-Men supposed to be the counterbalance? Their youthful innocence and naïveté causing us to see that Cyclops is, in fact, lost and immoral? Or will they simply look like dumb kids that don't a thing about the world? Will they even react poorly to what Cyclops is doing once they learn the entire history of mutants since their time at Xavier's school? I guess those answers are coming soon, because All-New X-Men #1 seemed content to end with its premise -- in fact, the only preview pages provided were of the final scene. Nicely done there, Marvel... way to underwhelm automatically.

It's hard not to be disappointed by All-New X-Men as payoff for Avengers vs. X-Men in the same way that New Avengers #1, Mighty Avengers #1, Dark Avengers #1, Avengers #1, New Avengers #1, and all of the other follow-ups to events were disappointing. It doesn't feel like enough. Avengers vs. X-Men ended with a "Stay tuned for the new status quo!" teaser, basically, and this is it and how can a single comic deliver on that, especially when its ends by stating a premise we all knew months ago?

And, already, Marvel is teasing Age of Ultron...

"And did we tell you the name of the game, boy? We call it riding the gravy train..."