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Comic Review: All-New X-Men #5

All-new X-Men Jean Grey Phoenix and Marvel Girl costumes by Stuart Immonen

All-New X-Men #5 is so good it’s not fair.

Brian Michael Bendis has struck gold with his teenagers-out-of-time X-Men formula, and he leverages it to its full potential here with a character-heavy issue that centers on Jean Grey, Beast the Elder and Beast the Younger.

This is story and art working in perfect concert to deliver an homage to where the X-Men have been and a hint at where they will go. The biggest highlight is a two-page spread by artist Stuart Immonen – free of text – where Jean gets a crash course in her own history. It’s beautifully done and it hits all the key notes, from the Phoenix to her marriage to Cyclops to her history with Logan.

Bendis trusts artist Stuart Immonen, and it shows in every panel. Immonen brings nuance and a great sense of visual history to his X-men, and nowhere is this more obvious than in two psychic link sequences between Hank McCoy and Jean Grey. Immonen draws a less mutated version of Beast for these scenes, and he puts Jean in her Marvel Girl costume because, as Hank puts it, “That is my favourite Jean Grey costume.” These sequences are also marked by some very highbrow-looking marginalia that is in perfect keeping with Hank’s highbrow characterization. Visually, it’s clear we’re in Hank McCoy’s mind.

Many artists have taken their own spin on the Beast’s appearance, but Immonen gets to have an extra bit of fun here. His Beast of the past is different from the Beast of the present; his Beast from the previous four issues is different from the Beast in Hank’s own mind, and different still from the Beast at the end of the issue.

Hank McCoy Beast's new look in All-New X-Men #5 drawn by Stuart Immonen

Hank McCoy’s new sasquatch look.

Bendis’ writing is superb as he continues to unravel the consequences of having the original five X-Men in their own future. They were originally brought in to stop the elder Scott Summers, but as they learn more about their future, none of them are particularly happy with the direction their lives will take. That means there’s some work to do before they go back to have their minds wiped, and that work won’t necessarily end with the elder Cyclops.

While most of the story centers on Beast’s medical emergency and Jean’s discoveries, Cyclops casts a shadow over everything. His mutant recruitment drive continues, bringing him to creeping around a high school in pursuit of the next big thing. Young Scott, meanwhile, gets his first true taste of Wolverine, who thinks he knows how to solve the future Cyclops problem in one swift stroke.

All-New X-Men is quickly becoming a must-read. It’s smart, funny, powerful and original.

Here’s hoping our new, fresh-faced heroes get back in the fray next issue.

9 out of 10

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