The premise of All New X-Men is one of the all time great “bad on paper, good in execution” premises: the original teenaged X-Men are plucked from the past and brought to the future in order to show their present day selves just how far the X-Men have strayed from their goals. On paper, it sounds like a terrible idea, something rife with the potential for disaster on multiple levels, and was mostly treated as such by fans when first announced. Yet in execution, it’s mostly worked, making All New X-Men one of the crown jewels of the post-Marvel NOW X-books.
This particular issue kicks off the book’s next big story arc: “The Trial of Jean Grey”, a crossover with another Marvel NOW success story (and, Marvel hopes, future movie stars), Guardians of the Galaxy, which is also written by Brian Michael Bendis. Thankfully, coming so quickly on the heels of the massive “Battle of the Atom” crossover that wound its way through the four main X-titles, this crossover promises to be a more intimate affair, involving only All New X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy.
The issue opens with the original X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel, and Iceman), now stuck in the present day and having recent left Wolverine’s Jean Grey School in favor of Cyclop’s rival New Xavier School. The story can be roughly split in half, the first being more character based, as Cyclops and Jean Grey, still reeling from the events of “Battle of the Atom”, hash out their problems (alternating between spoken words and telepathy) in front of an increasingly-bemused Angel, followed by a straight-forward action set piece in the latter half that sees the alien Shi’ar attack the school, targeting Jean Grey (presumably for the eponymous trial, but that’s not made clear in this issue).
Art comes from series regular Stuart Immonen, who continues to prove himself equally adept at the quieter, character moments, including some fantastic facial work during the Cyclops/Jean argument) and humorous scenes (such as Iceman, outside the school, making snow angels), as well as the big action sequences. Bendis’ dialogue, at times, falls into the trap of every character being too quippy, but for the most part each character speaks with a unique voice (and a jealous Jean referring to Emma Frost as “Silver Boobs McGee” is genuinely hilarious).
Ultimately, like most first parts of a six part story these days, this issue unfortunately reads more like 1/6 of a story than a complete narrative in its own right, but the character moments and strong art lend the issue enough merits for it to succeed on its own even though the real meat of the story will be coming later.