All New X-Men #23 Has a Slow Plot, But is an Entertaining and Beautiful Comic

ANX23Cover

All New X-Men #23
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen & Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors by Marte Garcia, Letters by VC’s Cory Petit
Standard Cover by Immonen, Grawbadger & Garcia
Published by Marvel Comics

After what amounted to essentially two “part ones”, it’s a relief to finally get a chapter of this crossover which moves the plot along. Of course, this being a six part story created in 2014, the plot movements are relatively incremental (the cover is a bit misleading: Jean actually isn’t yet put on trial in this issue, as depicted). The combined X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy chase after the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, who have taken custody of the captured Jean Grey pending her trial, while Jean herself is interrogated.

Thankfully, Bendis uses the large cast at his disposal to keep things entertaining, falling back on his chief strength as a writer: interpersonal interactions. Taking advantage of the unique circumstances of the All New X-Men premise, the young X-Men spend most of this issue entertainingly fascinated with being on a spaceship, in space, with aliens, the kind of reactions that wouldn’t work in nearly any other title, where the characters would be old hats at concepts like space travel and alien worlds. In similar fashion, Bendis uses the unique circumstances of the book’s central characters to setup a cliffhanger ending for the issue that, while not terribly surprising, makes a lot of sense and promises some interesting character interactions in the future.

Stuart Immonen, meanwhile, continues his strong showing, helping each of the many characters in this issue stand out visually amongst all the ANX23Page

action (not just in terms of costuming and stature, but even body language – you can tell who a character is just by the way they’re standing or sitting) while doing some equally impressive work with the quieter scenes of Jean being interrogated by telepathic Imperial Guardsman Oracle. Like Sara Pichelli in Guardians of the Galaxy #11, this affords him an opportunity to put his own spin on some iconic “Dark Phoenix Saga” images, but he also effectively uses panel layouts and negative space to sell the sense of isolation and despair Jean is feeling as she faces a trial on an alien world for crimes she hasn’t yet committed. Colorist Marte Garcia deserves credit here as well, both for the scenes with Jean and for helping create a unique look to each of the issue’s various spaceship settings.

So while the plot may not exactly be rocketing forward, it is moved along well enough in this issue, buoyed once again by effective characterization, strong visuals and genuinely entertaining dialogue. As “The Trial of Jean Grey” reaches its halfway point, that’s not a bad place to be.

Other Thoughts
Iceman and Rocket Raccoon continue to be the comedic highlights of the story; there’s a fantastic and hilarious bit between the two in this issue that I won’t ruin by spoiling it here.

Kitty Pryde (or “Professor K” as the young X-Men amusingly refer to her) mentions having bad luck in space – a reference to any number of space adventures, including the classic Chris Claremont-era storyline in which she was infected with a Brood egg and nearly died and, more recently, the time she spent cruising through space keeping a giant bullet meant for Earth phased , at the conclusion of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run.




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