One of Brian Michael Bendis’ unique gifts as a writer is crafting believable teenage dialogue. This can mostly be seen in his 14 year run on Ultimate Spider-Man, but he also uses it to great effect in All-New X-Men. Even though they are the original X-Men, these characters are still learning about their powers as well as their strengths and weaknesses as mutants and humans. Jean just discovered a power that she didn’t originally have as well and is having issues staying out of peoples’ minds. Beast isn’t too good on the public relations front (asking a frightened new mutant if she’s on her period), Iceman jokes at inopportune times, and Angel is navigating the perils of dating a Wolverine clone. All-New X-Men #31 digs into these characters’ personalities while also setting up a new adventure for them, involving a parallel dimension. The interdimensional travel is sudden, and not really explained in the story . However, Bendis and Asrar will most likely explore it later in the storyline. New series artist (and Marvel Young Gun) Mahmud Asrar makes a good debut even though he mostly gets to draw talking heads. However, he uses some inventive layouts for the interdimensional travel, and his facial work is charming. The faces that Iceman are great for comedic purposes, and Asrar can also convey more complicated emotions, like Jean sharing a moment with X-23. With a digital meets Kirby krackle sheen laid down by co-colorists Marte Gracia and Jason Keith, All-New X-Men is a strong first chapter of a potentially interesting storyline with a world where the X-Men disbanded. It doesn’t skimp on characterization at the expense of plot or fight scenes (of which there are few).
The biggest highlight of All-New X-Men #31 is the dialogue and characterization of the original five X-Men and X-23. Bendis has an ear for awkward teenage dialogue and puts it to good use while exploring the budding romantic relationship betweenAngel and X-23, and the other characters’ reactions to them. Of course, Iceman asks him how far they got, and angel being the polite gentleman, declines this request. This scene establishes Angel as the most decent and “nice” member of the original X-Men, which comes in handy when they run into a new mutant in the midst of their adventures. Bendis also explores the nature of hope and optimism in superhero comics when Jean realizes that X-23 is happy for the first time since she joined the team and New Xavier School. These kids have been through so much (running from SHIELD, getting attacked by alternate, incredibly powerful versions of them from the future, the “Trial of Jean Grey” crossover) and having a moment to relax and be a normal teenager is slightly eerie. To his credit, Bendis gives the characters just enough time to unwind before sending them on another mission. The balance between action and character development is almost pitch perfect even though the issue could use a little more plot.
Asrar is a good choice of artist for scenes where characters are sitting (or flying) around talking to each other. Except for a scene where Goldballs and Beast look like the same character (It’s the goggles.), Asrar’s figures are distinct in both face and anatomy. They also are quite emotive, which fits the combination of angsty teens, who have been through some crazy things. However, their facial expressions aren’t exaggerated, but asrar does some little things with mouth and eye position to show everything from a well-told obscure X-Men joke to a young mutant incredibly bewildered by her powers. Because this issue is mainly dialogue, asrar doesn’t get to experiment with panel layouts too much, except during the interdimensional travel sequence. Colorists Keith and Gracia use a cool blue tone to show the crackles of energy in the multiverse throughout the comic in contrast with Cerebro’s red gleam. They will continue to shine as more of this travel occurs and is explained in the subsequent issues. All-New X-Men #31 is a demonstration of Brian Michael Bendis’ ability to intertwine interpersonal relationships and adventure stories in a superhero comic, and Mahmud asrar complements this with gift for drawing these characters in a clear and well-developed manner