To say Brian Bendis has had a mixed reaction from X-Men fans would be something of an understatement. Every now and again, though, he comes out with a book that’s truly superb – and ‘All-New X-Men #37’ is one of them!
The best X-Men issues aren’t about world-shattering last stands; they’re not focused on insane timey-wimey battles; and they don’t even really need deep philosophy. No, what the best X-Men stories have in spades is characterisation. And while Bendis can’t resist a bit of action in this issue, in reality this is a book that’s focused in on two characters: Jean Grey and Emma Frost.
Just the sheer concept of the book is fantastic. The idea of Emma Frost doing some teaching again is excellent; and for her to be giving a lesson ‘in the field’ to Jean Grey is delightful. I love that Bendis uses Emma to strip Jean of the telepathy that she’s become over-dependent on in his book, and he uses Emma to display the naiveté of Jean towards Charles Xavier. Here’s the thing; it’s a matter of public record that Xavier restricted Jean’s telepathic powers. There are issues of ‘Classic X-Men’ in which we see Jean training with Xavier in using her telepathy, and that well before the X-Men were formed; and ‘X-Men Origins: Jean Grey’ actually presented the scene.
And yet, are we at all surprised that Jean has no memory of this?
No doubt some mental blocks are still in place. And, again, it’s a subtle nod that fits so effectively with wider X-Men history. I’m impressed.
There are only two real members of the supporting cast; Magik and Blob. Even there, Bendis spins really interesting perspectives on them, with Blob’s addiction to MGH and with some excellent insights into Magik’s character.
Mike Del Mundo’s art is gorgeous. Look at the expressions on those faces – the harsh animosity on Emma’s, the almost-innocent shock on Jean’s. And I love the subtlety of the colouring. The whole book is of the same quality.
For all there’s action in this book, it’s a character piece. As such, I love it.