Dennis Hopeless hits a home run in the first issue of All-New X-Men!
As the original X-Men gather for a road trip, they watch for any sign of young Scott Summers. What they don’t know, though, is that Cyclops has devoted the last months to hunting down a bunch of mutant thugs who call themselves the ‘Ghosts of Cyclops’. His hunt goes pretty well, right up to the moment when he’s overpowered…
For all that Extraordinary X-Men is the flagship book, this was the series I was particularly looking forward to. I’m a huge fan of Dennis Hopeless’ writing – he has a particular skill for getting inside the heads of teenage superheroes, as was shown in Avengers Arena and Avengers Undercover. Still, for all that I was excited, I also had a degree of trepidation; after all, how can the All-New X-Men be on a road trip when the Earth’s atmosphere is becoming poisonous to mutants?
To answer that question first, I have absolutely no idea. Dennis Hopeless’ script basically ignores that completely; in fact, we even have an entertaining scene where Iceman is publicly displaying his superpowers over in Austin, Texas! That said, Hopeless does lift one key element from the eight-month time-gap; the idea that the older Scott Summers did something that turned him into a monster so far as the world’s human population is concerned. And he plays that out well.
Hopeless’ narrative conceit is genius. The younger Cyclops versus the ‘Ghosts of Cyclops’; the X-mask so iconic now that people have forgotten that Scott Summers used to walk around in ruby quartz glasses, and even Cyclops fanboys don’t recognise the younger version of their hero. The older Cyclops’ identity has been completely subsumed by his actions – and, symbolically, by his mask. The younger Cyclops is desperately trying to avoid this, and puts off even using his optic blasts until a telling moment, accompanied by a shout of fury about his older self.
“Cyclops is dead! I’m Scott… Summers…”
Cyclops feels like he’s the centrepiece of this book, and this story feels like a quest for identity. I think this is going to be good.
The rest of the X-Men get some good page-time, too; all of the core cast are strongly characterised, with a nice ‘loved-up’ moment between Wolverine and Angel (and I admit to feeling seriously weird writing that last sentence). Iceman is fascinating; refusing to keep himself secret, he’s out and proud, albeit in the mutant way, and I can’t help suspecting also in the gay way. His public demonstration of his powers feels vaguely like a nodding wink to the homosexuality / mutant parallels drawn in X2.
Art-wise, the issue is very, very strong; Mark Bagley does an excellent job translating Hopeless’ script on to the page, and there’s a sense of youthful vitality about the art that perfectly suits this book. He’s complemented effectively by Andrew Hennessy’s inks and Nolan Woodard’s colours; the latter particularly shines in the moments when Cyclops cuts loose.
All in all, the continuity of this book is awkward, and I’m no nearer to understanding quite how all aspects of the X-Men’s new status quo tie together. That said, this is a superb book, and has just moved to the top of my ‘follow’ pile.