They’ve been part of the All-New X-Men book since the first issue, and now Cyclops’ team of Magneto, Magik and Emma Frost get their own series, one Marvel is marketing as the lead comic in the franchise. Whereas Wolverine and the students of the Jean Grey school want to teach young mutants to live alongside ‘baseline’ humans, Cyclops and co reckon there’s a war between Homo Sapien and Superior coming, and they need to prepare new mutants to be on the winning side.
So far, they’ve recruited a young woman who can stop time, and a young man who can heal wounds. Both are on hand in this debut issue as the militant X-Men rescue another new mutant from the authorities, a chap who’s spontaneously manifesting Swiss exercise balls from his body (as you do). The moment of triumph is shortlived, however, as Sentinels attack. The giant mutant hunters are no match for a new manifestation of Cyclops’ powers, but the incident proves the final straw for another member of the team, who turns traitor.
For this issue’s action has a framing sequence, as one of Cyclops’ seconds goes to SHIELD agent Maria Hill, and tries to persuade her that the government’s super-spies should take him down. Despite the growing popularity of his mutant rescue campaign with ordinary members of the public, says the mystery man, Cyclops remains a ‘murdering monster’.
Given that the traitor turns out to be Magneto, though, this is rank hypocrisy of the first order – how many people has he killed over the years in the name of mutant superiority? Still, he’s switched sides so many times that the betrayal is no huge surprise.
When we learn just whose chin we’ve seen in close-up throughout the issue, it seems we’re meant to gasp, ‘the traitor is … Magneto?!’ But the lack of set-up by writer Brian Bendis that the unidentified figure was at SHIELD as a turncoat, rather than as an emissary of Cyclops, takes away from the moment. As does the fact that Magneto has had his hair shaved off, making him unrecognisable when drawn in civvies by Chris Bachalo.
That apart, this is a decent opener to a spin-off series. It’s not compelling – I’m not especially excited at the prospect of another issue in a couple of weeks – but hardcore mutant fans will likely be satisfied. Certainly, slotting Magneto back into his traditional role of adversary rather than ally puts Cyclops in a better light by comparison – if the X-Men’s greatest foe is no longer with him, perhaps he’s not gone so far towards the dark side as it seemed. But the script’s a tad flabby around the edges, a la Bendis’ Avengers books – the first couple of pages, for example, are simply Hill chatting to colleagues as she approaches the interview room and could easily be excised.
Bachalo’s art, coloured by himself and inked by Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza and Al Vey, is attractive, though a couple of moments in the action sequences are a tad unclear. And the new costumes – with one exception – are weak compared to the looks they replace. The exception is Magik’s, whose new look suits her demonic sensibility.
My favourite image of the issue is Cyclops-as-revolutionary-poster-boy, above, a stark graphic that demands to be extended and slapped on mugs and tee shirts. Runner-up is the excellent spread revealing the Sentinels, which is as dynamic and kinetic as you could wish.
Given that Cyclops’ mission is part of the backbone of the All-New X-Men book – his younger self and the rest of the original class have been brought from the past to calm him down – I don’t see the need for this series. If the originals aren’t focusing on the grown-ups, they’re wasting their time. But if Brian Bendis is going to write one book about a team, you can bet he’s going to write two … and probably more. Let’s hope he can find a match here for the entertaining vibe of All-New X-Men. So far, I don’t see it.