This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on February 23, 2016.
For more than a year whispers have swirled around Marvel’s X-Men line of comic books. While their far more profitable movie rights are still owned by Fox (see: Deadpool), comics rumor mongers have said this franchise was doomed in funny books. Is there any truth to this though? Are the X-Men bound to follow the other ill-fated, Fox licensed franchise of The Fantastic Four? There’s no way to know much of anything outside of the boardrooms at Marvel, but we can take a look at the line itself to see how it’s faring. So this week Chase Magnett is examining all five of the ongoing series in the X-franchise to see how healthy it is.
Now for today’s review…
All-New X-Men #4
Written by Dennis Hopeless
Pencils by Mark Bagley
Inks by Andrew Hennessy
Colors by Nolan Woodard
Letters by Cory Petit
All-New X-Men #4 takes its opening scene and repeats it three times, then calls this a complete comic book worth $3.99. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if that scene contained some compelling action sequences or amusing character interactions or anything of distinguishable value. It doesn’t though. It is instead a series of very obvious passive-aggressive interactions between a teenage couple during a series of generic superhero engagements. It’s that over and over again for an entire comic book. If this continued forever and you were not allowed to stop reading, then it would make for an efficient simulacrum of hell.
Angel (the teenage one from the past) and Wolverine (the cloned one from the present) are dating and the former is not very happy watching the latter constantly putting herself in harm’s way. He watches her get shot, burned, and beaten to his increasing horror. Meanwhile, Wolverine almost skips with joy into each new barrage of harm cracking wise as her body is shredded. Her reaction to each new scenario is cartoonish. Her dialogue reads like a three adults stuffed into a trenchcoat pretending to be a teenager, convincing absolutely no one with text-based acronyms. Angel’s behavior is more believable, but even less engaging as he sulks in the background of every disaster in the very believable fashion of a teenager throughout the entire issue. He makes backhanded remarks to teammates broadcasting his dissatisfaction with the situation and stumbles through his eventual confrontation with Wolverine.
The obvious dynamic being established between the two wouldn’t be quite so painful if it were allowed to simply exist after the first scene or had been scattered throughout previous issues. Instead, it is the everything of this comic with each obvious moment of each obvious scene attempting to drown readers, a method that might actually succeed in killing Wolverine.
Mark Bagley continues to prove that he’s a fast artist, but competence alludes him here. Faces are sketched in quick succession with something that occasionally resembles human emotion, although they are the broad strokes of concern or anger. Action sequences are the one area of the issue that might redeem the repetition through hostage situations, wildfires, and super villain battles. However, when a character is shown in action their features and proportions shift wildly. Wolverine plunging headfirst into a fire provides no sense of depth and makes her arms appear stunted, while the lower half of her face seems inhuman. These sequences only function in the sense that readers will understand what is occurring on the page.
Details are commonly dropped from sequences in order to hurry along pages with scattered panels. Both times The Blob is featured, violence ensues and bodies are lost from sight. When he attacks a rare monster, it appears as if the beast’s head is disconnected from its body in one panel only for it to reattach in the next. On the final page of the issue only his face and hands receive any focus as the rest is marked out with speed lines and blood in a sequence that doesn’t carry any of the visceral impact it clearly desires.
All-New X-Men is a hastily assembled comic book on every level. Characters are sketches of teenagers and a single issue only manages to focus on a single, shrug worthy conflict between two of its characters, while the rest are banished to the background in one note appearances (e.g. Bobby is gay! Hank is smart!). The artwork passes the test of sufficiency, but provides no literal or metaphorical depth for readers to invest themselves in. It’s certainly a comic, but there’s not much more worth saying than that.