All-New X-Men #40
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Mahmud A. Asrar, Rain Beredo
I have had an excruciating relationship with “All-New X-Men”. On the one hand, Brian Michael Bendis still rules the comic book world at dialogue, some of the funnest and most heartfelt exchanges have happened by his hand. On the other hand, he plays with time travel like a toddler plays with fragile glassware; he’s definitely going to ruin everything and probably hurt himself in the process. I’ve resisted reviewing his work for a lot of reasons, mostly because “If you can’t say anything nice…” But earlier I was tipped off that this issue has a weighty event inside. So like a man at an all sardine buffet, I gagged and dove in.
First thing to say is that for an action light issue, it is compelling as Hell. First it drops some intrigue with a homicide on the remains of Utopia. But before any questions can be answered, we’re taken away to the X-men as they get back, fresh from their space adventure with the Black Vortex. A lot of this issue deals with the fallout of that incident. The first issue being what now? Kitty left them to be with her space boyfriend, Peter Quill—totally can’t blame her either. They have no home, no food, no teacher, and no purpose. Best of all, the other X-men in the Jean Grey Institute are having trouble of their own so they are essentially adrift. Also? Angel got cyber wings. Did I forget to mention the cyber wings?
Brian Michael Bendis is still the master at character and he proves it handily in this issue. Angel shows up to whisk away X-23 for a private confab (by the way, isn’t she busy in “Wolverines”? Nevermind). Their emotional heart to heart is astounding. He has had to wrestle with a future that everyone keeps telling him is going to be miserable and filled with utter agony. She has had to live through that sort of thing being a clone of Wolverine. And it genuinely appears they are enamored with each other, not simply paired together to be a spectacle. And beside that there are a ton of dialogue gems just thrown out there. Cyclops’s new nick name is Tyke-clops! There’s some super fun Maria Hill stuff and her continuing struggle with being annoyed by mutant problems. And even better, that’s not even the best part of the issue.
There is some good news in this issue however: it confirms that these X-men from the past are actually from a parallel universe. How do I know this? Because either that or Brian Michael Bendis is an asshole. Let me back up. In this issue, Bobby Drake comes out as gay—or rather Jean Grey outs him. She confronts him and reveals that she read his mind and he’s gay. So this Jean Grey is apparently also just a terrible person but we’re getting off topic. They discuss the issue at hand, how can this Bobby Drake be gay and future Iceman be straight? I mean he shows no signs in any of his history—he recently dated Kitty. Bobby even offers an out saying he could be bisexual to which Jean Grey promptly says no he is “Fully gay”. Because you know being bisexual is totally a thing that can and does happen. So in enters my alternate universe hypothesis. When Hank tried to pull them from the past he actually got them from an alternate universe. It explains so much! It fixes so many things I have a problem with! That’s why there’s no damage to the timeline; why Jean Grey’s power set is slightly different than her counterpart; why Hank couldn’t send them back in time! It’s not where they belong. So either that or Brian Michael Bendis is saying sexuality isn’t something you are born with, it’s something you learn; a byproduct of the world around you. Something which can be manipulated in either direction of the sexuality spectrum—making a person either gayer or straighter, which would make him an asshole of the highest order. So yay alternate universe!
You may be thinking there is no way “All-New X-Men” #40 has any similarities to “Invincible” and you would be wrong, wrong, wrong. While Mark Grayson was growing up, he became good friends with William. William was just your normal everyday high school student who enjoyed piggybacking on Mark’s back as he flew through the air… Yeah, he was a homosexual and Robert Kirkman laid the appropriate groundwork so when he did come out everyone was not only accepting, they were supportive. But you know what also helped. He didn’t have a Fucking straight future counterpart. He was unburdened with expectations and is now in one of the best, stable relationships in the “Invincible” universe. So for the first time I have to give out a conditional score.