After learning Eva Bell’s shocking journey through time, her actions since this particular team’s first outing have become a great deal more contextualized and calcified, which is good because a large, large piece of this issue is focused on her and her newly realized powers. Brian Bendis plays catch-up, dealing with four different groups of heroes in this one, normal sized issue. He by-and-large pulls it off, with an especially funny interlude between Magik and Dr. Strange in the past, but we also check in with the mutants stranded at the Jean Gray School and catch up with Magneto’s run-in with Cyclops and the newly awakened Matthew Malloy (Mighty Marvel alliteration lives on!) and, of course, the students still at the New Charles Xavier School. It’s all quite a bit to take in, but most of it actually flows organically from one section to the next, with only the Jean Gray section feeling a bit out of place and random, and even then it’s good to see those characters not forgotten. The dialog itself is the usual, snappy Bendis fare, though much less ping-pongy than we’ve seen previously and it generally works to bring out even characters who get relatively little actual dialog.
Chris Bachalo’s on pencils and looking great. The cartoonish, ultra-stylized looks that he brings to this diverse cast is well served, giving each character their own look and lending the issue a great sense of clarity. It’s mostly talking this time around, with some world-shattering action to close out, and it all looks good, if not great. The inks brought to us by Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba and Al Vey help to bring a greater sense of definition and impact, both literal and figurative, though there are two sides to the inking that I’ll discuss lower. Antonio Fabela and José Villarrubia provide the colors, and those have always, always been a huge part of the artistic choices on this book for me overall, and these two do not disappoint. The issue is bright, bombastic and given a great sense of place and wild energy by the palette.
Time travel. Again. More. Time travel...maybe I’m naive, but I truly thought that Age of Ultron and the horrible side effects it wrought upon the Marvel U along with the unknowable consequences of ALL-NEW X-MEN’s opening choice made it so that time travel was kinda sorta becoming more taboo, or at least to be saved only for the direst of circumstances, especially to the X-titles. But here we are. Though I’m still interested in seeing what happens next, it’s truly difficult to get emotionally invested in the last few pages of this issue.
The inking is generally good across this issue, but here and there it becomes less distinct and that makes the characters and their actions feel less visually defined over the pages it happens on. It’s very minor, but also very noticeable, mostly due to how good everything else looks.
After the UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL (the second half of which came out today as the ALL-NEW X-MEN ANNUAL), I think Eva Bell has the potential to be a serious contender for one of the best new characters of the year, regardless of where this issue or even storyline takes her. We get more great developments from the other characters, as well as some pretty shocking plot points to go with them that a weak last few pages don’t even come close to eclipsing. There’s a reason this book consistently rates as my favorite X-title on the shelf, and this issue is a great example of that: even when it’s not perfect, it’s still a great read.