Brian Michael Bendis (W)
Sara Pichelli (A)
The cover doesn’t lie.
X-23 and Angel are an item, spending the night together after last issue’s ending saw them riding off into the sunset on Cyclops’s stolen bike. I was initially trepidatious when Marvel revealed #30’s cover–it was only a few months ago that issue #20’s cover had X-23 and Cyclops sharing a kiss that never happened in-story. That cover was a meaningless bit of hype probably designed to ignite angry CBR forum posts. There was also fear that X-23 was only added to the All-New X-Men to fuel more love triangle drama, but that thankfully seems to not be the case. Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli’s issue is all about relationships–specifically, romances and a rivalry–and it’s an interesting pause between major story arcs.
Together, X-23 and Angel have a Beauty and the Beast, or at least Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club kind of chemistry–and yes, Warren considers himself “Beauty.” The new relationship has my attention, and it already feels more plausible than the Cyclops/X-23 red herring. All-New X-Men still hasn’t really done much with either Warren or Laura, so it’s some much needed attention for the both of them. It also raises the stakes for when—if–the original X-Men go back to the past, because that will mean the end of any new relationships they form in the present. (In this case, he’d be going back to a time before X-23 was probably even born.)
We next catch up with Kitty Pryde and Star-Lord, who are in the ultimate long distance relationship. With Peter Quill in space, they can only communicate via hologram, so there’s irony in Kitty dating someone who can’t be touched. I’m pretty indifferent to this relationship–the Guardians of the Galaxy work better when they have fewer ties to Earth’s superhero community, and it’s hard to be invested in this romance when you know they can’t ever really be together. (Plus, the “haha Kitty keeps dating guys named Peter” joke is so old it has gray hair and a cane.) But at least Kitty dating a hologram can’t be as boring as her relationship with Iceman, right?
Most of #30’s buzz understandably focused on the X-23/Angel relationship, but the major turning point in this issue is between Jean Grey and Emma Frost. Jean and Emma have had an animosity dating all the way back to “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” which reached its peak when Emma had a psychic affair with Jean’s husband Cyclops in New X-Men. So, when Emma is appointed as young Jean’s psychic teacher, the tension is palpable. Emma tests the limits of Jean’s new psi powers by trying to make her angry–and projects into Jean’s mind images of Emma seducing Scott, and adult Jean’s discovery of their affair. Jean snaps, she and Emma fight, and this meant to be what finally--finally!–clears the air between them and leaves them friends.
Here’s the thing: in New X-Men, Jean and Emma were equals. In this situation? Jean’s a kid, and Emma’s an adult–her teacher. Emma’s contempt for Jean makes her seem like a mean-spirited bully (remember when Emma punched Jean a couple issues ago?) and projecting her sexual relationship with Scott is wildly inappropriate and kinda creepy. There’s no even playing field here, even if Jean does telekinetically knock Emma on her ass. In theory, I’m in favor of Jean and Emma burying the hatchet –not in each other’s backs–since the common portrayal of their relationship in-continuity and in fandom has relied way too heavily on the sexist “catfighting romantic rivals” stereotype. But Bendis’s writing stumbles here, and the resolution between both women feels rushed and unearned, especially when much of it happens in an off-panel psychic showdown. Oh well, at least we can move on to a hopefully more interesting stage in their relationship.
Sara Pichelli is one of Marvel’s “Young Guns” for a reason; she previously drew the All-New X-Men during the “Trial of Jean Grey” crossover in Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s wonderful to see her drawing the team again. Her characterization is subtle and effective, with charming facial expressions and a keen eye for body language. Warren and Laura’s night out at a club is wisely depicted without dialogue, and their physical attraction is so apparent on the page it doesn’t need words. And on my personal “How Gorgeous is Jean Grey’s Hair?” scale, she gets a 10 out of 10.
Bendis and Pichelli’s All-New X-Men #30 relies on the X-Men’s most soap opera-y traits, including new hookups and old rivalries, and mostly succeeds. For the time-traveling young X-Men, it’s probably the calm before the storm.