ALL-NEW X-MEN #40 Review: “The Hype and Speculation Show”

Although always high profile, few issues in writer Brian Michael Bendis’s turn on the X-franchise have gotten this much attention. From the months of mysterious whisperings regarding the “Utopians” to the pre-release controversy earlier this week, this is indeed one that has everyone talking. How much of it is wholly warranted? That may be another matter entirely.

No, Indiana Jones isn't the leader of the Utopians...
No, Indiana Jones isn’t the leader of the Utopians…

The cover is a good place to start. Artist Andrea Sorrentino and color artist Marcelo Maiolo’s simple depiction of the X-Men’s former island home is both serene and eery. It’s too bad Marvel’s reportedly frowning on X-merch these days, as this is yet another fantastic t-shirt design waiting to happen.

Not suicidal in her quarters yet but she's getting there...
Not suicidal in her quarters yet but she’s getting there…

Funky, distended logo aside, revealing the “mystery of the Utopians” isn’t exactly square with what happens inside, per solicit. Sure, it’s an interesting twist generating a truckload of questions surrounding their origin but so far, it’s all sizzle with little steak. The best part of this cover-featuring subplot is actually Maria Hill losing her mind Dirk Anger-style over mutant shenanigans. The Nextwave reference will not be lost for some…

Set Danger Room to "Hello?!"
Set Danger Room to “Hello?!”

As vague and slightly misleading as the preview synopsis may be, tackling the issue’s main component head-on in that space wouldn’t have done it any justice, either. Sensationalism may be running it nine different ways under the microscope but it is, at its core, a well-handled and completely in-character scene. Letting these things be voiced without the added baggage of “hype box” proclamation is usually best. It’s a bit of shame the real world discourse couldn’t’ve begun until after the issue was officially released, though.

Politics for the development aside, the real question turns to “why now”? This being the penultimate issue of All-New, there’s not a tremendous amount of room to settle and/or naturally evolve. For something so seemingly tacked-on late in run, it’s almost as if Bendis is deliberately teeing this up for his successors.

Oh, hey- you guys are still in the book, too...
Oh, hey- you guys are still in the book, too…

Without Bobby and Jean’s six page exchange, this would’ve been the thinnest of issues. The decompression coming off of the far-too-long Black Vortex saga was a much-needed breath of fresh air but that only makes half an issue at best. Maybe digging into the mystery advertised on the cover a bit more wouldn’t’ve been the worst thing in the world? Again, penultimate issue- not a lot of real estate left.

Playing for keeps!
Playing for keeps!

This week’s All-New X-Men is solid but nowhere near the realm of “breaking the internet in half”. Compelling and character-driven, it’s sincere and certainly worth checking out. Just calibrate expectation for “understatement” as it owns but doesn’t necessarily buy into its place in the current news cycle. Still, you will wonder “Who are the Utopians?”…

4 Replies to “ALL-NEW X-MEN #40 Review: “The Hype and Speculation Show””

  1. Really on-point review. There was a lot of anger towards how Jean handled/obtained the info about Bobby’s sexuality, but this is completely in line with her character in this series. There’s no Professor X to guide her sense of creepy psychic ethics, so she kind of just runs ramshackle all over people’s minds. And she’s, what at this point? 17? A bit odd to expect her to possess the wildly refined sensitivity of literally everyone on Twitter. /rant

    I do think the more interesting question is the one you raise: Why now? We’re so close to blowing everything up and everyone has known this for a while. Just not a lot of time to explore this development.

  2. You know what’s funny? I had no idea that there was any “controversial” stuff in this issue, but I told myself I would stop reading all-new xmen after black vortex. I’m trying to cut bendis out of my life. So, when it was in my pull, I have it back and told the clerk, “I’m done with these, I don’t want them in my pull anymore.”
    The clerk was like, ” oh yeah we understand, we got a lot of that today.”
    I was thinking, “wow, a lot of people must be done with this after black vortex.” But no…..they were bigots, and now I totally seem like one.
    So now, at the shop I’m gonna be known as one of those haters. I’m really just someone who wasn’t liking the book anymore.
    “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”

    1. As a comic fan similarly disappointed by Black Vortex, I appreciated this story.

      Although I’d like to imagine the “we got a lot of this today” was also because of Black Vortex…

  3. Thanks for focusing on what the issue was supposed to be about, Matt. I think the controversy is unwarranted, because teenagers pull that kind of nonsense all the time, superpowers or no superpowers.

    Why now? Well, I think something similar happened towards the end of Bendis’ Avengers run, where he started throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, as if he’d forgotten he’d had all this other stuff he hadn’t gotten to. And also maybe as a way to keep the X-Men above the radar in the Avengers-and-Inhumans driven Marvel of today. Hopefully Bendis’ successor will deal with the topic sensitively instead of Lobdell/Northstar ham-fistedness, or, worse yet, sweeping it under the carpet.

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