All-New X-Men #2 is a slight improvement on the first issue mostly thanks to the well-worn, yet still clever strategy from writer Dennis Hopeless of splitting up characters in a team book into twos or threes for more meaningful character interactions. After he gets imprisoned for beating the Ghost of Cyclops member Thirst with a baseball bat, Cyclops gets a powerful prison monologue about his helplessness to alter his fate that shows his deep understanding of adult Cyclops’ flaws. Iceman and Beast almost share a moment while waiting in line for pizza, but Iceman is content bantering instead of talking about what he did when he took a solo sabbatical from the X-Men and definitely not his sexuality. Sadly, Idie and Genesis again get relegated to the sidelines. In a wider view, All-New X-Men still struggles with whether it wants to be the fun, teenage sibling of the grimmer X-Books or just as dark with the rest as it switches from the Bamf Pickles causing a scene and stealing pizza in his own cute way (The slapstick is a little stale, but Mark Bagley’s design for the lil guy is adorable.) to young Cyclops feeling responsible for the demise of mutants and about to get jumped in his prison cell.
Bagley, inker Andrew Hennessy, and colorist Nolan Woodard really bring out Cyclops’ anger about his circumstances and his losing battle to control it in All-New X-Men #2. Woodard matches the red in the background with his ruby quartz glasses that he uses to control his powers while Bagley and Hennessy give him a kind of “anger line” that is also used when Wolverine (Laura Kinney) is pissed off at the Ghosts of Cyclops for mocking their power levels as an X-Men team. Snopes gets mentioned, and I actually felt like I was in high school trying to disprove one of those annoying mass Facebook posts. Also, maybe the Ghosts of Cyclops aren’t all bad and just misled, but probably not after that cliffhanger ending. Bagley, Hennessy, and Woodard literally set Wolverine on fire to show her intensity while Angel has to fly her out and help calm her berserker rage. The anger of these younger iterations Cyclops and Wolverine becomes the fuel that drives them.
The comedy in All-New X-Men #2 sometimes feels like it’s from another, possibly better book, like Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men for the Pickles escapade. Basically, Cyclops is carrying a burden of guilt while the other X-Men are watching their blue pet go viral by stuffing huge slices of pizza (Picking Brooklyn style over classic deep dish is bad for a book set in Chicago.) Hopeless shows a better command over the light and serious in the couple pages where Iceman and Beast get to chat as Iceman uses jokes as a defense mechanism. But Beast isn’t amused, keeping a stiff face. Bagley’s faces mostly continue to be less than subtle, which makes the comic seem like everything has to be a super dramatic moment from Cyclops yelling in jail to Wolverine going off on the Ghosts of Cyclops. He can do something a little more nuanced at time, like Genesis’ reaction to Pickles’ chugging beer and downing pizza, being something between hysterical laughter and, “Oh my God, we are going to be hunted and killed for being mutants”.
There is nothing wrong with a little comic relief in a darker story, and Pickles would be great for the occasional single panel sight gag in the middle of tense situation. (Along with his plot starting teleporting power.) But he ends up hijacking the entire X-Men team’s B-plot, which doesn’t flow well with Cyclops’ more introspective A-plot. All-New X-Men #2 also has the exact same cliffhanger as issue one with Cyclops in trouble from the Ghosts of Cyclops, but substitute a prison for a school. Dennis Hopeless seems to have a solid handle on his character and writes some funny jokes while Mark Bagley and Andrew Hennessy still have a knack for depicting teen drama and cool superpowered battles. But these talents need to cohere into one narrative artistically and tonally, and All-New X-Men #2 isn’t quite there yet.
All-New X-Men #2
Written by Dennis Hopeless
Pencils by Mark Bagley
Inks by Andrew Hennessy
Colors by Nolan Woodard
Letters by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics