"All-New X-Men" has rapidly become the comic book equivalent of comfort food for me. It's satisfying, it's soothing, it's familiar. And yet, a few hours later, I have the sneaking suspicion that there's something a little more robust that I could've gone for instead.
I think it ultimately comes down to the slow-as-a-snail pacing of the title, courtesy Brian Michael Bendis. We're now nine issues into the series and the big revelation in the first half of the comic is that Iceman hasn't yet figured out that Kitty Pryde can phase, after all. While it's somewhat of a failing, it's also at times a selling point for the title. You don't feel lost with Bendis's story, and as it inches along you get some nice character moments as the team interacts with one another. Because that's what the book seems to focus on more (instead of being plot-driven), we're starting to see the cracks grow between the time-swapped X-Men characters, and I need to give Bendis a lot of credit for that. These aren't ones that have just popped up out of nowhere; the mistrust between Jean Grey and some of the other characters, for instance, has steadily grown over the course of these nine issues. It's ultimately the big strength of the writing.
There are also some fun plot bits here and there; Mystique's latest plan is worth a good laugh, for example, in the way that the revelation is dished out to both the audience and the other characters. And in terms of what's going on with the X-Men characters that aren't Scott or Jean, it's nice to finally let Warren get a little meat, even if it's just one conversation. Still, all things considered, big plotting is not a strength of "All-New X-Men" #9.
It is nice to see Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger back for another stretch of issues, though. Their art is always lovely; just look at the early two-page spread of the Sentinels descending into Times Square by way of example. The gentle arcs of the propulsion blast draw not only the Sentinels but your eyes into the center of the page, everything converging on that single spot. The Sentinels themselves look great, too; mechanical and menacing yet smooth and inviting. Little character moments are accentuated by Immonen's poses, too; Kitty with her head leaning on her hand has just the right level of resignation, and the pout on Jean's face as she says, "Mystique" speaks volumes on her tone of voice and what she's thinking.
As slow as "All-New X-Men" #9 feels, it is nice to at least get a little forward movement. The three different groups of mutants (the All-New X-Men, the Uncanny X-Men, and the Brotherhood of Mutants) are all inching closer and closer together, and the next conflict between them all is just around the corner. I'd like to see things move a little speedier in the future, though. At $3.99 a pop, we need to head out of the comfort food zone and into something a bit more memorable.