Brian Michael Bendis, with the aid of the ever-talented Stuart Immonen, masterfully pits Wolverine, Kitty Pryde and the original X-Men against Mystique and an entire Hydra squadron in "All New X-Men" #14. Through a handful of his major players, Bendis fluidly navigates this issue with his quick wit and style. "All New X-Men" continues to impress with its solid balance of drama and pure, unadulterated fun.
In his "New Avengers" run, Bendis showed his strength in working with large groups; that same strength shows up prominently in this issue. With such a big cast of characters, the issue ran the risk of becoming too crowded and chaotic, especially with the flurry of action. However, Bendis gives each character a moment to shine. The shifting focus feels natural and ramps up the adrenaline for the classic X-Men's first real fight in the new era. After watching them settle in their new time, it's fantastic to finally see them in action, gleefully working together to face a familiar kind of fight.
Even with characters as established as these, Bendis makes their voices and relationships seem fresh, new and exciting -- particularly with Jean Grey, whose acceptance of her psychic ability continues to rise to scary new levels in each issue. With Jean, every action comes as a genuine surprise as she swings wildly between cold control, inexperience and regret. From this issue's dramatic opening to ominous conclusion, her thoughts and motives are shrouded in mystery. Her intriguing development, especially in the eyes of the other characters, absolutely steals the show.
In antithesis to the adults and their knowledge of the future, the young X-Men act accordingly: like teenagers. Even in the face of danger, their voices maintain a need for acceptance paired with youthful enthusiasm, from younger Hank's desire to keep Silver Samurai's sword to the Summers brothers' tender moment. The issue also laid ground for characters who don't usually meet to interact with one another, even briefly -- like the younger Iceman's hilarious exchange with Thor. Throughout all of their responses, the classic X-Men bring hope and a refreshing new outlook to this dark anti-mutant world.
Immonen's work on the issue is consistently fantastic. He captures the classic X-Men's youthful voices in their expressions, especially with young Iceman. Massive amounts of detail are evident in every panel and the fight flows easily from one scene to the next; the issue feels more like a movie than a comic in its fast pace and action. Colorist Marte Gracia compliments Immonen's style, bringing the book to life through its vibrant, cheerful colors. However, the layout occasionally confuses; some two page spreads have simply too much going on, which trips a reader up over what way the scene should be read.
Bendis and Immonen add another great chapter to "All New X-Men" -- their characters look and sound genuine; their world, large but fun and familiar. With its tricky concept, the book could easily have lost its pizzazz after a few issues, but Bendis and Immonen keep going strong with brilliant storytelling and strong characters. "All New X-Men" is a pure delight.