Titled "Elegy in the Classroom," part one of the "Arms of the Octopus" storyline hits the stands in "All-New X-Men Special" #1 from writer Mike Costa and artist Kris Anka. Four-fifths of the original X-Men take an afternoon to explore modern-day New York City and run afoul of Doctor Octopus. As chance would have it, the Superior Spider-Man also appears, setting up a story that is a natural convergence of Hulk, Spider-Man and the X-Men through the wonderful plot device of temporal displacement and trace radiation.
Costa jumps on top of the comic book science of it all and uses Hank McCoy (not-furred, but still massive) to serve as the point-of-view character for readers. Being in New York, Hank happens across a student from Empire State University studying (conveniently) radiation feedback in temporal displacements under one of McCoy's old professors. The writer dials the focus in tightly on Iceman and Beast, and then once more adjusts the focus tightly around McCoy. Costa's McCoy is nervous and goofy, but educated and eloquent. Iceman (Bobby Drake) is on par with the voice Brian Michael Bendis has established, but given a little more room to roam. With these personalities in place, the string of comic book coincidences hits its apex when Doctor Otto Octavius appears -- red hot with temporal radiation.
Artist Kris Anka might not have been my first choice for this adventure, but it's tough to argue with the results. Anka has established himself as a master designer of believable characters, consistently applying fashionable choices to the characters. His work is heavily tinged by manga and, in retrospect, a perfect choice for the adventures of everyone's favorite time-tossed mutants. Most noteworthy is Anka's interpretation of Henry McCoy. At this stage, McCoy is without fur, but bears the movement and posture of his present counterpart. Anka makes Beast a physical beast of a specimen, but handles him with enough care to make McCoy lovably real. Anka's confidence in his colorist is amazing, and it should be. Jordie Bellaire brings her shades of awesomeness to the X-Men's adventures and performs admirably. With the original navy blue and yellow X-Men togs, Spider-Man's current costume and the garish yellow-orange and green combination of Doctor Octopus' getup, Bellaire has no shortage of opportunity to flex the comic book color palettes in her repertoire.
"All-New X-Men Special" #1 is a delightful throwback comic book that delivers a succinct story, embedded in current continuity without having that continuity weigh it down. There is no mistaking the current predicaments of the characters involved, but Costa doesn't bludgeon the reader with unnecessary exposition. Instead, Costa settles into the story, sets the action in motion and delivers a comic book worthy of what Marvel Annuals used to deliver: an extra-sized story with connections to other books. The story begun in this comic may continue elsewhere, but "All-New X-Men Special" #1 is a satisfying read all by itself.