After last-month's crossover between "All-New X-Men" and "Guardians of the Galaxy," the characters of "All-New X-Men" got a little shook up thanks to a new outlook on the world for Jean Grey, as well as Cyclops quitting the team and heading off into outer space. So with all that in mind, you might expect a follow-up in "All-New X-Men" #25. What you get, instead, is a plot-free comic consisting primarily of pin-ups.
Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez tackle the framing device, which is the present-day Beast (not the one who's actually a member of "All-New X-Men") fretting in his bed, while a mysterious stranger in the shadows tells Beast about all of the different possible futures the X-Men could have. And that's it. There's no real plot development, no forward motion, no particularly clever revelations. And in the end, it's more than a little frustrating. "All-New X-Men" #25 has a great line-up, with longtime superhero superstars (J.G. Jones, Arthur Adams, Lee Bermejo), animation legends (Bruce Timm, Ronnie Del Carmen), long-missing faces in comics (J. Scott Campbell, Paul Smith), and creators not normally associated with superheroes (Maris Wicks, Jason Shiga, Kent Williams). This is an artistic powerhouse, and the majority of them are drawing splash pages with a single image.
There are a few pages that work well when it comes to telling an actual story. The two-page past-and-future story of Kitty Pryde and Colossus, courtesy Bendis and Wicks, is hysterically funny. Bendis starts with highlighting the various obstacles in their path throughout the years, and then suddenly makes them more and more (deliberately) ridiculous without batting an eye. If more of the glimpses of the future had been like this two-pager, I'd have been a little happier with this comic. Even the stories that immediately follow it (drawn by Shiga and then Jason Hipp) are fun; they're silly, but entertaining and they match the artists' styles well. But the rest of the comic, unfortunately, feels more in line with the old "Marvel Swimsuit Special" comics, only with regular outfits instead of bikinis or speedos.
That said, there are some truly fantastic artists here. Skottie Young's Iceman-gone-mad pin-up is wonderful, the sort of drawing where every time you look you see something else fun and crazy. Adams draws dinosaurs like no one else in comics, and his trip to the Savage Land sure looks amazing. And for those who have seen Del Carmen's rare trips into comics before, you'll instantly recognize his contribution in a beautiful two-page drawing of several of the X-Men's ladies in his loose, sketchy style. With a limited palette and just the right amount of detail, it's quite striking.
As for the main framing device, though -- well, Marquez does a good job overall, although he clearly cheats in drawing the shadowed figure so that it's not instantly recognizable right off the bat. Really, it feels like little more than an advertisement for another upcoming crossover. It's too bad, in the end. "All-New X-Men" #25 has a wealth of comic talent, and then for the vast majority of them offers very little substance for them to tackle. That's a real shame. This is the sort of book that will appeal primarily to completists or mega-fans of these artists. Readers that skip right ahead to "All-New X-Men" #26 won't have missed much.