All New X-Men #15: Jean Grey and the Beast?!
(Some spoilers for Issue #15 of All New X-men follow in the review below)
Iceman is flirting with a girl around his age he met at a carnival. Her ice cream starts to melt, and precipitously dips toward the ground. Using his abilities, he chills it, saving the ice cream. A teenage boy hanging out with them stops and stares: “You’re a mutant?” he says, before walking away, fists clenched. Another girl remarks it’s a shame he isn’t more progressive. Despite the efforts of Marvel superheroes, and the changes observed in the respect and equality garnered by minority groups in the real world, it seems mutants will always be feared and hated in Marvel Comics.
What this comic book provides is an insight into characters who don’t hate and fear mutants. Characters who are supportive, or neutral toward mutation and its consequences. Several of the characters in this comic are impressed by Scott Summers and Iceman’s abilities, rather than intimidated.
Guest artists provide a good character artwork with some unusual background choices. At the carnival, rides, sideshows, and attractions are brought to life in a colourful style, which does result in characters looking younger than expected. The following panels have no detailed background – black, orange, and primary blue, yellow, and red colours fill the space behind characters. There’s some loss of depth, and no sense of space because of the missing backgrounds. While it was likely unplanned and unscripted, the rectangle backgrounds of colour could be compared to Mark Rothko’s abstract paintings of the 1960’s, which would be an ideal reference considering X-men comics were first published in the 1960’s. Other important features are the panel arrangements for Jean Grey’s scenes. Grids of six to eight panels capture moment to moment emotions – an effective art choice, which delivers some humor and tension.
Beast receives some particularly interesting development – with two versions of beast interacting, Jean Grey receives a unique perspective on his life. The older beast laments on missed oppurtunites from his youth. His youth, incidentally, is happening nearby him in an adjacent room, as the younger beast prepares for the future, studying his older self’s adventures. There are references to Jean Grey and the Phoenix, and Rachel Summers meets a younger Jean. Wolverine comments that other team members need to stop borrowing his cars, jeeps, and motorcycles
Themes, Ethics, Values.
The value of courage, and the ethics of overcoming boundaries appear in All New X-men #15. Several characters are faced with a boundary, and a decision whether to challenge it, or go along with what’s been planned for them. Jean Grey, Scott Summers (Cyclops), and Bobby Drake (Iceman) all make the choice to challenge the boundary, demonstrating courage in the face of intimidation. Psychology today writer Melanie Greenberg (Ph.D) compiled six attributes of courage with references to popular culture such as A Game of Thrones, The Wizard of OZ, and the Hobbit. The character’s actions correspond to some of these six attributes. Scott and Bobby show trepidation at leaving the X-men‘s school for a day trip to a carnival in an effort to enjoy themselves while they can, but do it anyway. Jean feels fear at confronting Beast after she figures out he has fallen in love with her. Despite her fear, she kisses him.
Pushing past boundaries, and breaking with traditions does live up the turbulent, 1960’s background the X-men were created under. Artist of the 1960’s rebelled against decades of imposed restraint and constraint – to mention Mark Rothko again, Rothko’s luminous, abstract rectangles polarised gallery visitors and audiences. Separating Jean Grey from Scott Summers represents a break in popular culture. Like Mark Rothko’s convention defying abstract work, the comic book is unafraid and undaunted to defy character connections set in stone by decades of X-men comics published by Marvel. It’s a brave statement, but whether this is a short term shock, or a lasting act of change, is another matter entirely.
A bit more on All New X-men #15
A shocking story combined with interesting character tension, only let down in places by some unusual background choices. The dramatic results of time travel continue to challenge X-men comics of the past fifty years.