The Turkish-born artist Mahmud Asrar began his journey into the X-Men’s universe with their Ultimate version in March 2013, for which he was the lead artist. Then, he drew the first sixth issues of the second edition of Wolverine and the X-Men, before joining the artistic team of All New X-Men. He has had the privilege to conclude the run of Brian Michael Bendis with the arc The Utopians.
It’s not the identity of these Utopians the readers are eager to discover, but rather the explanations about Iceman’s coming out, thanks to Jean Grey’s telepathy. The seventh page of the 40th issue depict the coming-out itself. On a regularly composed layout, eight panels, four for Bobby and four for Jean, seem to respond to each other. But we can see that only the first Iceman’s panel is different from the other three, and the last Jean’s panel is different from the three others. The third panel for each character is textless, their attitude itself allows to understand the awkwardness of the situation. The rigor with which the layout is built finds an echo in the discomfort the two friends feel, specially Jean Grey. Iceman, for its part, does not know why Jean asks him about what’s going on. His three times drawn deadpan face is touching by its lack of understanding, whereas the know-it-all Jean is a little annoying. Because she can’t control her powers, she snooped around and found one of Bobby’s deepest secrets, the one he’s the most terrified about. He’s terrified about being gay because his adult version seems to be straight, and he doesn’t understand what’s wrong with him : how could he be gay, whereas his adult-self isn’t ? Sadly, the two issues don’t give us an answer, because the X-Men are sent to find out who the mysterious Utopians are. We’ll have to wait for the 600th of Uncanny X-Men for the final answer : is Iceman, both young and adult, gay?
But let’s be patient before finding out who the Utopians are, and let’s talk about the new Angel and his relationship with X-23. During the events of Black Vortex, Angel submitted himself to the cosmic artefact to discover his new potential. Unlike many others, Angel decided not to give up on this new appearance, and I’m more than delighted that he did. Finally, the weeper boy is gone, and he’s got a new look to go with this attitude. Furthermore, he finally got the girl, and not any girl, but Wolverine’s clone and probably future Wolverine herself (see All New Wolverine in October), Laura Kinney aka X-23. After a little flirt with young Cyclops (All New X-Men #21), Laura turned to the sweet and innocent Warren, the only one of the original X-Men willing to bo back to his time. If their love story got a little put aside by the author, mostly because of all the dangers the X-Men had to face, the return back to Earth is the perfect time to settle this. Do they have feelings for each other ? Are they in love ? Will Angel’s new look disturb X-23 ? Angel confessed in love, and kissed Laura who kissed him back. This simple kiss, from a cosmical enhanced mutant and a genetically modified clone is not that simple. Their kiss is the perfect example that no matter how screwed up your past – or your future – is – or will be – you can get over it and focussed on being happy. The young and wealthy play-boy took a chance on an ex-killer, and it seems like he get pretty lucky. Like his adult version who dated Psylock, Angel feel for a dangerous woman; it’s seem to be a pattern in Angel’s love life.
This textless page is one of my favorite, exactly thanks to the absence of any text. The emotions pass only through the drawings : the expression of love, the surprise and the happiness follow each other, in a beautify organised layout.
In the end of the 40th issue, the identity of the Utopians is reveled : they are mutants, mostly X-Men, who found refuge on Utopia, their previous home before its destruction during Avengers versus X-Men. We recognize the Morlock Masque, Elixir (Joshua Foley), Boom Boom (Tabitha Smith), Random (Marshall Stone III), Box (Maddison Jeffries) and Karma (Xi’an Coy Manh). Each of them (except Masque) joined the X-Men at some point : Karma was a member of the New Mutants, Boom Boom was a X-Factor trainee, Elixir a student of the Xavier Institute, Maddison one of the geniuses for the X-Club, and Random a refugee on Utopia. Difficult times and threats from the society brought them together. It seems they have nothing in common, except the fact that they are mutants. They are ready to fight back at anything the society throw at them, as their fighting positions prove it. Karma’s head is surrounded by a manifestation of her powers, as for Boom Boom in her hand. The deadly Elixir is at the back of the group, but he seems the most annoyed by this new intrusion on their Utopia. Maybe is he afraid his powers will cause someone else’s death ?
I’m glad Mahmud Asrar keep drawing the manifestation of Jean’s powers as Stuart Immonen used to. The first time we saw that was in All New X-Men #5 (p.14-15), when Jean accidentally went to far away in the actual version of Beast’s memory and learned about her entire life – the life or her future self. The person’s mind who Jean reads is in the center of the page ; i’s often a double spreads, rarely a single page like this one. Fragments of this character’s life – Karma, Jean, Spiderman of the Ultimate universe Miles Morales (All New X-Men #32, already drawn by Mahmud Asrar) – appears on concentric circles, like a puzzle, center of which stands the person. This way of drawing is inventive and unique, and I hope the future artists who’ll take care of the young Jean Grey’s story will continue to offer us some other telepathic shows like this one.
The semi-conclusion of All New X-Men was a bit of a disappointment to me. I hope Brian Michael Bendis found a better way to end his run on both Uncanny X-Men and All New X-Men with the 600th issue of Uncanny X-Men. There are still a lot of questions we don’t have an answer to : where the original X-Men come from ? Are we sure they are the exact past version of the X-Men we know ? If yes, how can we explain the sexuality of young Iceberg compared to the actual Iceberg’s ? Will they ever go back to their time ? Be patient and wait till this fall to find out.