[22 April 2014]
We learn as kids that showing has more impact than telling. Human beings are visual creatures by nature. Nobody is ever going to be more enthralled by hearing Michael Bay tell audiences about all the explosions in his movies compared to seeing it on a movie screen. It doesn’t matter of Shakespeare himself is the one telling the story. Seeing the story is what will create the greatest impact. This is especially important when trying to make a point to someone that’s too stubborn and pig-headed to realize how badly they screwed up. Like a cantankerous old man who can never be convinced that Vietnam was a bad idea with words alone, they will find any excuse if it’s only words they have to deal with.
For the last several years, Hank McCoy has become the Bill O’Riley of the X-men. He complains, argues, and bloviates against those he doesn’t agree with while contributing absolutely nothing to improve the situation. He’s all talk and no substance. It started with his disagreement on how Cyclops was leading the X-men. There was initial substance to his argument, but it eventually devolved into whining. After the events of “Schism” and “Avengers vs. X-men,” that whining finally manifested into actions. But instead of actually confronting the issues, he decided to risk another “Age of Ultron” style upheaval when he brought the O5 X-men to the present. Since then, he has made plenty of excuses for taking this risk. Nobody has ever convinced him that he has to apologize for it. That finally changes in All New X-men #25.
It’s way too late and it’s almost as overdue as a Wonder Woman movie, but Beast finally confronts the consequences of his actions. And it isn’t just told to him either. It’s actually shown to him in the form of visions of various futures that could take place because of his actions. These many diverse futures help justify the long list of guest artists and the extra dollar to the cost of the comic. It doesn’t just create what amounts to the more horrifying show-and-tell of Beast’s life. It helps provide a context for the impact of the O5 X-men being in the future.
That impact has been a central theme since All New X-men began. It has already led to some pretty destructive complications with events like “Battle of the Atom” and “The Trial of Jean Grey”. The impacts of these complications are clear, but the reason behind it has been glossed over. And without that reason, Beast can continue to justify his actions in the same way Dick Cheney keeps justifying torture. These visions finally give him a reason and it’s also a reason that helps put events like “Battle of the Atom” and “The Trial of Jean Grey” into perspective.
Most of the visions, regardless of the artist drawing them, have a central theme. In a future where the Original X-men never received guidance from Professor Charles Xavier, they lose touch with their humanity. It helps explain why Jean Grey became the sinister Xorna and why Iceman began creating ice monsters in “Battle of the Atom.” But it doesn’t stop there. These dark futures show the X-men failing without this guidance that keeps them linked to their humanity. Some go insane, some become heartless killers, and some actually get crucified. That’s how important this guidance is and that’s what Beast undermined when he tampered with the timeline.
Beast has shown that he can take being chastised for his actions. But seeing these consequences with his own eyes is too much for him because he can no longer make excuses. Even a creationist couldn’t deny the weight of the evidence before him. Beyond the impact, it’s consistent with a powerful theme that encompasses all the X-men comics. Whenever someone, be they human or mutant, loses touch with their humanity, they end up walking a dark path. That path might not always be an apocalyptic future where mutants are crucified in public streets, but it’s a path that doesn’t lead to the peace and understanding that the X-men are supposed to fight for.
But it isn’t just the apocalyptic futures that reinforce this point. In his last desperate gasp to cling to even a partial excuse for his actions, he demands to see a few non-apocalyptic futures. Never mind that non-apocalyptic futures in the Marvel universe are the real-world equivalent to unicorns, but he gets to see them anyway. And this is where the narrative gets comparably weaker. There are a few rosy pictures painted that depict mutants being celebrated and the X-men being hailed as heroes. But then there are a few non-sequitur pieces that look like comic strips and pin-art taken from Tumblr. That’s not to say that some of them aren’t entertaining, but it neither gets the point across nor does it help justify the extra dollar in price.
Even though these visions are comparably weaker and make the narrative exceedingly choppy, they do help make one final point in the end. After seeing all these visions of non-apocalyptic futures, Beast finds out that his actions have made it so the possibility of realizing these futures is more remote than satisfying Ghostbusters sequel. This is what effectively shatters any of his remaining excuses. It finally gets Beast to acknowledge that his actions have badly damaged the timeline and he’s now ready to start fixing it. Again, it’s exceedingly late.
But it’s an important realization in the context of All New X-men. There may not be much of a plot to All New X-men #25 and despite the additional length and long list of guest artists, it doesn’t feel all that epic. It was a serious story with a serious impact that tried to get too cute along the line. While it may have failed at being cute, it does succeed at following the themes that make up the foundation of All New X-men’s appeal. It just isn’t worth paying an extra dollar.