All-New X-Men: “The X-Men is a tough nut to crack,” says Brian Michael Bendis. “It’s the Robert Altman movie of comics. There’s thousands of characters, all of which have a website dedicated just to them. I wanted to make sure I had a take that was unique.” So when it came time to plan for Marvel NOW!, Bendis — who’s been Marvel’s go-to Avengers guy for close to eight years — remembered an idea that had been floating around the Marvel writers’ retreats for a long time. “It was about the original X-Men. If they saw what the Marvel universe was now…well, it’s so much worse than the Days of Future Past that they’re always worried about. This would scare the crap out of them.
Thus: All-New X-Men, a time-travel story with the original X-Men jumping to the present. We’re talking Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Angel, and Marvel Girl. They’re teenagers. They’re wearing blue-and-yellow outfits. They’re seeing their older selves, and they don’t all like what they see.
Bendis is literally drawing the teenaged X-Men from a specific panel in the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby X-Men series, “a moment where they’re at their most feisty.” And although he can’t talk too much about the mechanics that get the old-school X-Men into the present, he promises this is not a dream sequence. “No Danger Room, no imaginary story. This is actually happening.” (In a statement guaranteed to calm at least some of the skeptics, Bendis swears: “The space-time continuum is of utmost importance to me.”)
Bendis stresses that All-New X-Men is most of all a character story: the tale of young, idealistic people who are suddenly faced with a bleak vision of their own future. “Here’s the big question that the original X-Men are gonna be faced with: We’re gonna grow up, and this is what we’re going to get? That is not acceptable.”
And of course, the time-travel shenanigans at the center of All-New X-Men will bring fan-favorite character Jean Grey back to the mainstream comics continuity for the first time since her (second) death in 2004. “It’s the one thing X-Men fans have always asked for is: They want Jean Grey back. But they want Jean Grey. Not reincarnated Jean, or the ghost of Jean. Well, you’re getting Jean back. And Jean is gonna be looking at a world that rattles her.” And Bendis brings up an intriguing personal connection when he talks about writing the beloved character: “I love feisty redheads. I’ve been married for many years to a very feisty redhead. But I’ve never applied that to writing before. I didn’t even realize what I was doing, but Stuart Immonen is drawing the book, and looking at it I realized: ‘Ha ha, I’m doing my wife!’” (November)