Writing across different time streams can be tricky—especially when you have just 22 pages to do it in. It's a risk! Time spent away from the current plot is potentially time lost. This possible setback is used magnificently here, giving us gut-wrenching moments from the personal history of our hero's new nemesis. It is grand. I give you All-New X-Men #27. Spoilers below.
When we last left our heroes, the Brotherhood Of Evil X-Men From The Future (or BOEXMFTF for kinda short) was yards away from their front door. That's not where we begin, though. We travel back a year, to watch Dr. Moira MacTaggart give birth to Charles Xavier's son… whom she promptly puts up for adoption.
Only it's not MacTaggart at all, it's Mystique. The simplest explanation is that she adopted the good doctor's face only to deliver the baby. Mystique seems genuinely upset over not being able to raise the child herself. But… how did she get pregnant? Did she seduce Xavier as herself, or MacTaggart? Was there an actual relationship? Did she get a hold of Xavier's sperm? In any case, it's one hell of a bombshell, after another, after another.
In the present, we find Laura (X-23) in dire straits and bleeding out. The resident healer, Triage, arrives… in time to be stabbed through the lungs.
It's not Laura, it's Raze, the future-bastard son of Logan and Mystique—who is promptly thrown across the room by past-Henry McCoy. At which point, the power goes out. Oh, crap.
It's gratifying to see that the BOEXMFTF are kinda petty about losing the last time. Future-Past-Jean enjoys watching the Cuckoos fall out of the fight. It's petty, and totally in line with the character. It's a nice touch, and the comic is full of 'em.
Still: this is an issue about betrayal. Betrayal by one's senses, betrayal of family, and in a weird technical way, betrayal of one's self. Mindee Cuckoo turns on her sisters, knocking them out. The BOEXMFTF make their way in, only to be blasted back out by Cyclops. Past-Jean seals the door with debris to buy them a few precious minutes…
Which is long enough for us to see one of the worst days of Xavier Junior's life: the day he accidentally kills his foster mom.
The artwork here is always impressive, but it's these one-panel beats that just slay me. Stuart Immonen's pencils and Marte Gracia's color work fill the pages with vibrant life—and death, too, on occasion.
Raze springs back up, only to be swept aside. While he's pinned, he tries to convince the X-Men that their minds are being toyed with. He may have his parents' inherent abilities, but his acting isn't nearly as good as his mother's. He snivels as X-23 (mistake #1), then adopts past-Cyclops' look. Past-Cyclops is in space, and never uses words like 'heap'. (Mistakes #2 and 3.) It's another nice little touch.
Definitely want to work on those acting chops. There's more to playing someone than looking like them. However, the advantage is moot when Mindee Cuckoo steps in and psychically knocks out everyone in the room.
Cut again to the future, in the Mutant nation-state of Madripoor. Mystique runs the show, and retires to her penthouse alone… or so she thinks. She 'smells' Junior, and is revealed to be Raze. I have to tip my hat to Brian Michael Bendis. The idea of a shape-shifter hiding as another shape-shifter is so damned ingenious that I'm legitimately angry I didn't come up with it myself. The fact that it's used here as a throw-away detail says something about Bendis' genius. A twist so profound would be at the heart of a lesser narrative. Here, it's barely a satellite. Unbelievable.
Anyway. The bastard sons of Mystique size each other up, and realize that they have no reason to dislike each other. They form a partnership, and plant the seeds of the BOEXMFTF.
We return one last time to the present, where Past-Jean is getting psychically assaulted. Emma Frost knocks her out cold. Cyclops' response is perfect: "You've been dying for an excuse to do that."
Jean wakes up on the astral plane, with Junior, Future-Past-Jean, and the Stepford Cuckoos looming over her. Oh crap.
Were the Cuckoos brain-washed in the last five minutes? Or have they been plotting a betrayal longer than that? If it's the latter, it explains why Junior and his cronies showed up—to collect their new teammates.
If you read X-Men titles, you need to pick this one up. It's sharp, the pacing is perfect, and it sets the stage for another riveting chapter next month. I mean, hot damn.
~For more, visit www.caseyjonescaseyjones.com!