X-Men fans come in many varieties, from those who want fast action and fun to those who want the long history to be followed and referenced. Then there’s those who pop in and out–that’s me–who see a thing that looks cool and clamps on. I clamped onto Astonishing X-Men because of the creators behind it (Charles Soule and Jim Cheung), but also because this team lineup looks cool as hell.
So what’s it about?
Check out our preview!
Why does this book matter?
This story focuses on the psychics of the world, which has always been a stalwart archetype of mutant teams. They allow them to strategize while in the fight and always seem to be tied to the world ending events. It’s the same here, only this time it’s Psylocke who is being attacked and used to kill everyone.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Psychics sure are in distress a lot!
Part of the fun with team books is how the members come together and, if done well, it can be an exciting bit of montaging to get them all together. Soule does well to set this team up here, with some breakneck transitioning and great captioning to catch even the newest reader up to speed on who everyone is and how they relate to each other. Cheung draws these scenes with great skill in a neat double page spread with each character getting a top or bottom of the page. It makes the introductions almost feel like comic strips in a way, but also puts each character on even footing.
The first page doesn’t include an X-Man however, and instead opens with an excellent bit of captions explaining what it’s like to be a psychic. Soule relates psychics to those who are blind and first understand they are different. It’s a neat way to make this sometimes hard to understand power relatable. The power of psychics is a fascinating one and Soule instantly makes it pertinent. This helps with the larger story as the threat the X-Men face is psychic based. The team is called together via Psylocke in distress–another psychic element–and works to tie them all together.
This issue also has plenty of action with each character having to do something to help Psylocke. Soule has the characters interact in an intriguing way and Bishop fans should dig how he’s used here. There’s a lengthy portion of the book devoted to the characters figuring out who goes on the mission, who doesn’t, how they relate to each other, and this helps set things up for future issues.
Cheung’s artwork makes this book feel like a million bucks. Even if the story was trash (it’s not) you’d still want to pay the $4.99 for the art alone (I did!). Cheung has a way of framing each panel so you always have the right angle, always get a different look at a scene be it action or dialogue, and makes it feel cinematic and all encompassing. Cheung also has a way of pulling you into smaller moments in between bigger ones, like Logan popping his claws (and blood spraying out!) or Gambit charging up something in a fight.
Interesting that it cuts her…
It can’t be perfect can it?
By my count, seven or so pages are devoted to the characters bantering and getting their ducks in a row. It’s not terrible by any means, but it drags on for so long you’ll be whispering “get on with it already.” It’s a classic case of exposition dropping all at once to get it out of the way and set things up. It certainly doesn’t kill the comic by any means but does sour the last third.
Is it good?
Astonishing X-Men sets up a psychic battle of epic proportions with sharp captioning and even sharper art. The X-Men lineup feels fresh and should satisfy X-Force fans of all types. Like a psychic blast of enjoyment, Astonishing X-Men cuts deep.
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