There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we look at the ragtag band of psychic mutants making up the “Astonishing X-Men.”
Who is this by?
Writer Charles Soule (Inhumans) is delegated to the writing duties on the title with a cadre of Marvel pencilers switching up every issue including Paulo Siqueira (Venom), ACO (Nick Fury), Phil Noto (Black Widow), Mike Del Mundo (Weirdworld) and more. The most recent issue features the colors of Rachelle Rosenberg (Mockingbird) with letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles (Deadly Class).
What’s it all about?
The Shadow King has returned to the Marvel Universe and Psylocke can’t take on the threat alone. Psylocke assembles a team of Mutants to help her take on the villain including Bishop, Old Man Logan, Beast, Gambit, and Fantomex. The plot starts twisting and turning in several different directions from the debut issue featuring battles waged on multiple planes of existence.
What makes it so great?
For too long now, the X-Men franchise has a whole has been running in place, lacking the motivation needed to push forward and establish something feeling genuinely new. “Astonishing X-Men” takes the nostalgia-heavy focus of so many books in the line and honors what came before while blazing the path towards something new. Many of these X-Men have been in teams together interchangeably, but longtime readers of the property have never quite seen a roster of characters looking like this. So far, Soule has even introduced and taken away some players on the table. The free-flowing and genuinely surprising nature of the plot has consistently made me happy to read an X-Men story again.
In addition, “Astonishing X-Men” feels like it is going to have a serious burst of energy every month when readers open up the page hazy on who the interior artist is going to be. So far, Marvel has lined up a strong roster of creators and top talent to work on the book whenever they have a moment free here or there including some of the best talents in the line-up like Mike Del Mundo and ACO. Soule does a phenomenal job playing up to the strengths of each artist as he gives Mike Deodato plenty of time on the Astral Plane while handing off Ed McGuinness to a more Wolverine-centric script with big action. Marvel editorial very wisely handed off an extremely important issue to Del Mundo who nailed an impressive final plot beat in the series which Phil Noto follows-up with naturally. The sporadic and changing nature of the X-Title was initially received negatively by some of the book’s announcement in relation to the artists but has greatly paid off over time.
Another really important aspect of storytelling plot-focused comic like this have tried and failed with recently is the pacing. “Astonishing X-Men” wisely closed out its first storyline and has shifted the pacing and tone towards what comes after the series’ initial threat. The shift has been admirable and shows off how the comic will be able to be (hopefully) a long-lasting series after the first arc showing off the different sides of the X-Men world which is untouched right now. The current villain isn’t someone who can be interesting in just any context, but Soule has found a clever, and slightly creepy manner to change the trend by having the X-Men visit him in an altered reality.
For me, the title achieved an all-time high in issue #2, introduced by a Greek Chorus of Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. Soule’s theatrical tendencies embodied by characters like Frank McGee in previous Inhumans work brings a different flavor to the X-Men than the nostalgia-soaked rest of the line. The remainder of the scripts lean heavily into each mind of the Mutants making up the team, revealing plot secrets and character-based stories the different heroes were trying to suppress and hide from other team members. Something should also be about the commitment to past stories which further enrich the series. The inclusion of Betsy Braddock and Warren Worthington’s time together have made this title the spiritual successor to Rick Remender and Jerome Opena’s groundbreaking work on “Uncanny X-Force.”Continued below
With such a strange line-up and unusual team dynamic,”Astonishing X-Men” can’t help but stand out from the pack. With the initial arc bringing each Mutant together is drawing to a close, will the publisher be able to keep readers interested going forward? Also, with the advent of Marvel’s upcoming Fresh Start initiative, is this series’ days already numbered? With such a strong idea and so many clever twists and changes, I’m crossing my fingers this isn’t the case. Also, the title does have a uniquely positioned Mutant radiating the story with a unique charm and irresistible ‘WTF’ moment with “X.” Decoding what “X”‘s intentions are and trying to figure out how his time with the Shadow King influenced him is a powerful plot twist in the story and a rich, wonderful idea Soule continues to explore in each issue of the series while catering scripts towards incoming artistic talent.
How can you read it?
Issue ten of “Astonishing X-Men” drops today so go to your local comic shop or preferred digital outlet, such as ComiXology, for back-issues of the first nine issues. For trade collectors, there is one volume out so far. Vol. 1 collects issues #1-6.