REVIEW: Astonishing X-Men #1

The return of Astonishing X-Men is the final title to premiere in Marvel’s X-line re-launch.  Featuring a rotating cast of artists; this book is going to showcase a wide array of talent inside and outside of the panels. Older X-fans may remember a comic called “X-Men Unlimited” published in the late 90’s that operated under the same premise—allow top tier talent the opportunity to tell their best mutant stories without the shackles of current continuity.

Charles Soule and Jim Chueng are the first creative team up, as they gather a rag-tag group of X-Men together to fight the reemergence  of long time villain Amahl Farouk, A.K.A. the Shadow King. (An evil telepath) This installment features a roster of X-Men that includes Rogue, Old Man Logan, Bishop, Gambit, Psylocke, Beast, Angel, and Fantomex.

Right from the start there is a question about the line-up. While I thoroughly enjoy a good mix of characters, there is a missing character that is featured on the cover of the comic. Mystique is illustrated right in the middle of the book’s team shot; yet Raven is nowhere to be seen in the initial storyline. Either everyone’s favorite shape-shifter was hiding in plain sight, or is yet to be revealed in the series; regardless it was confusion to play a mutant version of “Where’s Waldo” with the blue skinned femme fatale.

Soule’s random selection of team members is the comic’s strongest element. We are treated to seeing how these characters react to one another. We go from the familiar love/hate relationship of Rogue and Gambit, to the unknown dynamic of Bishop and Old Man Logan. It’s here that Astonishing has the chance to really breed something new in the X-Universe. By creating new and exciting relationships and conflicts between team members and characters, it could have the potential to lay the groundwork for countless storylines to come.

While the plot is not breaking any new ground; the group must work together on the astral plane to stop the return of the Shadow King; there is a familiar feel that transcends the hype. This is just a good, ole-fashioned team-up. There are wild cards like Fantomex, who has not really worked well in the X-Men universe; outside of Grant Morrison’s trippy origin. Then there are the tried and true team members like Angel, who badly needs an overhaul.

Astonishing has also promised that the comic will have a new, top-level artist each issue. (Issue #2 will feature Mike Deodato Jr.) Jim Cheung started the trend off on the right foot, as the art within this issue was stunning. Cheung is no stranger to the X-titles and seeing his artistic version of the X-Men makes me wish for his return to a regular monthly offering. The art is going to be a selling point for this series moving forward.

Overall this new title is not breaking any new ground. This seems to be another offshoot into random stories by random creators. While that may sound like a slight against the series it’s actually a breath of fresh air. It provides Marvel the avenue to tell some more off-center tales and test the waters on abstract plots and character development. This is a welcome change in the new re-launch; give creators room to create and let the substance of those stories speak for themselves.

Final Score: 3 out of 5 Stars.

Astonishing X-Men #1
Story: Charles Soule
Art: Jim Cheung
Inks: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego & Walden Wong
Colors: Richard Isanove & Rain Beredo
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel

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