The X-Men are the greatest team in comics. I say that a lot because I mean it. When I was growing up, the X-Men animated cartoon made me love superheroes and the world’s they live in. As I got older, and started getting into comics, the rest was history. All I wanted to do was learn about the X-Men and their history. There have been too many X-stories to count over the years. There’s Claremont’s classic Uncanny X-Men, Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, and Morrison’s New X-Men and many, many more. The X-Men have been a staple in Marvel comics for years. There was a time when they were the only thing at Marvel selling. There’s a reason they were one of the first superhero films in the early 2000’s. People love their themes and their stories. And look at the characters, especially the women. The X-Men have some of the best women in comics. Storm is probably the most popular black female in comics. Then, you have Jubilee, Psylocke, Rogue, Emma Frost, Mystique, Shadowcat, Dazzler, Jean Grey, and so many more. We all love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, right? Well, the X-Men are so popular that they are able to have their own universe with their own stories. I’m not arguing the quality of the most recent films, but it’s impressive that they can stand on their own for as long as they have. There’s been an absence of that in the comics. The X-Men have always been on the front lines of some battle or war in the comics recently. There hasn’t been much effort put into their growth. House of M saw the mutant population dwindle down to almost nothing. Then came Messiah Complex and Avengers vs. X-Men. These events changed how mutants were viewed in the Marvel Universe and in our world. They weren’t a high priority anymore since the MCU had brought Marvel into the spotlight. Not a single X-character in Avengers and the movie made over a billion dollars. The X-Men took a hit because of that in the comics. Now though, the tide has turned. It started with Inhumans vs. X-Men and that’s led to multiple X-books coming back. Not only are they back, but the quality has returned as well. X-Men Gold, X-Men Blue, Iceman, Jean Grey, Weapon X, Generation X, Wolverine, Old Man Logan, and Cable. Not a single one of these in lacking in quality. Today though, we focus on Astonishing X-Men by Charles Soule. The first issue was a perfect setup. Crazy X-Men action with great characters. The link for that review will be below. Issue 2 gives us more insight to this crazy story Soule is cooking up. It’s got X-Men written all over it and it starts off with a feature presentation.
Astonishing X-Men #1 Review
LIFE OF X
London is under attack. Psylocke was possessed by the Shadow King in issue #1. He’s a villain the X-Men have faced before. His tactics mainly revolve around the mind and mental warfare. What does he want this time around? To enslave the mind of one of the world’s best psychics. He’s been killing mentally weak psychics for some time now and Psylocke was his next target. She created an insect the size of Ohio when the Shadow King was attempting to take over her mind, and the insect was attacking London. Psylocke sent out a distress call to anyone who would listen. Those people were Old Man Logan, Rogue, Gambit, Fantomex, Bishop, and Angel. They helped her defeat the monster but Psylocke has now sent them to the astral plane to confront the Shadow King. The astral plane is his domain, if the X-Men lose, they’ll be his slaves forever. At the end of the first issue, it’s revealed that Professor X, who’s been dead for some time, is in the astral plane with the Shadow and King and they are playing some sort of game. This issue opens up with the team watching an illusion the Shadow King has setup. They’re watching a film about the X-Men and all of their best and worst moments. The Shadow King and Professor X are seeing who can control them the best in this dimension. If the Shadow King wins, he gets their bodies and they’ll his forever. If Professor X wins, he gets to kill them, but in a humane way. This story is interesting and I’m wondering what role Professor X is going to play in the end. Is he coming back? Does he have some sort of vendetta against his former students? Soule is setting up this story brilliantly in the first couple of pages.
Back in London, Bishop, Angel, and Psylocke are still there watching the team’s physical bodies. The best stories have multiple things going on and I’m glad that Soule didn’t abandon the characters back in the physical world. From a storytelling standpoint, it makes sense, and that’s for one simple reason. The X-Men are still on the battered streets of London. Psylocke was adamant about going into the astral plane immediately. But, the city was almost leveled and the authorities want answers. We see a government agency that’s been tracking the events in London. They have files on these X-Men and know that they are usually more good than evil, but they can’t take any chances. That’s all we get from the physical world, but like I said, I think it was needed so we could see the consequences of the attack.
The X-Men in the astral plane continue to watch the history of the team. Whether it’s Colossus’ and Kitty Pride’s love, the death of Jean Grey, the hallucinations keep on coming and they keep on watching. The game between the Shadow King and Professor X continues. Old Man Logan is the one who breaks the spell. The Shadow King has Jean appear next to Logan. She begins to seduce him and starts to kiss him. Logan remembers that the future he comes from doesn’t have a Jean. She, and the rest of his mutant brethren have been dead for a long time. He realizes it’s a trick and kills the fake Jean. The Shadow King then sends the rest of the fake X-Men after them. I have to give a shout out to Mike Deodato Jr. and Frank Martin who were the artist and color artist for this issue. The comic overall looks great but the splash page of the current X-Men battling their astral plane counterparts looked amazing. Once they finish, Logan does the Logan type of thing and sniffs out an imposter. In my review of the first issue, I pointed out that Mystique was on the cover but not in that first issue, instead it was Beast. I should have known, but I don’t really look for that type of stuff too often in stories, even if it’s obvious. Mystique reveals herself and tells the rest of the team of her motives. She says that she knows the Shadow King and how vile he can be. Without her help, Mystique doesn’t see this lineup of heroes defeating him.
The last part of the issue showcases how intelligent these heroes are. The bulk of this story could have been about them trying to figure out what was going on between the Shadow King and Professor X. Soule could have drug it out to six issues, maybe longer, and it would have probably been a solid story. Soule has other plans here though. He gives the heroes the credit they deserve. They deduce that this is all a performance. Mystique first mentions it, then Logan mentions that he felt two minds in his head. Fantomex then speaks up and concludes that the ending of the presentation was a bit clumsy. That whoever made that move was losing and that they are all simple players in a complex game. But, someone wants them to win and they have no choice but to continue. The issue ends with a conversation between the Shadow King and Professor X. The terms of the game are reiterated. Either the King gets their bodies and souls forever, or Xavier gets to grant them the mercy the King would not. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds. Great roster, interesting story, multiple ways it could unfold. Another solid issue from Soule. The art from Deodato and Martin was stellar as well. If you read this review and the review for the first issue, I would highly recommend picking this title up. It’s good X-Men fun.
Remember to follow me on Twitter @peacelovecomics and let me know what you think about this story. This and Mister Miracle are the main titles that I’m reviewing. This week, I’m adding another character to that list as I review Kyle Higgins’ Nightwing and the New Order. Nightwing is one of my favorite DC heroes and my favorite from the Bat-family. Make sure to click on Peace, Love, and Comics again for another comic book review. Until next time!