ResurrXion started off well for the X-Men comics but quickly became old as the Blue and Gold were following the same old direction the franchise has been in the last few years. Add in even more confusing elements such as characters from other universes (coughUltimate Wolverinecough) and overuse of villains (Sentinels) are used and the core X-Men books became easy to drop. Now it is Charles Soule’s chance to sell us on a strong X-Men title with his Astonishing X-Men series. Just from the cover, the team for this series already looks different from what we are seeing in Blue and Gold. Can Astonishing X-Men deliver were others didn’t? Let’s find out with Astonishing X-Men #1.
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego
Colorists: Richard Isanove and Rain Beredo
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Around the world psychics are being attacked and being placed in comas. Psylocke gets attacked in london as well but is able to fight it off long enough to send out messages to several X-Men.
At the British Museum Bishop is doing some research for a mission.
Above Scotland Angel is enjoying having his normal form back though Archangel wants to escape and be the dominate personality.
In Paris Gambit robs the Louvre and is able to make an escape with Fantomex’s help.
Over the North Atlantic Rogue is flying Logan home.
Suddenly Bishop, Angel, Gambit and Rogue receive Psylocke’s message for help.
Back in London, Psylocke continues to resist the psychic attack but is unable to control her powers and has created a massive psychic butterfly that is hanging on the side of the building.
Rogue and Logan are the first to arrive in London. Rogue tries to fly into Psylocke’s butterfly but is unable to get passed all the psychic energy.
Angel arrives and is able to tap into part of his Archangel abilities to use his metal wings to shield Rogue from all the psychic energy.
Fantomex and Gambit are next to arrive. The wild energy coming from Psylocke immediately destroy’s Fantomex ship. Logan sees this and goes to check if Fantomex and Gambit are okay.
On the ground Fantomex, Gambit and Logan try their best to fight off all of Psylocke’s psychic energy that is going wild and attacking people.
Bishop soon shows up to help them but is taken away by Angel who needs his help.
Angel flies Bishop to where Rogue and Psylocke are. Rogue then uses her powers to absorb Psylocke’s powers. She then kisses Bishop so he can take all of the wild energy and release it into the sky.
Bishop, Fantomex, Gambit, Logan, Psylocke and Rogue regroup and have catch up for a bit. Beast shows up and mentions he got Psylocke’s message but got to London to late.
Psylocke finally fully recovers and reveals that the person attacking all of the psychics around the world is the Shadow King. She goes on to say they have to stop the Shadow King before he goes after a psychic like Jean Grey or Emma Frost.
Logan, Beast, Rogue and Gambit volunteer to go into the Astral Plane with Psylocke and take fight directly to Shadow King. Though reluctant given their past Psylocke agrees to allow Fantomex to come as well.
Angel stays back, afraid that his Archangel persona will take over if he goes into the Astral Plane. Bishop also stays back to guard everyone’s body while they are in the Astral Plane.
Psylocke uses her powers to take Logan, Beast, Rogue, Gambit and Fantomex to the Astral Plane.
In the Astral Plane the Shadow King detects what Psylocke is doing and decides to adjust his plans a bit. Shadow King then opens one of his safes and Professor X greets him as soon as he opens it. End of issue.
The Good: Astonishing X-Men #1 is the first comic X-book that feels like it is taking full advantage of the fresh start that ResurrXion relaunch offered the franchise. Unlike its Blue and Gold brother titles, Charles Soule’s Astonishing X-Men takes fan favorite characters and creates a team that has not been seen before. In doing so Soule created an atmosphere from the get go that feels like we are in store for something different from this X-Men team.
Right out of the gate, Soule does a very good job using the opening pages of Astonishing X-Men #1 to establish where each member of the team, except for Mystique, is at. The quick segments for each character establishes a clear direction for what role each one will fill once they got together not long after their individual introductions. It’s a smart way to present Astonishing X-Men #1 as a series that welcomes in new readers and shows long-time fans that we are going to get the classic version of these characters. That in turn makes Astonishing X-Men feel like it can be the only X-Men comic a fan needs to read to get their fill on the franchise.
With Astonishing X-Men #1, Soule was able to find a good balance between delivering action and character development for the new X-team. On both sides of the story Soule was able to find a way to make each character shine. He was also able to provide enough information on each character that informed us where they stand with one another. From Gambit and Rogue romantic tension to Psylocke’s disdain for Fantomex, Soule shows us how these characters share a history without making it feel like we missed out on something.
Though this is another X-Men team that features Logan it is made clear that he won’t be one of the driving force of the series. Instead Logan, like his teammates, will be a role player that will serve to help enhance the story rather than take the spotlight. Seeing Logan just standing around for the fight on the ground established that. It also helped to open things up for Logan to use his experience have the needed authority to make decisions but not doing more than he should.
And with the Astonishing X-Men team being made up of mostly unused mutants everyone gets some sort of spotlight. Even when they aren’t directly involved in the action, like Angel, Soule makes sure that each member of the Astonishing X-Men team has a chance to shine or establish their own sub-plot. For Angel, in particular, Soule does a very good job developing his sub-plot for the series to be about his battle with the Archangel inside him. That battle may keep him on the sidelines in this arc that deals with Shadow King but sets him up to have an even bigger story down the line.
Psylocke being the one that brought all these X-Men together help set her up to be the main character of this initial arc. Seeing how crazy out of control her powers went during Shadow King’s attack on her showed us how powerful she is when not in control. Though she is never seen on the same level as Jean Grey and Emma Frost it was cool to see her in this form, as dangerous it was. It also helped to establish the threat level of Shadow King’s latest attack on the world if he is allowed to have his influence reach Jean or Emma.
Rogue and Bishop combining their individual powers to save Psylocke was a fun way to combat Shadow King’s influence on her. It highlighted how each character’s powers work and what they add to the team. Rogue in particular stood out as we got to see her back with her classic Captain Marvel powers as her main abilities along with her absorbing power. That instantly makes her the powerhouse of the team, something that can make her stand out even more than just what her relationship with Gambit and Mystique are.
The big reveal at the end was an interesting choice as we saw Professor X as Shadow King’s prisoner. This development has the ability to either be a good or bad thing for the series. It will all depend on how Soule explains how Professor X is able to return after Red Skull took his brain in Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers series. How that is explained will be possibly the most important thing for Soule to get right or else he may bring the entire series down.
Jim Cheung does an excellent job giving a larger than life feel to everything going on in Astonishing X-Men #1. Especially with Psylocke’s powers going out of control Cheung had plenty of fun drawing all the psychic energy that was leaking out of her. The massive psychic butterfly was especially impressive to give a sense of scale for what Rogue and the other X-Men had to overcome. The final pages also set the stature Shadow King carries and sets up the tone for the X-Men’s latest adventures in the Astral Plane.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: Astonishing X-Men #1 does a fantastic job introducing the characters that will make up the core cast for this series. Charles Soule gives every member of this X-Men team a stand out moment that feeds into what we should expect in the latest clash with Shadow King. The final page present a surprising appearance from the former X-Men leader, Professor X, that could have larger ramifications on the entire X-Universe depending on what happens. All of this is wrapped in a package that makes Astonishing X-Men the only comic new and old X-Men fans should to read.