Astonishing X-Men has quickly proven itself as the top X-book that Marvel has been publishing. Charles Soule has put together an X-Men that does not feel stable. Each one thus far brings something different to the table, which creates an interesting mix of skills and personalities. Those personalities have helped also provide an interesting story arc that may end up re-introducing Charles Xavier, who has been dead for several years, back into the Marvel Universe. Before that can even happen Xavier and the X-Men will have to overcome the threat of Shadow King’s latest chess game in the Astral Plane. Let’s find out if they can overcome with a look at Astonishing X-Men #3.
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Jason Keith
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the Astral Plane Logan climbs a mountain. As he is doing so Shadow King tries to get Logan to give into his fears by reminding him of his history as the one who killed all the X-Men in his timeline.
In the physical realm Psylocke, Angel and Bishop are confronted by the London police and told to stand down. Psylocke tells Bishop and Angel that the other X-Men are still battling the Shadow King and she can’t take them out of the Astral Plane.
Angel flies over to the police helicopter and says that he does not want things to get worse.
In his command center Commander Keen wonders if that was a threat by Angel. Blake says Angel is not in his current form but does have another one that is. Commander Keen then orders Blake to arrest Angel.
Back in the Astral Plane Logan climbs the top of the mountain. He is confronted by hundreds of samurai. Logan quickly does away with them since he knows that they are all Shadow King’s mental creations.
As he throws more things at Logan, Shadow King is impressed by how Logan is fighting back. Confused at how Logan is fighting back, Shadow King shows up as Professor Xavier and tries to talk to Logan. Logan just walks past the Professor X since he believes him to be dead.
Back in London, Angel tries to calm the situation but the police try to capture him. After dodging the police’s capture net Angel starts to grow angry. He stops himself from turning into Archangel and says he forgives the police for attacking him.
Back in the Astral Plane, “Professor X” shows Logan how the X-Men have all fallen to Shadow King’s influence. Logan smiles and says that he already has built up an immunity to Shadow King’s influence after being trapped in the Astral Plane for twenty years before killing Shadow King in his timeline.
“Professor X” still tries to reason with Logan but Logan calls Shadow King out on failing to get in his head. “Professor X” transforms into an armor clad warrior. As Logan fights the new warrior it slowly transforms into Mister Sinister.
Shadow King smiles that he has finally gotten to Logan with Mister Sinister’s appearance. Shadow King notices that Professor X’s hand is shriveling up. Professor X tells Shadow King that the Logan he has taken is not his Logan.
Back in London, Blake asks Psylocke to tell him what is going on with the X-Men. Psylocke reveals that her X-Men teammates are currently battling the Shadow King in the Astral Plane. Blake brings up how it all looks like the X-Men are attacking London.
A Shadow King controlled Logan suddenly wakes up and stabs Blake from behind. End of issue.
The Good: Astonishing X-Men #3 is a solid comic book that is hindered by the focus on the Old Man Logan character. With how many great X-Men characters are involved in this story we did not need to see another spotlight on a character that is everywhere in the franchise.
As much as the focus on Logan was not needed Charles Soule does a good job in writing why he was the spotlighted character. Showing Logan as the one X-Men not to fall under Shadow King’s influence was nicely back-up by the fact that this isn’t the same old Wolverine. As we have seen since he has become part of the main Marvel Universe, the Old Man Logan version of the character has overcome his past trauma in his recent ongoing. Soule using that along with the experience of defeating Shadow King in his timeline, did make Logan look strong even if he did succumb to the influence after a long battle.
Interestingly Logan eventual downfall did lead to Professor Xavier’s line about him not being his Wolverine. The way Professor Xavier said that showed a lot of conviction as he did not flinch, even with Shadow King’s mocking. It does create more intrigue in what Professor Xavier is actually planning to do to save himself and the X-Men since he hasn’t been very active in this story arc.
This all plays into making Shadow King once again a big threat to the world. The way he treats everything as a game further shows how sinister of a foe the character is. The pleasure he shows in how easily the other X-Men gave into his influence does a lot to re-establish him as an X-Men villain. Now with Logan under his control we are left wondering what Shadow King’s endgame is now that he looks to have already defeated Professor Xavier in their Astral Plane game.
With all that going on in the Astral Plane, Soule kept us still engaged in what was going on in London. For the first time we got to see Angel step up and show he is more than just an angry ball of fire that’ll give into his Archangel side. Seeing how Angel was able to fight back the Archangel transformation did a lot to show the character’s personal development. It adds to how the Archangel side of Warren will always be an unpredictable element for this series. That inner struggle will be an interesting sub-plot to follow in Astonishing X-Men.
With Astonishing X-Men #3 we got to have Ed McGuinness step into the art duties for the series. Astonishing X-Men #3 was a great issue to have McGuinness around since there was such a big spotlight on Logan. McGuinness knows how to draw the various emotions of Logan while making him look like the biggest badass in the Marvel Universe. He also did a good job in showing Angel’s struggle to keep his “evil” side at bay.
The Bad: As mentioned earlier, the spotlight on Logan, while written well, did not help in the execution of this Shadow King story. As a team book the one thing that was lost in Astonishing X-Men #3’s story was the X-Men. Seeing how Soule just threw in a quick panel that showed all the other X-Men but Logan already under Shadow King’s influence does absolutely nothing for Gambit, Rogue, Fantomex and Mystique. What it actually does in make the characters look weak in the eyes of readers, especially since we spend two-thirds of this issue watching Logan fight back Shadow King’s influence.
The Ministry of Defence Superhuman Crisis Unit part of this story arc also hasn’t gained any sort of traction. So far this new organization is not coming off as nothing new. Instead they Commander Keen just comes off as the generic government antagonist we have seen over and over again in X-Men comics. There needs to be more to this new anti-mutant unit than just being antagonists to our heroes. If not they will just be just another forgettable cast members to add to the generic government officials we have seen across the Marvel Universe.
Overall: Astonishing X-Men #3 is the weakest issue of this series so far. The focus on Old Man Logan over the rest of the X-Men hurt how the mission statement of this series. That said, Charles Soule does provide a lot of strong dialogue that makes up for how the story is executed. The main story involving Shadow King continues to be the strength of the arc and there is enough development in Astonishing X-Men #3 to make fans look forward to what comes next.