It may be a few more weeks before we get the final chapter of Astonishing X-Men as penned by Warren Ellis and drawn by Phil Jimenez. However, last week saw the release of a new Astonishing X-Men Xenogenesis title written by Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews! I have been so excited about this title and after reading it, I have to say this book delivered the goods!
I was transfixed from the moment I saw the above image of the team. The use of black in the costumes is a classic look. It reminds me of Havok’s original costume, which had the habit of making his surroundings pop! Storm has got her 80’s groove back (scrunchy boots, double belts and mohawk), Wolvie is looking like truck stop trash with an art school twist (any time you wear black you give off an art opening vibe), Cyke’s wearing his ridiculous headgear (I like him best when his hair isn’t covered in his swim cap) but looks great in his black muscle shirt, Armor is actually dressed like the teenagers I see in the city, Emma has finally ditched that ridiculous sheet she wears as a cape, got herself a weave (I’m hoping she and Storm went shopping together), and opted for clunky earrings and chunky shoes, while Beast looks simply primitive (not so sure about those things on his shoulders though). I find these designs refreshing and am glad Marvel gave Kaare Andrews the freedom to visually redefine these characters. I’d love to see what he would do with the rest of the X-Men!
The issue begins with the X-Men having breakfast and there’s a lot of dialogue to set up the story. I love that Storm is just chillin’ in her towels. Too funny. Logan looks hungover and you couldn’t tell Emma’s daytime outfit from her nighttime outfit anyway, so who knows if she slept in that. Hisako is drawn too young here, methinks. Scott is presented front and center as befits his status and ego. Immediately, the reader is clued into a little bit of each character’s personality. This attention to character is why I think Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis is the best written X-title on the stands today. Ellis doesn’t let continuity trip up the story he wants to tell, but he doesn’t ignore it either. He uses it as a stepping stone to get where he wants the characters to go. In this instance, the story revolves around baby mutants being born in Africa, so the narrative focus shifts to Storm (thank the Bright Lady).
Ellis’ X-Men are all in character. If you like your Beast super-smart and analytical, you got him. Scott Summers is in charge, but also willing to consult with his team members when he needs more information. Wolverine is still the rebel, but willing to toe the line when it counts. Emma is her delightfully snarky and precocious self. Hisako (Armor) still doesn’t have a personality (aside from talking junk to Wolvie) and Storm seems to have the spotlight to explore the facets of her complicated selves (Goddess, Queen, punk rock rebel). I think Ellis is doing his best to reconcile the married Ororo with the free spirited former X-Men leader.
In the above scene, Ellis reminds readers that Scott and Ororo used to be friends, something folks who constantly fight over who is the better leader seem to have forgotten. I like that Ororo feels she can joke with Scott, even so much as teasing him. This is the two most prominent X-leaders at their best. I would like to see this aspect of Cyclops and Storm’s relationship continued.
“Ohmigod, she’s barefoot!” screams the internet. Well, I was surprised by her sudden lack of footwear, but it’s not like there isn’t any precedent for Storm to not wear shoes. In her first appearance she’s only wearing a loincloth. However, she’s come a long way since then. It’s one thing to be barefoot while hanging out on the roof of the X-Mansion with Gambit and another to not wear shoes while on a mission, but I’m okay with it either way.
Recent X-books have been about a sequestered cast who can’t leave an artificial island off the coast of Marin while every resurrected enemy attacks them. There’s something really claustrophobic about those kinds of stories, and like Storm, I’m not into closed spaces. Here’s hoping that Ellis’ stories can expand the narrow scope of recent X-storylines and delve into what makes the X-Men great–their character.