Dropped in Midstream Review: Astonishing X-Men #45 by Greg Pak & Mike McKone

I went with Astonishing X-Men this week for the dropped in the middle review. I always liked the concept of Astonishing X-Men from the time it was introduced when Joss Whedon was the writer. 1 For me the title was in-continuity, but removed from the monthly headaches of the continuity schedule: no cross-overs, no worrying what the current status quo was in Unlikely X-Renegades #23.5, no concerns about which X-man was on which team. I read Astonishing X-Men #1 2, and even though it had been years since I read the X-titles, I read it without the heavy burden of continuity or what I had missed.

I haven’t read since Joss stopped writing. 3 The title is always near the top of my trade paperback shopping list, and yet when it comes time to purchase, I usually forget it and buy something else.

On the creator-side, Greg Pak takes over writing of Astonishing X-Men after a long association with The Incredible Hulk title. For me, Pak is one of those very rare writers: I think he is a very good writer, but I have little interest in the types of stories that he wants to tell. I read the Planet Hulk collection and found that the story and attention to detail is really amazing, but I was not that intrigued by a Spartacus in outer space tale, where Hulk climbs the gladiatorial rungs to become leader of a planet.

So, with all that in mind, I thought it would be fun to give #45 a shot. Let’s see what they come up with.

Astonishing X-Men #45: Exalted Part Two

Published By: Marvel Comics
Written By: Greg Pak
Art By: Mike McKone
Release Date: 12/28/2011
Cover Price: $3.99
Review: Digital Copy (from Comixology)

I have no clue what happened last issue 4, but in the general universe, the X-Men team have split into two groups. One is following Wolverine and returning to New York to restart the school, and the other is staying with Cyclops in the mutant nation of Utopia.

According to the Previously… Cyclops was approached by Storm to be a hero again and destroying a pack of rogue sentinels. When he suspects something is amiss, he is attacked with a psychic blast. He awakens to be confronted by a mutant called The Savior.

Synopsis

  • Savior tells Cyclops of a world where Magneto conquered the humans and was then thwarted by the X-Men lead by Cyclops. But this is a lie that is blasted away by Cyclops’ optic blasts.
  • Cyclops is in a prison with alternate universe versions of Wolverine, Emma Frost, Nightcrawler, and Kitty Pride. He helps them escape using a tool he steals from Ororo.
  • The five of them battle the troopers. Cyclops and James Howlett have a showdown of sorts, but eventually come to a mutual truce, and the mutants find their gear.
  • Emmeline Frost opens a door to find hundreds of “Cyclops” visors, showing that the Savior has killed hundreds of Cyclopses across the multiverse, including Emmeline’s son.
  • The Savior is revealed to be Charles Xavier 5, who has murdered other versions of himself as well.

Questions and Answers

  • Why is Scott necessary to the plans of The Savior and Ororo?
  • Did Emma Frost marry Christopher Summers?
  • Why are the captured X-Men called “Heroes of the Dominion” by the shock troopers?
  • How is James Howlett knowledgeable of the Multiverse? I mean not even an alternate universe, but a series of connecting universes called a Multiverse?
  • As a telepath, Emmeline had to have known that her son, Scotty, was already deceased, no?

Analysis

This is a pretty decent comic book issue. An alternate reality romp that seems deadly serious. But, as it is an alternate reality, you know the stakes can be easily erased. It is tough to take any alternate timeline tale seriously in 2011/2012, as we are far too familiar with the ability to erase it all. But all-in-all it was a decently done comic book tale.

The art was pretty good. For me there were several confusing moments where the action was not properly captured in the art, or that one section was a little disjointed. Thinking primarily of a scene where Savior “talks” to Scott, but he isn’t even in the room, and we get no sense that Savior is reading the happenings telepathically. But I will let that go, especially as an artist created a version of Charles Xavier that I didn’t recognize. (More on that later)

I love a good “Previously…” Probably totally unnecessary in this Wikipedia/internet boards/spoiler world, but I appreciate it.

Normally, I can handle an alternate universe, especially in comic books. But when I saw that this was yet another alternate timeline in the X-Universe, I really felt more burdened. This one is pretty cool, but still.

I’ve never liked Cyclops just blasting away at things when he’s trying to break free. In this case he is in an energy absorbing prison, but still.

I was very confused by the images planted in Scott’s head by Savior. Are they real? Or are he and Storm trying to show a false utopia, so he would join with them? Are there really people worshiping a statue of Cyclops? The art was very confusing.

Former Governor General James Howlett of the Dominion of Canada and Viceroy of her Majesty’s Expedition to Shangri-La! Now, James Howlett doesn’t always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis!

Emmeline Summers-Frost? So, Emma Frost married Corsair in one timeline? Talk about your Oedipal Syndrome.

I’m thinking this is a joke. It works better if Scott is saying this as a half of a joke.

Okay, Mr. McKone. I can appreciate artistic license. I really really can. But really, Cyclops uses a glass cutter to make a giant X to blast through? I mean, if he messed up, did he have to try it on the other side?

I thought that DC Comics had trademarked “Multiverse”?

This is pretty bad-ass. I’m not even a huge Wolverine fan, and even I think the following image is pretty bad ass:

Adamantine? Is this just Adamantium on God-Steroids? Or is this Wolverine connected to the Gods 6 somehow? I sooooo want to see a mini-series with this version of James Howlett and Katherine Pride. 7

Okay, colorist… If you’re going to draw blood, then you need to give some sort of clue that it definitely IS blood. This looks like Nightcrawler got mud on his lunchbox.

The image of the hundreds of visors was really well done. The grand scope of what has been done is really well done. Especially with the very frosty 8 Emma dropping to her knees when she finds the visor that her son wore. 9

Oh, and I was TOTALLY burned by the ending. On first read through, I assumed that Xavier was behind Savior, when in actuality he IS Savior. Go and re-read the previous pages, and realize that it’s Xavier’s face, with flowing blonde hair. Well done!

So apparently, a moustache means that you are a malicious version of yourself in an alternate universe, but flowing blonde hair means that you’re a mass murderer.

The impact of the multiple Xaviers was lessened as I recently read the first trade paperback of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run that used multiple Reed Richards in a plotline.

Verdict

Good enough. It doesn’t make me want to rush to read the next issue, but I would definitely be interested in extending my Astonishing X-Men trade collection through this story-arc. The alternate versions of the characters were not tiring at all, and almost refreshing. Xavier as the bad guy has been done before, but this was a pretty good bombshell drop.

7.5 (Very Clever All Around)

Footnotes

  1. History now suggests that Joss wrote ASM so he could better understand comic book publishing, so he could bring both the Buffy and Angel comic book universes under his editorial and creative control. I don’t blame him, as that’s what I would have done.
  2. Well, more specifically when I read the Astonishing X-Men Volume 1 trade paperback: Gifted.
  3. Only due to finances, as I would read everything that Warren Ellis creates, if I had the time and the money.
  4. Not entirely true, as I saw the image of Cyclops and Storm in a lip-lock.
  5. With flowing blonde hair nonetheless.
  6. I’m guessing Norse Gods if he is.
  7. Assuming that this wasn’t already visited in the Exiles title.
  8. Pun intended
  9. Psychic residue I’m guessing.

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