Review: Astonishing X-Men #48 by Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins

Astonishing X-Men #48
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Mike Perkins and Andy Troy
Cover Art by Dustin Weaver and Rachelle Rosenberg
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The short of it:

Astonishing X-Men began in 2004 with Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, and brought a new tone to the X-Universe. While a continuation of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, the book brought order to a chaotic stable of titles, with a solid lineup, a self-adhering continuity, and the introduction of original and memorable characters to the Marvel Universe, among them SWORD and Special Agent Brand, Blindfold, and Hisako Ichiki aka Armor. It continued with Warren Ellis revamping the team roster and direction, but still ignored Marvel almost completely as it ran. Daniel Way and Christos Gage alternated after that, and through it all, the book stuck to the rules established in the first 24 issues (plus one Giant-Size) despite delays.

With #48, the creative reins are handed over to Marjorie Liu of X-23, Daken, and NYX fame. While I grieve for the loss of X-23’s solo title, and specifically Liu’s definitive characterization for Laura and Gambit, Astonishing X-Men continues the thematic arcs, interpersonal relationships, and hard hitting action that underlines the rest of her Marvel resume. With artist Mike Perkins and colorist Andy Troy at Liu’s side, Astonishing X-Men #48 aims to be the perfect jumping on point for casual fans or fans who may be jaded by all the X-Men and Marvel infighting that Jason Aaron and Jeph Loeb lit up for us.

Once again, we get a new roster and a new status quo.

The Quebecois superhero known as Northstar has once again fallen into the X-Men’s fold to help Wolverine at the Jean Grey School in educating mutants. But he’s off to a hell of a start when we open with Northstar facing off with Wolverine and Gambit, who are out for blood. That may be jumping ahead, but there’s the first hook.

A few months ago, Liu stated, “In the first issue, we’ve got this theme of moving. Moving on, moving in.” Hold tight to that, the way Liu writes, that’s going to stick with us for the entire run, if not the first arc.

We see Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle settling into their apartment. We see Cecelia Reyes, former nurse and X-Man (an X-23 holdover!) opening up to becoming roommates with Gambit. All of this domestic bliss comes crashing down when Wolverine cold calls his partners in X-Manning. And ratchets up a notch when Warbird (this would be the alien femme fatale, not Ms. Marvel) follows after Wolverine with a severed head in her hand.

And just as the action unfurls, the X-Men are blindsided by what looks to be Chimera, Arclight, Blockbuster, Harpoon, Prism, and Vanisher.

That’s a cliffhanger.

What I liked:

Mike Perkins and Andy Troy continue Astonishing’s tradition of bold, distinctive artwork.

Liu carries over her relationships and characterizations from X-23. Hands down the best Gambit in decades and still holding.

Liu getting to work her characterization magic on this lineup of new and returning players.

The potential for the story, based off of the teaser. It’s got me locked in.

The new Marauder lineup.

What I didn’t like:

Before we delve into this, understand I approach this from a ‘new reader’ vantage for sake of the start of the run.

The issue feels short. There’s a lot happening here, and it seems to end in the blink of an eye. It’s a first issue, though, and the aim is to leave you wanting more, so it succeeds. I just want more now.

There’s a lot of undercurrent, and none of it is explained. Direct quote from Logan: “Bobby. What the hell is going on?” Reply from Iceman? “Forget that. Why are you all still– AAH!” Again, first issue, I expect to be lead into mystery, but I wish we got a bit more.

While the book is self-contained, there’s a lot of shake ups that might leave readers confused, particularly Warbird and Cecelia’s inclusion. I read Wolverine and the X-Men #1, and I knew Warbird was coming from the press releases, and even then it was a jarring introduction.

Laura Kinney cameos in a picture frame. I know she wanted to include her, but didn’t because it didn’t keep with Wolverine’s “no children” rule, but that’s just mean, Marjorie and Mike.

Final Thoughts:

If I’m honest, this issue isn’t all that I was hoping for, but I know Liu has earned her stripes time and again, and I have faith for the story as a whole. This opening chapter may not be the most enticing “first issue” for new readers or old readers sticking with the title, but it did establish a killer team, an interesting line of antagonists, and a brief teaser of what’s to come, and that alone is worth the price of entry.

Marjorie Liu, Mike Perkins, and Andy Troy are preparing a promising X-Men roster and story that is a welcome breath of fresh air from all the other X-Titles crossing over and colliding around us. X-Fans, here’s your lifeline.

Should you read it? Yes.

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