ASTONISHING X-MEN #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Penciller: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego and Walden Wong
Colorists: Richard Isanove and Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 7/19/17
Something has caused Psylocke to lose control – or is it someone? In order to save her and prevent the apocalypse the X-Men must team up.
Plot: A whole group of X-Men (Rogue, Old Man Logan, Gambit, Fantomex, Bishop and Angel) are brought together when Psylocke sends out a cry for help. They must band together to prevent her from destroying London. However, the danger they’re in turns out to be much greater than one psychic gone mad.
In the issue we also get a brief back story on each of the Astonishing X-Men.
Story: Soule knocked Astonishing X-Men #1 out of the park. Not only am I happy to have read this, I’m already excited for the issues to come. Starting out with so much third-person narration was a gamble, and could have easily bogged down the panels, but instead it created an interesting experience for the reader and segues into the main action nicely. And the twist that the narrator has been the villain (who I’ll leave unrevealed) all along adds an even more chilling effect when you get to the big reveal at the end of issue #1. Without spoiling anything, comic readers who are fans FX’s Legion will want to pick this up.
In addition to using those unique storytelling tools, Soule captures one of things that makes X-Men so great, which is their team chemistry. Using this incident to bring them together sets up an idea of how they’re going to continue to work together. While the narrator sarcastically notes they are “perhaps not the best X-Men,” they are willing to fight for a cause. They don’t want to kill Psylocke, they want to save her.
My one criticism is how Psylocke is written with so little agency and purely as a victim. The fact that she immediately begs the other X-Men to fight the person who attacked her instead of doing it herself is disappointing from my perspective as a female reader. Hopefully, this is redeemed later in the series.
Art: Jim Cheung and the creative team on this book do great work in balancing out big blockbuster action sequences with more impactful moments of emotion. Even as we see Psylocke losing control and destroying the city, there is a nuance to her expression showing her pain. The use of color here is powerful and well done throughout the book in emphasizing Psylocke’s chaos. While the purple flashes dominate many pages, the color palette is mixed enough throughout the book to seem consistent while still letting each character stand out.
These characters know each other and the familiarity comes out not only in their dialogue but expressions. In a big team book like this with lots of action sequences it would have been easy to skimp on the character expressions or rich backgrounds, but Cheung instead pours detail into each page. Take this moment between Rogue and Gambit as an example:
Scenes set in the astral plane feel a little drab compared to the rest of the book, with heavy inking and a limited color palette (maybe I was just missing all the purple?). Hopefully this does not set the standard for future scenes set there, otherwise the book could look some of its most exciting visual elements.
Verdict: This issue did two things I appreciate a lot when it comes to team-up books. One, it wasted no time by introducing all the team members in the first issue. Soule managed to do this without sacrificing plot or character development. And two, their mission has been established: to stop the baddie targeting psychics. While he probably could have saved the villain reveal and big plot twist for later down the road and it still would have been a good issue, I personally enjoyed having it arrive in the first issue.