ASTONISHING X-MEN #3
Writer: Charles Soule
Penciller: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 9/6/17
Logan must battle his inner demons in order to make it through the astral plane. This Logan has seen it all, but can he battle Farouk?
Plot: Astonishing X-Men #3 focuses in on Logan’s journey through the astral plane, as he must face the demons of his past in order to resist Farouk’s control. He isn’t on his own though, as Charles appears to him and tries to help him defeat Farouk. Back in the physical world, Angel tries to stop the military from attacking Psylocke.
Story: While I’ve previously praised Soule’s ability to write a team book, I must also give credit to his examination of Logan in this issue. For readers not as familiar with the Old Man Logan version of Logan, the story provides important context. More than that, the examination is deeply personal and evokes emotion from the reader. You’re not supposed to pity the character, but Soule reminds you who he really is, or to quote Charles, “Not my Logan.” The narrative poses the question for Farouk and the reader: “What can you take away from a man who has lost it all?” Logan’s will to keep going comes from life’s necessity, not this individual mission. Soule tells this story expertly by combining Logan’s interior monologue and Charles’ narration.
What I’ve loved about this book so far is Soule’s ability to balance character development with plot. Perhaps setting the main conflict in the astral realm where psyches play a key role makes it easier to do this. Regardless, even with the time spent examining characters I never feel like the action is too slow. Sure, things have quieted down a good bit from the city-wide destruction and chaos of #1, but the book is still measured with a consistent pace.
I do, however, think the secondary plot of what’s happening in the physical world has become a little repetitive without much interesting action driving it. Logan waking up should change this in the next issue.
Art: This is the third book and the third art team. Generally, I favor consistency on art teams, but this ever-changing lineup hasn’t significantly impacted my enjoyment of the book. For this issue, Ed McGuinness was a great choice as he’s particularly skilled at drawing the grizzled Logan. From his wrinkles to the glint in his eye, there is never any doubt about what this character has been through. His confrontations with Charles bring an intensity not yet seen before in this book. Even though Logan is not the “bad guy” in this book, the way McGuinness draws him can be downright frightening at times. It’s a wonder Farouk isn’t more intimidated.
While there are some of the non-traditional, “floating” panels in the layout similar to earlier issues, McGuinness relies heavily on full-page, half-page panels that work well with the focus on a singular character but don’t demonstrate the same eerie, space-like quality of the astral plane.
The coloring tends to be very saturated in the book, especially in the astral plane to show up against the black backdrop, which I found overbearing at times. Combined with the fairly heavy lines from Mark Morales the art just feels weighed down and less dynamic. I prefer when Jason Keith mixes in more subtle shading, like you see in the panel below, to balance it out.
Verdict: This book has yet to disappoint. A massive showdown with Farouk seems likely, but I’m in no rush to get there with Soule behind the wheel. I trust that wherever this journey takes us, it will be worth the ride. Based on this issue, I hope we get deeper looks at the rest of the team members as the series progresses and they make their way through the astral plane.
I am a little concerned about the revolving door of artists, but as long as they keep their track record of picking teams suited for the content of the issue, the art shouldn’t be a problem.