ASTONISHING X-MEN #5
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 11/1/17
The Shadow King gains a new foothold in the physical world. Back in the astral plane, Charles Xavier recruits help to stop him in Astonishing X-Men #5.
Plot: Farouk continues to gain power, now in possession of Gambit and Logan, and it appears nothing can stop him. Charles Xavier believes the X-Men can take on The Shadow King and we learn more about how Xavier got to this point.
Story: Leave it to Mystique to say what readers might be thinking. What could have been “pseudo-profundity” in the hands of a less capable writer, ended up being a gripping tale of two lifelong foes. At least for a few panels. While the villain of the book is technically Farouk, Soule has laid the groundwork for far more layers than that. Astonishing X-Men is about the rivalry between Farouk and Charles. It’s also about the relationships between the X-Men and the relationships they have with their own psyches. And yes, it’s “sagas and songs and ages and massacres” as Soule eloquently writes (OK, maybe you could call that pseudo-profundity, but it has a nice ring to it).
The weakest part of the issue for me involved the military scenes. On their own, the scenes remind me of a great disaster film. But within the context of the book, they cheapen the real drama about the psychic battles. The military feels cartoonish. At this point, shouldn’t they realize they can’t actually fight such a powerful psychic?
Watching Farouk gain more power on the physical plane, however, does heighten the sense of tension for the book overall building up to what should be an explosive final issue of this arc in #6. There are a lot of characters to juggle, so I’m intersted to see how and if they’ll play a role in the final showdown.
Art: Ramon Rosanas manages to keep the look and feel for the art in this book consistent, which I appreciate as a reader. One of my biggest concerns about this book was the revolving door of artists, but so far I’ve been proven wrong about this being an issue. I like the use of a panel layout in this issue as we shift between the multiple locations/ stories, especially the instances where we’re seeing Charles in two places.
Nolan Woodard distinguishes the astral plane with slightly more saturated backdrops whereas the physical plane has a grittier, muted color palette. You can also see the glow of Gambit and Psylocke’s energy pop off the page.
My favorite art in the issue shows the psychic wars of Charles and Farouk. An army of Wolverines fighting spiders? That’s a hell I don’t want to live in but love to look at. The surreal nature of this spread combined with Charles’ grandiose descriptions makes a huge impact.
Verdict: The pace remains slow, but Soule’s storytelling makes the wait seem worth it. At this point in the arc, I’m invested in most of the characters thanks to the extra time Soule spends with them. I particularly enjoyed getting a glimpse into Charles’ life after death. Despite bringing in different artists throughout this arc, the series manages to maintain a feeling of visual consistency so the art supplements rather than distracts from the story.