ASTONISHING X-MEN #6
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Colorists: Mike Del Mundo & Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 12/6/17
The battle isn’t done for the Shadow King. Xavier plays his final move in their twisted game.
Plot: Farouk the Shadow King believes it’s game over for Charles after he’s taken control of Wolverine and Gambit, entering the physical world to cause more destruction. However, he has underestimated his opponent who still has some tricks up his sleeve.
Story: From an earth-bound perspective, not much time passed in Astonishing X-Men. The military really only ever sees one side of the story when it comes to Farouk’s destruction. And if I’m being honest, the military conflict and psychic virus outbreak it’s much less interesting to me. It’s a faux-apocalyptic plot that could have been dropped into any X-Men comic.
Lucky for us as readers, Charles Soule treated us to all the machinations and drama of the astral plane. I really loved that this book ended up being more about Xavier and his relationships with the X-Men than Farouk’s twisted schemes. Xavier takes the X-Men that Farouk viewed as the weakest and less worthy, showing that instead, they were the keys to success because Xavier actually knew them and their strengths.
X-Men books are best when they have some heart to them, and nothing has been more heart-stirring this run than Xavier’s speech about the mutants where he proclaims “They fight for themselves and for us. But also for what they are.”
In the end, we see Xavier come back in Fantomex’s body, referring to himself as just “X”. While there’s been speculation that Charles Xavier would come back for a while, Soule manages to still leave a twist with this bodyswap scenario. The groundwork was laid in the last issue when we saw the two having a heart to heart, but I enjoy that Soule leaves a lot of questions for the book to answer in the next arc.
Art: As mentioned in previous reviews, this book intentionally uses a rotating cast of artists. Mike Del Mundo uses a watercolor style instead of heavy inks or realism. Because so much of the story takes place on the astral plane, this style works well for those scenes. There is a little more definition in the drawings for scenes set in the real world, with the lighting and coloring looking more natural.
The art is enhanced by Del Mundo’s and Marco D’Alfonso’s coloring, which uses a psychedelic palette utilizing a full rainbow of colors that make the panels glow like neon signs.
As a whole, I enjoyed the art, especially some of the big battle scenes in the astral plane, but other moments are obscured by being broken up into too many panels. Switching between panel layouts so frequently in the book hinders the art at times.
Verdict: In my heart did I always assume they were going to beat Farouk? Well yeah, because normally the bad guys lose. But the important thing is the journey getting there, and Charles Soule crafted a really strong story leading up to the return of Charles Xavier. It is both a satisfying conclusion to this story and an open door to future stories that will be needed to examine the consequences of what has happened.