Astonishing X-Men 25 review

Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi take over the writing and art assignments from Josh Whedon and John Cassaday and the difference is immediate. Where the previous creative team went for epic adventure – mad robots, interplanetary warfare – here we have a murder mystery.

And it’s a great one. Newly ensconced in San Francisco, the X-Men are asked by the local police department to help out when a spinning, burning corpse is found. Members use their powers and abilities to piece together clues to the man’s death in a sequence that reads like CSI: X-Men. It’s immensely satisfying to see our heroes do something other than smash and blast, and a wonderful change of pace to have them not ‘feared and hated by a world they have sworn to protect’. For whatever reason, the City by the Bay likes having the X-Men around, and after two decades of relentless angst, it’s good to see.

It’s also good to see Storm back with the team, for reasons that make sense for her new role as Queen of Wakanda, and old role as full-time superheroine. The other members are holdouts from the previous run – Cyclops, Beast, White Queen, Wolverine and Point of View Girl aka Armor (brrrr, nasty US spelling!). Really, if Warren Ellis achieves just one thing with his stint, I hope it’s to show us just why Armor deserves to be on the team – her power’s not amazing, her character’s nothing new; she’s just the latest ingenue, following in the footsteps of Kitty Pryde and Jubilee. All she does is remind me that I’d rather have either of the other two around.

Armor, or Hisako to use her given name, seems a nice enough girl. She’s witty, but so is everyone under Ellis. The dialogue is as snappy as any penned by Whedon, and I like that – even when I couldn’t follow the Breakworld shenanigans, I enjoyed this as the witty X-book, and it’s lovely to see the tradition continue. I also like that Ellis also shares Whedon’s knack for character interaction, and respect for history. Having enjoyed his work on Excalibur, Nextwave and other Marvel B-books, I hope he’ll take the opportunity to go wild on this flagship book.

As for Bianchi, I know his work only from DC’s Shining Knight and various covers, so it’s intriguing to see him on such a hot ticket. And the work is good, with expressive characters and decent storytelling, though it doesn’t knock me out. I think I’d like it more without Simone Peruzzi’s relentless gloomy colouring – the story lets us know that these are better days for the X-Men and I’d like to see that reflected in brighter hues, at least until the story darkens, as seems inevitable.

Still, that’s quibble territory. For giving us a straightforward yet stylish tale, I thank Messrs Ellis, Bianchi and co.

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