With Joss Whedon and John Cassadayâ€™s history making run on Astonishing X-Men concluded, Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi picked up the mantel at issue #25, and continued this week with Astonishing X-Men #26. For whatever reason, the front cover showcased Beast in both action and pensive moments, despite actually not appearing one iota within the book.
But that small anomaly aside, this second issue of the Ellis/Bianchi run still held up. They wonâ€™t ever make it as good as Whedon, in my opinion, but that may be like trying to compare something extraordinary to a religious miracle.
We continue with the X-Men â€“ with newest member Armor and long lost friend Storm in tow â€“ in their travels to Indonesia, in search of a mutant who killed a man in their new home town of San Francisco. They arrive at Chaparanga, the spaceship graveyard, and Emma Frost locates their mysterious mutant villain aboard a ship with some systems intact, ie, floating above them.
This story isnâ€™t necessarily a hard one to pick, once you think about it, and it is the smaller moments that make this issue a goodâ€™un. With Storm around, the majority of the X-Men have a lift up to the spaceship, but apparently, Wolverine is a little heavy. At this revelation, Armor announces that sheâ€™s been watching past training videos, and â€œthere was this thing you [Wolverine] and Colossus used to do.â€
Thatâ€™s right, with Colossus out of the picture the 16-year-old with the invisible armor now gets to throw a Fastball Special. This leads to Armor commenting that Wolverine was indeed heavy, to which Wolverine insists that it is the adamantium skeleton, to which Armor enquires, â€œnot the beer?â€
The following page sees Wolverine launched at the spaceship, but a little too fast for Cyclopsâ€™ tastes. â€œRelax, Iâ€™m sure heâ€™s [Wolverine] survived being thrown at a parked spaceship at five hundred miles an hour before,â€ quips Cyclops, his hands covering his â€œeyesâ€.
The story continues with Wolverine encountering their mysterious mutant-type villain, who is able to burn things once touching them, and who is building a box or cube of some sort, which â€¦ well, weâ€™ll find out eventually I imagine what it was supposed to do, because after Storm hits the ship with a nice large lightning bolt, there isnâ€™t much left, and our mystery mutant kills himself by touching his head andâ€¦ you get the picture!
One thing that people, I have noticed in listening to my many comic related podcasts, have mentioned is Cyclopsâ€™ new ability to allow people to kill one another. In issues like Young X-Men, it might come as a bit of a surprise that the old man of the team is setting teenagers up with the ability to kill. That aside, Cyclopsâ€™ justification to Storm of his giving the kill order are really quite well defined. In fact, one could say â€“ and I would â€“ that after the Decimation, it has taken a little too long for Cyclops to realize that the mutant population has to step up their defenses.
Simone Bianchiâ€™s artwork is a mixed bag in this issue. At times, his characters are well defined and thoroughly un-cartoony. This isnâ€™t a bad thing, as Iâ€™m not averse to the realistic approach, and as each character is not a 100% representation of, for example, Britney Spears or Bruce Willis, I have nothing to complain about. And there are a few pages, devoid of people, that are superb. Bianchi has a real knack for drawing abandoned ship yards, and other inanimate scenes.
However, far too often the people that Bianchi is drawing come out rough and skewed. It doesnâ€™t detract from the story for me, but it does do its best. That aside, his artistic and graphic use of the panels and pages is really clever, and gives you a bit more to look at then just the images on the page.
Astonishing X-Men #26 gets 4 out of 5 for me. Iâ€™m really looking forward to seeing where this â€˜Manifest Destinyâ€™ stories goes too, and whether Ellis can keep Cyclops and Co. in a modicum of realistic storytelling. If youâ€™re an X-Men fan, and not reading this, go out and pick up #25 and #26, you probably wonâ€™t regret it.