With Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’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.

AstonishingX_Men_26_NewCover.jpgBut that small anomaly aside, this second issue of the Ellis/Bianchi run still held up. They won’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 – with newest member Armor and long lost friend Storm in tow – 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 isn’t necessarily a hard one to pick, once you think about it, and it is the smaller moments that make this issue a good’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 she’s been watching past training videos, and “there was this thing you [Wolverine] and Colossus used to do.”

That’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, “not the beer?”

The following page sees Wolverine launched at the spaceship, but a little too fast for Cyclops’ tastes. “Relax, I’m sure he’s [Wolverine] survived being thrown at a parked spaceship at five hundred miles an hour before,” quips Cyclops, his hands covering his “eyes”.

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 … well, we’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 isn’t much left, and our mystery mutant kills himself by touching his head and… you get the picture!

One thing that people, I have noticed in listening to my many comic related podcasts, have mentioned is Cyclops’ 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, Cyclops’ justification to Storm of his giving the kill order are really quite well defined. In fact, one could say – and I would – 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 Bianchi’s artwork is a mixed bag in this issue. At times, his characters are well defined and thoroughly un-cartoony. This isn’t a bad thing, as I’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 doesn’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. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this ‘Manifest Destiny’ stories goes too, and whether Ellis can keep Cyclops and Co. in a modicum of realistic storytelling. If you’re an X-Men fan, and not reading this, go out and pick up #25 and #26, you probably won’t regret it.


The Author

Joshua Hill

Joshua Hill

I'm an aspiring author who just happens to also work on the web, reporting on the environmental research and science at that makes sense of the climate change hype, reviewing fantasy books at FantasyBookReview, because I love fantasy books and want to tell you all about it. I also blog over at Life As A Human and at Extralife.

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  1. August 19, 2008 at 1:38 pm — Reply

    Ellis might just be the smartest man writing comics at the moment and it shows. The killing argument here or that wonderful alternate history over in newuniversal show that his genius is also in the small details, as well as the large scale gonzo fun and razor sharp dialog.

  2. Ricco
    August 19, 2008 at 2:27 pm — Reply

    Ever since he recreated X-Force during the Messiah arc, killing has been part of Cyclop’s X-Men options.

    While the art is strange (can’t quiet put my finger on what bothers me) it still very stylish and the new storyline interesting.

  3. Josh P.
    August 19, 2008 at 3:51 pm — Reply

    Not really a complaint, but the Cyclops in Young X-Men was really Donald Pierce. So Cyke is not a blood thirsty maniac sending kids out to kill former allies.

  4. Cory
    August 19, 2008 at 6:04 pm — Reply

    OK, suggestions. Who would everyone like to see take over the Art duties after Bianchi leaves.

    My Suggestions
    – Steve Epting
    – Stuart Immonen
    – Marko Djurdjevic
    – Mike Deodato Jr. (I really liked his work on Warren Ellis’ Thunderbolts run)
    – Glenn Fabry
    – Cully Hamner
    – Phil Jimenez
    – Steve McNiven (Although I’m certain he’s probably working on Quesada’s and Bendis’ next Wankfest)
    – Mike Allred
    – Brandon Peterson (ala his work on Ultimate Extinction)
    – Howard Porter
    РCl̩ment Sauve
    – Walter Simonson (I know, he’s in a coma. Well, he might as well be.)
    – Ryan Sook (Where did he go?)
    – J.H. Williams

  5. August 20, 2008 at 3:32 pm — Reply

    I honestly miss Joss and John – it was just too good! This run is growing on me slowly though (it’s only been two issues, I know. I know). I appreciate how unique and detailed Simone’s art is, but I can’t say I enjoy it as a complete interior. So many awkward faces.

    And also the cover situation (beast on the cover and not in the book at all) it gives me a sense of separation between artist and storyline.

  6. August 21, 2008 at 9:23 pm — Reply

    – Steve Epting: Leave him where he is. Pass.
    – Stuart Immonen: Yes. I’d love that.
    – Marko Djurdjevic: Too weird. Pass.
    – Mike Deodato Jr: Anything that’d remind me of T-Bolts is unwelcome personally. Pass.
    – Glenn Fabry: Too 2000 AD. Pass.
    – Cully Hamner: Oh god no. Pass.
    – Phil Jimenez: I’ve never warmed to Perez 2.0. Pass.
    – Steve McNiven: I’d rather not have another twenty-four issues of Astonishing take as long as the first did. Pass.
    – Mike Allred: I don’t buy Madman for a reason. Pass.
    – Brandon Peterson: Passable.
    – Howard Porter: Big fat yes.
    РCl̩ment Sauve: Who? Sounds like a parody name.
    – Walter Simonson: Coma? I hope he gets better but pass.
    – Ryan Sook: Who is he?
    – J.H. Williams: Nope-a-rino.

    My choice? Alternate issues between Frank Cho and Bryan Hitch. That way notorious lateness won’t be an issue if they’ve got eight weeks to work in. And nobody’s really followed the Millar-Hitch team to F4 anyways, have they?

  7. Cory
    August 23, 2008 at 2:43 pm — Reply

    Baal You’re out of your mind if you think that Mark Millar and Joe Quesada would EVER let Bryan Hitch draw for Warren Ellis whom Quesada considers a B-list talent. And of late his art has gotten incredibly boring. The best he’s done are in the Ultimates Volumes 1 and 2.

    Frank Cho takes longer than Steve McNiven, in case you hadn’t noticed.

    And for your information Warren Ellis’ and Deodato’s run on Thunderbolts was the BEST that title has ever been and EVER will be.

    Steve Epting is leaving Captain America; I though you knew.

    Mike Allred is an Excellent Artist. His Expressionistic take on art would match Warren Ellis’ big ideas well.

    Clement Suave is a great artist. And what do you mean? You mean like Frank Quitely is a parody name?

  8. August 23, 2008 at 10:48 pm — Reply

    I titter when I hear the name Frank Quitely too…

    T-Bolts better under Ellis? Ugh. That’s an opinion and one not shared by me. I was enjoying Fabian’s run and getting it yanked away to give the title to a cooler writer is part of why I dislike but not all.

    And if Ellis is considered a B talent why does he get the prime assignments and a no edit clause in his contract?

  9. Cory
    August 24, 2008 at 3:09 pm — Reply

    Well, I specifically said QUESADA considers Warren Ellis B-talent. Warren Ellis is my favorite comics writer all things considered.

    Brian Bendis GETS ANYTHING HE WANTS. Artists, assignments…

    Mark Millar GETS ANYTHING HE WANTS. Artists assignments …

    Warren Ellis’ Newuniversal was given 6 measly issues before it was slowly cancelled by yanking Salvador Larroca and turing it into a miniseries.

    Steve McNiven was yanked from Warren Ellis’ Ultimate Secret when Bendis and Millar whined like Veruca Salt saying “I want Steve McNiven.. And I want him now”. Steve McNiven was reassigned to the stillborn brainchild of Joe Quesada, Bendis and Millar “Civil War”. AND STILL “Civil War” was INCREDIBLY LATE. Not that I bought one single issue of it.

    Finally, let’s face it, Simone Bianchi is a very shakey artist (When he’s good I really like it) and on top of that he’s VERY VERY SLOW. Quesada HAD AN F*ing YEAR to stay on top of Bianchi to make sure he was working on Astonishing X-Men. And look what has already happened, they have had to have THREE fill-in artists Alan Davis, Kaare Andrews and Oliver Copiel in a ridiculously contrived “miniseries” of TWO issues. Quesada really couldn’t give a sh*t about Warren Ellis’ projects. If he did then he would assign A GREAT ARTIST and MAKE SURE he was doing the work. But no. Astonishing X-Men is ALREADY Careening into disaster. I don’t foresee Warren Ellis staying on this title for anything beyond 9 issues. And then Quesada will BRILLIANTLY have Jeph Loeb run it into the ground.

    If only Warren Ellis’ Creator owned works at Avatar Press sold many more copies. Warren Ellis wouldn’t have to put up with this kind of disrespect. He could just leave Marvel Comics.

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