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Fourthman Reviews Astonishing X-Men: Xeno Genesis #1

Written by Lee Newman on Tuesday, May 11 2010 and posted in Reviews

This week's fourthpoll had a clear winner, people wanted to see what this new Astonishing X-Men book was all about. Lee lets you know...

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #1
COVER BY: Kaare Andrews
WRITER: Warren Ellis
PENCILS: Kaare Andrews
INKS: Kaare Andrews
LETTERED BY: Chris Eliopoulos

THE HEROIC AGE IS HERE! The superstar team of Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews (SPIDER-MAN: REIGN) take X-Men into the Heroic Age! Something’s happening in the tiny East African city of Mbangwi. Something that requires immediate investigation. A newborn sprouts metal electrodes and explodes, taking out an entire hospital. Is this the first wave of mutant rebirth that the X-Men have been praying for…or something very, very different? Something sinister? Rated T …$3.99

PRICE: 3.99
IN STORES: May 12, 2010


When babies are developing crazy powers at birth in a remote African village, T’Challa contacts the person he thinks can best deal with this - Storm and the X-Men. They discuss things and get to flying over to the epicenter of the problem.

This is a strange book. However, it is probably the most I have been entertained by an X-Title in a long time, most of that is due to the humor in the book. Ellis is sharp and genuinely funny here, whether it is an oddly smart-assed doctor in the beginning or quips about the uniforms later on, this feels like an entertaining action movie. There is just enough humor to make the otherwise bleak exposition endurable.
There is also Ellis’s keen socio-political commentary. It has been a trade mark of his writing, be it the full length satire of Transmetropolitan or the quick and devastating commentary of Black Summer #0, he has a knack for bringing controversial politics to strange places. Here he skewers all sides of the problems facing the continent – from American ignorance of the region, to the complex and violent landscape of governments there. He even makes sure to keep it balanced even leveling attacks on those folks that most of the world sees as heroes.

All that is brilliant. But there are significant problems with the book. First off, it is near impossible to figure out when this book is happening. The X-Men seem to still be based in San Francisco and it is obvious that it is pre-Doomwar, but Storm is also sporting a Mohawk. Is the main title so far behind the rest of the universe, or is this some weird Ghost Box style alternate universe story?

Next are the characterizations. In setting up various jokes, the relationships on display often reach Nextwave type dissonance as opposed to a team of equals or one that Cyclops would even be able to manage. In Fact, he is treated with disrespect at almost every corner of the book. It is odd and reminds me of line in last week's Hellbound when Guthrie was told that if he was a decent leader he would tell people what to do, not ask. Here Scott spends a great deal of the comic explaining himself and it makes him seem an unlikely commander for the team.

The art is also hard to judge. I recall enjoying Andrews’ work on Spider-Man: Reign, immensely. Here it seems woefully out of place and awkward. I can’t really determine if it is the pencils’ fault or if it is the fact that D’Armata only seems to be able to color in that sheeny gloss of his hyper rendered computer palate. Would the book be better with a less blended color? I can’t answer that, it is what it is and the stylized art may not work with a four color palette or even the muted colors of a Laura Allred.

It isn’t just the colors that hurt the art that does a great job enhancing the tension that is evident in the script (if not the motivations of the oddly voiced characters). No, there is also a penchant for cheesecake here. I took some heat for making similar comments about March in Gotham City Sirens, but I have to stick with my guns here. I don’t see the point of exaggerated female form and sexy poses in a stylized motif. Cheesecake is not really my thing to begin with, I don’t understand the need for busty statues of the scantily clad Dagger or Mary Jane posing sexually while doing the laundry. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with it. Pin ups can be really cool. The work done over the years with Betty Page (right into the pages of The Rocketeer) and other more realistically portrayed women can provide a celebration of the female form, but the tendency to reduce them to ridiculous waists with gargantuan breasts is odd to me whether it be here or in Tarot, I find it to turn me off instead of turning me on.

This is an odd, but intriguing book. There is not really enough given here to know whether it will be worth pursuing going further, but it is different and entertaining. Maybe that is enough. Think of it as Ellis channeling Loeb – a lot of fun, but ultimately flawed.


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