It’s official: Astonishing X-Men is readable again. And yes, that much-discussed cover truly is a fairly accurate depiction of the content of this series. (The hands aren’t quite accurate, but the lips are.)
Title: Astonishing X-Men #44 – Exalted Part One
Author: Greg Pak
Illustrator(s): Mike McKone (art) and Rachelle Rosenberg (colours)
Cover Date: January 2012
Cover Price: $3.99
Buy from: ComiXology.
In the aftermath of Schism, Cyclops is trying to deal with his emotional losses. Emma, Dr. Rao and Dr. Nemesis are in the process of working him through this when Storm appears, sporting a mohawk and a new attitude.
Cyclops has always been my favorite X-Man. When Astonishing first launched a few years ago, Joss Whedon put the character back on track. Much like Brubaker and Fraction in their work, Greg Pak continues that tradition, and write the character who is both a strong team leader and weak human being. He makes the decisions that need to be made, easy or hard, but must then live with himself afterwards. I’m also glad that someone has finally recognized the connection between force and momentum, even if it did take 48 years!
If the shift happened when I think it did, then certain characters should have smelled something fishy in advance. If I am mistaken about the point at which that happened, this comment may not apply. That may not be clear until the story arc is over.
The originality may be difficult to judge at this point. This first issue strikes a good balance between answered and unanswered questions. I have read stories in the X-books that have similar first chapters (some drawn by Mike McKone), though not often. Final judgment is reserved until the story arc is completed, as the final direction cannot be determined at this point. I give it 4 out of 6.
The artwork by Mike McKone is generally very strong. His storms look fantastic, though there are a couple of panels in which Cyclops’ head looks a little bulbous to me. I give it 4 out of 6.
The story is off to a good start. Although it takes place post-Schism, I believe anyone who has seen the cover to any issue of Schism will find enough information here to pick it up and understand it without a problem. This is a highly enjoyable first chapter with the potential to add new characters to the cast. I give it 5 out of 6.
The characterization is done well. The only character who seems out of line with history is the character who is supposed to be out of line with history. Cyclops and Emma are bang on, and Dr. Nemesis is always fun. I give it 6 out of 6.
The emotional response is high. I loved the Whedon/Cassaday run, and enjoyed the Ellis run a bit less. I dropped the title when Ellis left (based on past experience with the subsequent creators) and came back for Pak and McKone. I’m glad I did. As enjoyable as it is to see the X-Men carve out a sovreign nation, this is harkening back to the Claremont/Byrne era of straight up science fiction fun. I give it 5 out of 6.
The flow is smooth. There is only one time jump, and the action on panel could run in 10-15 minutes from start to finish. The focus on Cyclops keeps things gliding easily. I give it 6 out of 6.
Overall, this is a strong opener to what looks like a classic X-Men story. I give it 5 out of 6.
In total, Astonishing X-Men #44 receives 35 out of 42.