The second issue of Greg Pak and Mike McKone’s Astonishing X-Men arc hit shelves and servers today.

General Information

Title: Astonishing X-Men: Exalted, Part Two
Author: Greg Pak
Illustrator(s): Mike McKone (art) and Rachelle Rosenberg (color art)
Cover Date: February, 2012
Cover Price: $3.99 US
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Premise

Cyclops is in a parallel reality, having been taken there by a version of Storm in the previous issue. He does what Cyclops does best in a dangerous and uncomfortable situation: assume command of the mutants around him and change the situation.

High Point

I still love the way Pak writes Cyclops. The only moment that seemed a bit off with him in the previous issue is explained in more detail this issue, and not in a “retcon” sense. After reading this one, I compared to the relevant page in the previous issue. The bit that surprised me here was definitely there in the previous issue, and I just missed it. (For those concerned about the last issue, Pak not only is aware of past continuity, he’s revelling in it.) This issue also gives us more information about the villain, who seems to be the first new villain in an X-book for some time, and a good one to boot.

Low Point

None of them noticed the method of transfer? It’s possible, but if that’s the case, it’ll need to be explained.

The Scores

Again, this is an original X-Men story constructed from enough classic elements to feel like an X-Men story. I give it 5 out of 6.

The artwork by McKone delivers. In the previous issue, there were a couple of panels that I could nitpick, but that’s not the case here. Our cast of parallel universe duplicates look familiar enough to be immediately recognizable, but different enough to be distinct. The villain in particular has an interesting twist about him. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story is building quickly, and manages to tell a fun sci-fi X-story that respects recent events without being enslaved to them. Honestly, you can pick this arc up and follow it. At worst, Google up the X-Men Schism trade and read the product description to get any information you need. Once you know Cyclops and Wolverine have had a falling out, you can pick this up and follow it immediately. I’m very interested in seeing how the next two issues play out. I give it 5 out of 6.

The characterization of Cyclops is excellent. The new cast of characters are quickly defined by their differences relative to the familiar versions, and the last page has a reveal about the Savior that has me looking forward to the next issue. This really feels like Pak was cherry picking his favorite characters to play with, and that love comes through. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. I’m not just excited about where this is going, I’m excited about the journey that will take me there. This team has tapped into everything I’ve loved about my favorite X-Men stories and put it all right here. I give it 6 out of 6.

The flow is smooth and engaging, due in part to the short time span represented here. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is another highly entertaining chapter in this arc. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Astonishing X-Men #45 receives 38 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

Based on the March solicits, it appears Greg Pak’s run on the title is four issues grand total, making the entire run this single arc.