Once upon a time, Astonishing X-Men was launched to be the new flagship title of the X-Men line, but numerous delays from its high-profile creators eventually led the rest of the line to move on without it. By the end of both Joss Whedon, then Warren Ellis’s runs, the book seemed to be doomed to a status of X-Men Unlimited, hoping to sell on is past history of excellence. I used to complain all the time about it.
That changed when Marjorie Liu took over the title and gave it something of a reason for existing, using a stable cast of X-Men characters that no one else was messing with including Northstar, Cecelia Reyes, Karma, and shockingly enough Gambit. What does it say about the X-Men line when no one’s using Gambit? Anyway, Liu gave a voice to the book and gave the book more of a family feel that the line has seemingly lacked while bouncing from major event to major event. Instead of focusing on relationships that have built upon for decades (Wolverine/Cyclops, Kitty Pryde/Colossus), Liu’s title focused more on the bond between her cast which hadn’t been seen before.
Of course, she had me at Cecelia Reyes. I love that short-lived era of the X-Men.
The major selling point of Liu’s Astonishing was the wedding of Northstar to his boyfriend, Kyle, but the book kept running past that and has since used Kyle as a supporting member of the cast – another thing that the X-Men books haven’t seen much of.
I focus on the overall point of the book, because most of what I’d normally be catching up on was a crossover between the titles X-Treme X-Men and Age of Apocalypse, neither of which I was reading as I tend to skip the elseworld books. Besides using the crossover to wrap the two titles to their cancellations, it was largely the tale of writing out the AoA Nightcrawler, who was a leftover point from Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force in case you were wondering.
With that out of the way, the story has been focusing on the only aftermath of consequence, being a bit of an Apocalypse seed being put into Iceman by the AoA Beast who is still alive and well in the 616 universe. The story is yet another attempt at the long-hinted at SUPER EPIC potential of Iceman, which has been going on ever since Louise Simonson smacked a stylish belt on him waaaaaaay back in the original X-Factor. If you want to bash some Charles Xavier, you could say that his lack of follow through with Iceman all these years was yet another failing of his older students (see Wolverine, Rogue, Danger), but one he was never able to come back and work with. I mean, who cares about Iceman?
The downside about this story is that Iceman has become one of the more utilized X-Men in the rest of the line, now having a relationship with Kitty Pryde, and thus featuring in All-New and Wolverine and the X-Men. And none of this is going on in those books. It’s one of the big flaws with this era of the X-Men line, and a lot of the Marvel Universe in general in that lines like X-Men, Spider-Man and Avengers have become so overly inflated that they use numerous characters in numerous titles and none of them seem to know or care that the others are going on, and thus it takes away any kind of drama that something substantial might actually happen to the character. Iceman will come out of this one just fine, and if he doesn’t, he’ll likely keep appearing in the other titles until someone finally notices that he’s supposed to be gone. His girlfriend did it for quite a while during her run in Whedon’s Astonishing, but to be fair that book was so behind schedule that the epilogue story of it appeared in Uncanny before the Astonishing finale had come out.
My only other irk about the story is that it deals with a planetwide catastrophe with the Apocalypse-fueled Iceman going crazy, which you would think would draw the rest of the Marvel U characters in, but this seems to be the only title in which doesn’t bring the Uncanny Avengers when a mutant so much as sneezes. But in this case the lack of consistency does a favor for the book because it allows its own cast to do something instead of drawing in the bigger, badder comics. I actually am in favor of less crossover appearances.
So all said, I’ve been enjoying Marjorie Liu’s work on this title. It’s just a shame that once the book finally gets an identity, it heads straight for the chopping block, getting cancelled to make room for Amazing X-Men, which you might recall was another original AoA title. This book will be written by Jason Aaron and have at least a story drawn by Ed McGuinness. So there’s that to look forward.
At least Astonishing goes out with some enjoyable stuff.
Next up: Avengers Arena – not exactly an X-Men book, but it has X-23 and I’m reading it. So deal.