By Charles Soule, Mike Del Mund, Marco D’Alfonso, Clayton Cowles
Any way you slice it, Charles Soule is crafting a special story in the pages of Astonishing X-Men. As the first arc concludes, we’ve seen the Shadow King, betrayal, and overall heroes being heroes. As we wrap this up, we have to wonder if there will be a surprise ending in store for the founder of the X-Men or if he’s just a pawn in the Shadow King’s plan.
Charles Soule is making his way around some of Marvel’s bigger properties. He’s worked on Daredevil, X-Men vs Inhumans, and now he’s on Astonishing X-Men. This issue brings us to the end of the first arc, and Soule doesn’t disappoint readers. The entire arc has been one big chess match in terms of storytelling and battle against one of Charles Xavier’s oldest foes. Soule shows us exactly why Mystique, Rogue and Fantomex were chosen as the characters needed to attack the Shadow King, and it’s very reasonable. Outside of the astral plane, Archangel attacks characters under Shadow King’s control. Soule allows us to see a character not fully in control of himself attacking other characters also not in control. This makes for an interesting story point and a good character moment for Archangel. Fantomex is a character who shines under Soule’s pen, and this issue we get an excellent reflective moment for him. My one gripe about the issue is the ending. This is bound to stir things up among fans of the X-books, but regardless of how you feel about it, you have to allow Charles Soule to flesh out this shocking new development.
The pencils this issue are handled by Mike Del Mundo with colors by Del Mundo and Marco D’Alfonso. Del Mundo has an interesting style; it’s very…artsy. In panels where Shadow King is attempting to take over Xavier, Del Mundo is very detailed and shows all the glorious fat rolls around Shadow King’s neck and head. Characters look great under Del Mundo’s pencil, inks, and lush colors. Archangel looks sinister, more so than Shadow King, and Remy and Logan look like pure evil while possessed. The fight sequences are drawn very well too. As Archangel unloads razor blades on an enemy, it looks gruesome and painful. The colors by Del Mundo and D’alfonso are where things get interesting. Gambit, Logan and Archangel almost look metallic on many of the pages, which is a cool effect. This gets kind of odd when regular humans are involved, like members of the ministry of defense. These characters can be a bit muddy in certain panels. Overall though, the art is pretty fantastic and Del Mundo and D’Alfonso really turned in a good issue.
Astonishing X-Men continues to be the book that X-fans should be flocking to. Charles Soule is giving so many characters good panel time and fleshing them out. The art, even though artists rotate, has been a highlight for many of the issues. If you’re not reading this book, you’re missing out on one of the best X-Men stories of the last decade.