Astonishing X-Men #8 Review

by Charles Martin on February 21, 2018

Astonishing X-Men #8 Review
Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Paulo Siqueira
Inkers: Walden Wong & Roberto Poggi
Colourist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Just as you'd expect when your roster is packed with some of the world's thorniest mutants, Astonishing X-Men has turned into Trust Issues Theatre: The Comic. Is there time to get suspicious about this "call-me-Xavier-or-just-plain-old-X" body thief while Proteus is about to eat London? 

In this issue, the team settles on "no, there's no time," and I think it's a tragic mistake. It still makes for a hellaciously fascinating read, but when this story is done, I'll bet this stands out in hindsight as the point where the heroes shot themselves in the feet.

If you'll indulge me, let me get my paranoia out of the way early. We've seen a lot of little things about the resurrected Xavier that are just flat-out wrong. Gambit isn't the only one who's skeeved out when Xavier says of Fantomex, "His flesh was raw material for my return." Who talks like that? Horrible psychic monster-villains making deceptive plays for the X-Men's sympathy, that's who!

So my money is riding on "Xavier" being in cahoots with or enslaved by Proteus all along, and I'll take a flyer on "the Shadow King's still puppet-mastering this whole thing" as an optional extra. 

Charles Soule ended last issue's script with my least-favourite plot device ever, the final-page reveal of a deep-cut character. This issue redeems that move, weaving a thorough "Proteus 101" lesson through the issue that serves both the story and the curiosity of readers who haven't made a comprehensive survey of every X-Story ever.

(Paranoia break: Note Mr. Soule doesn't bring up the fact that Proteus was known as "Mutant X" - yeah, and this "Xavier" wants the X-Men to call him "X!" - for a long time before he was Proteus.)

Mr. Soule delivers most of this issue's Proteus backstory through Proteus himself. It's an artful and effective way to paint him as sympathetic but also manipulative. It's great characterization and it pushes the story forward while it teaches us about the baddie. His powers are also slowly revealed over the course of the issue, building to a shocker of a cliffhanger on the final page.

Visually, this is an impressive comic. Sharp pencils by Paolo Sequeira, polished inks by Walden Wong & Roberto Poggi, and vibrant colours by Edgar Delgado all combine into a refined and slightly retro presentation. This feels like a top-shelf comic from the turn of the millennium, and I mean that in a wholly positive way. There's a ton of all-natural talent on display with just the slightest hint of digital embellishment sharpening it up.

To widen the artistic scope a little, this title's "every issue gets a different premium artist" MO is actually living up to the "murderer's row of talent" description the Mighty Marvel Marketing Department loves to slap on any collaboration. What's truly remarkable is how well most of the artists (excepting the stylized Mikes, Deodato and Del Mundo) have gelled with each other so far. If Marvel re-collected these artists and gave them a bushel of money to build a new House Style, I would be a supremely happy camper.

I think the only thing holding this issue back is a slight case of redundancy. Because there's a lot going on and many team members have been partially out of the loop, the script features quite a bit of catchup dialogue. This comic ends up a little heavy on exposition, but Mr. Soule slices it thin and works hard (and successfully) to keep it all interesting.

Facing a potent villain with an ally they should really be questioning harder, the Astonishing X-Men are still in the hottest of hot water. Another rock-solid artistic performance and a fine-tuned script make this latest episode a hugely enjoyable one. Charles Soule has a clear destination in mind for this story, but the journey ahead of us still promises a lot of exciting twists.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Oh man, I didn't have space to mention how awesome Bishop is in this issue. He is!