Even though there are some great fringe books in the X-Men line with series like Generation X and X-Men Blue, there hasn’t been a flagship title to point too and universally praise. With Marvel introducing a new team of X-Men carrying the Astonishing X-Men name all that could change right here, especially with great talent: Charles Soule and Jim Cheung carrying the torch on this new book. This week on The Marvel Rundown we’re crossing our fingers and hoping for the best with the highly anticipated new X-Men series:

Astonishing X-Men #1
Written by Charles Soule
Drawn by Jim Cheung
Inked by Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego and Walden Wong
Colored by Richard Isanove and Rain Beredo
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles

When Marvel decided to reboot the entire X-Line with the latest reboot known as RessurXion there wasn’t enough surprises or intrigue present within the titles for fans to really get behind the reboot as a whole. With both X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold introducing concepts and ideas that were basically rehashed from the previous reboots of the X-Men franchise. Thankfully Astonishing X-Men is looking to forge (pun intended) a new path into the Marvel Universe. Even though this team is full of fairly well established Marvel characters, there’s still something novel about seeing such an odd team of heroes together. Nobody featured in the roster aside from Beast and Gambit are truly mainstays of core X-Men line-ups which makes the comic so interesting from page one.

One of the aspects of this comic that had me really worried was how writer Charles Soule was going to bring this team together. In the last few team books from Marvel, characters have very often tended to just orbit the same location instead of come together as a core team. Astonishing X-Men wisely breaks the chain as Soule brings together a team of psychologically powerful mutants united to stop one sole threat. This debut issue really brings lots of ideas together in a surprisingly effective manner. In the space of one installment Soule brings together a fring team of X-Men and unites them against a big villain while pulling out a rather large stinger on the final page.

If this comic has anything it’s pure economy whether it comes from Soule’s writing or the art where Jim Cheung really shines. the artist gives the comic the blockbuster feel that the script calls for while touching on some of the smaller character-based moments. At times Cheung’s work can feel a little stiff with characters almost posing for shots with some of the faces feel expressionless. The villain in the comic proves to be a great way for Cheung to stretch his limits into bouts of psychological horror. The artist delivers on a creepy design for the characters and pulls out something remarkable on the final page of the issue. Action scenes in title are brisk and well-paced. This issue gives Cheung some psychic imagery that pushes back his usual posed work and delivers something unique that seems to be tailor-made directly for him.

Astonishing X-Men #1 doesn’t forget about the relationships already established with these characters. Unlike most titles in the X-Line right now, the comic also doesn’t seem to be locked into nostalgia either. Soule touches on these past relationships, giving them the context and continuity that they need without making this comic beholden to the past. One moment that was needed but still felt lacking for me was when each character explained how they made their way into the line-up. Having some other aspect of the comic drawing the X-Men team together would have ultimately made for a better for story, but I like where Soule has started driving the narrative up to this point.

For all the X-Men comics that have spent endless amounts of time establishing the same relationships and pitting similar villains against each other for the same kinds of stories, Astonishing X-Men #1 feels like a step in the right direction. While each team member’s ties with one another felt a little too loose for my liking, I still greatly enjoyed the way that Soule began to weave the overall narrative of the series together. There’s plenty of room for this comic to really bring home the weird and reach for the stars in future issues. No matter who he’s working with on the series I hope Soule really commits to the level of direction and focus that he channels in this debut issue. I also hope that Marvel can continue the streak of great talent and material with the bar set by Cheung’s work in this issue.

Final Verdict: If you’re looking for an X-Men series to stop playing the hits and start telling a compelling story, look no further than Astonishing X-Men #1!

Finally! A core X-Men comic that I can feel good about–what a way to cap off a week! Next week is pretty sleepy aside from the next issue of Secret Empire–I think it’s more than time that we took a look at the Earth-shattering event promising to deliver on the Civil War II flash forward that saw Miles Morales Spider-Man killing Steve Rogers Captain America? Get the closure with us next week on another installment of The Marvel Rundown!