Warren Ellis, (Writer) Simone Bianchi, (Artist) and Simone Peruzzi (Colorist)

Not to take anything away from the excellent run by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, but this issue of Astonishing X-Men begins what might be my most anticipated creative run of the year. Warren Ellis became one of my favorite writers with his incredible work on the Thunderbolts, while Simone Bianchi’s preview art for this series left me wanting much more. Needless to say, I came into this issue with high expectations. Suffice to say, I think many will think this issue suffers a bit because it has to establish the new status quo. Personally, I wasn’t disappointed.

Astonishing X-Men #25 kicks off with the team already relocated to San Francisco – an event that will be taking place in Uncanny X-Men #500. Armor mulls a new code name, Beast is his usual amusing self, Storm drops in to rejoin the team in order to gain information for the Black Panther, Wolverine is fighting a hangover, Emma Frost is being, well, Emma Frost, and Cyclops is just happy the team has regrouped. Things are pretty calm at the start of this arc as Ellis takes his time reintroducing everyone with some great character moments. Soon though, a call comes in from the San Francisco P.D. and the team is off to do some consulting work regarding a mysterious, possibly mutant, death. Overall, this is a smooth transition to the new creative team and while I wish things moved forward a little bit more in this issue, a solid storytelling foundation is now in place.

I expected Ellis to do some awesome things with these characters and, sure enough, everyone gets a chance to shine. The banter throughout the book is a lot of fun to read and I am happy to report that none of the charm of Whedon’s run has been lost during the creative switch. The storyline already feels like a classic Warren Ellis tale and I look forward to his more scientific approach to the intricacies of mutation. I wish there was a bit more of the new main storyline in this issue, but things are off to a compelling start nonetheless.

Simone Bianchi’s artwork is a treat to look at throughout the issue, but a part of me wishes the entire book could have been done without coloring. The pencil work loses something with the coloring as parts of the book look muddy and it feels as though some detail was lost here and there. A little more vibrant color palette would have been welcome as well, as everything feels rather…dim. Despite my criticisms, this is still a good looking book all around and I look forward to seeing what Bianchi has in store for us as the series goes on.

Astonishing X-Men is a good start for the new creative team. The character moments are spot on, the artwork is excellent and, at times, stunning. This arc looks to have a lot of storytelling possibilities. If you liked Whedon’s run, be sure to give Ellis a chance. (Grade B+)

– Kyle Posluszny

A Second Opinion

The first few pages of this book bored me out of my mind. I had all but written it off when things finally took a more interesting turn. I love the fact that the team is welcomed by the San Francisco community and law enforcement. I also like how Warren Ellis attempts to get away from the costumes (like Grant Morrison did), even if for just a little while. There’s nothing like a nice little mystery mixed with some good science fiction to get things started. I have no doubt Ellis’ run here will be full of fun, entertaining concepts.

Simone Bianchi’s art is beautiful as expected, and his panel work very interesting. But drawing pretty pictures doesn’t mean you’re a good storyteller, and this is something Bianchi’s going to have to work on. In a way, his work reminds me of Chris Bachalo’s body of work. It’s always great on the eyes, but awful in execution. There’s also a lot of inconsistencies, especially when it comes to Storm. Sometimes she looks like this beautiful goddess while other times she looks like Jay Leno’s African cousin.

As much as the reintroduction of the team roster bored me, I absolutely loved the maturity and camaraderie shown between Cyclops and Wolverine. It’s never been easy between these two, but this issue finally shows that there’s been some growth over the years and it’s just written brilliantly. Please, let’s keep this forward momentum going. The X-Men is all about evolution and after undoing nearly everything Grant Morrison did, maybe – just maybe –  Marvel editorial will be smart enough to let things stick this time. (Grade: B+)

– J. Montes