By Warren Ellis (Writer), Simone Bianchi (Pencils & Ink Washes), Andrea Silvestri (Ink Washes), and Simone Peruzzi (Colorist)

The Story: The mystery surrounding the now deceased Subject X and the strange electronic box grows deeper as the X-Men work to unlock whatever secrets may be held. The investigation winds up involving Agent Abigail Brand from S.W.O.R.D. and a five mile chunk of land in China that’s considered to be an intelligence dead zone.

What’s Good: Warren Ellis is slowly, but surely, unraveling one hell of a science fiction story with his first Astonishing arc. By allowing the reader to learn things only as the team does, Ellis ensures that each issue leaves you wanting more. It works extremely well, and makes for a fairly dense read. This is why it helps to have so much character work and entertaining (sometimes hilarious) dialogue throughout the book. The story could easily become overwhelming without the witty exchanges helping make everything a bit more digestible for those new to Warren Ellis’ style of science fiction.

What’s Not So Good: The artwork and, in a minor way, the pacing. I honestly can’t think of another series that hits such artistic highs and lows within the same issue. For every gorgeous or cool looking scene, there are others that look far too muddy. For every great character shot, there are facial expressions that are absolutely ridiculous or totally inappropriate (for the given scene). It’s the very definition of hit or miss and, quite frankly, this story deserves better.

As for the pacing, I only mention it because all the fun character work does little to actually advance the plot. Normally, I wouldn’t even bother mentioning it because I happen to enjoy Ellis’ banter quite a bit, but some may find the story already moving slow enough without all the added team moments.

Conclusion: An extremely entertaining chapter in what is quickly becoming a fantastic sci-fi story. The only thing holding this one back is the inconsistent artwork, but what damage it does is far from critical. This one’s worth it for the story alone.

Grade: B+

-Kyle Posluszny