By Warren Ellis (Writer), Phil Jimenez (Pencils), Andy Lanning (Inks), and Frank D’Armata (Colors)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: Warren Ellis’ first Astonishing arc was held back a bit by Simone Bianchi’s inconsistent, occasionally ugly artwork. With Phil Jimenez now on board, I’m hoping that the artwork consistently does justice to Ellis’ storytelling. If Jimenez’s past work is any indication, it’s a good bet that it will.

The Story: The X-Men pull out all the stops in an effort to save Abigail Brand’s life as she plummets to the earth in an escape shell following an unexpected encounter with The Brood.

What’s Good And What’s Not So Good: From start to finish, Astonishing X-Men #31 is one hell an entertaining thrill ride. While there isn’t a whole lot to the book beyond the Abigail Brand rescue and an interesting, somewhat odd ending, there really doesn’t need to be because Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez are such a strong creative team. Ellis and Jimenez make the absolute most of a simple premise and show that their run definitely has the potential to live up to the hype that Marvel has given it.

As expected, Warren Ellis’ dialogue is superb. Predictably, He throws around techno-babble like a pro, yet his writing never feels pretentious. His signature wit and dry humor manages to shine through on nearly every page as he effortlessly continues to put his stamp on the Astonishing team’s dynamic. Also, it must be said once again that Ellis writes Emma Frost and Beast better than anyone. The writer’s style and sense of humor truly shines whenever either Beast or Frost is in command of a panel.

Phil Jimenez’s Astonishing debut is impressive, yet it’s not perfect. The gripping action is silky smooth and the panel layouts are slick, but some of the character work and coloring knock the overall quality down a notch. In particular, Jimenez has some noticeable problems keeping Emma Frost’s look consistent and Frank D’Armata’s rich colors have the unfortunate effect of making everyone look a bit shiny. Still though, despite the flaws, the action that drives Astonishing X-Men #31 is incredibly engaging and a whole lot of fun.

Conclusion: The Warren Ellis/Phil Jimenez era of Astonishing X-Men is off to a fine start. I look forward to seeing what the team has in store for us next. Also, on a personal note, I believe that the word “gauche” totally needs to be used in more comics.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny