Welcome to X-Men: Bland Design, the weekly multi-part recap column that answers the question: "What if Ed Piskor had no art skills, a juvenile sense of humor, and less classic material to work with?"
This week there are five regular-priced X-Books on the stands, which will run you a total of 20 bucks to buy and, thanks to modern comic book decompression techniques, probably take about 10 minutes to read in total (if you read slowly). If that seems like a waste of time and money though, you can keep your money by reading our recaps for free. We make no promises about the use of your time, however, which will still be poorly spent.
This week, the X-books are: Generation X #87, X-Men Gold #22, Astonishing X-Men #8, Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #5, and… *shudders*… Venom #162, which we have to read because it's crossing over with X-Men Blue for the Poison X crossover. Time to check out Astonishing X-Men…
Astonishing X-Men #8
Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Paulo Siqueira
Inkers: Walder Wong and Roberto Poggi
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Mike Deodato Jr. and Frank Martin
We're joining the storyline A Man Called X in progress here, which sees Professor Xavier return as a dashing young man, replacing Fantomex in Fantomex's body… sort of. Professor X was trapped on the astral plane and locked in a battle with the Shadow King, who caused a bunch of damage to London in the course of their battle including by controlling several of the X-Men. But with the help of the X-Men, Xavier killed him, and now the professor is back and going by the name of "X." But can he be trusted?
One of the first things he did was grant Warren the power to be Archangel without losing control of himself and freed London from the Shadow King's control. But according to Bishop's database query, the green moon hovering over London is a sign of something called the "mindkiller" apocalypse. Oh yeah, and Proteus is back too. Uh oh.
The issue opens with Proteus, happy to be back, and also hungry. X claims he wasn't responsible for this, but some of the X-Men don't trust him on account of him being a body-snatching zombie. X says he'll take care of Proteus, but Rogue is skeptical. While they're arguing, Bishop is taking on Proteus, a classic X-villain, son of Moira MacTaggert, introduced as Mutant X back in Uncanny X-Men #125-128 who has the power to warp reality around him but must consume the life energy of human (or mutant) hosts at very fast rate in order to survive. Bishop interrupts Proteus snacking on a family of humans by shooting him. That's totally not going to work.
X shows up in astral form and tells Bishop to stop shooting Proteus because he's only feeding him energy. Bishop says that's better than him consuming people. However, it turns out that appeasement is an ineffective strategy, as, using the power Bishop fed him, Proteus takes control of Bishop's gun and shoots himself over and over again until he's supercharged. Professor X makes a snarky comment at Bishop. Hey! That's our job!
Back on the rooftop where X's physical body and the rest of the X-Men are, the X-Men are getting caught up with each other after the events of the previous storyline where they were all trapped on the astral plane. Gambit was thought killed by Rogue, who wasn't 100% clear on the timeline of her current mini-series, but he's okay. Psylocke is pleased that Archangel isn't a bloodthirsty killer. Speaking of bloodthirsty killers, Mystique is interested in a team-up with Old Man Logan to take X out.
The X-Men debate how to take out Proteus, but Old Man Logan has a great long-term memory and remembers how: metal. Flashback time?
Ah, the good ol' days.
Anyway, Logan pops his claws and invites Archangel to go stab Proteus to death. But X wants to try to talk things out peacefully first. He asks Psylocke to lend her psychic strength to his, and she agrees. They enter Proteus's mind to find… a calm and well-spoken Kevin MacTaggert. Kevin says he was just 10 years old when he first fought the X-Men back in the day, and he's learned now and is seeking redemption. He says the Shadow King has held him prisoner for 10,000 years on the astral plane, and now he understands that what he did to innocent people in the past was wrong. He asks for a truce.
X pulls two psychic guns out (very Fantomex-like) and tries to fire. But Proteus is pretty annoyed by that, so he does this with his reality-warping powers:
Astonishing X-Men took an entire story arc to get going, which was kind of aggravating, but simply a matter of the way comic books are published now. In any case, now things are moving along nicely. The book is making a lot of status quo changes to the X-Men, many tinged with elements of nostalgia. It's unclear what's going to happen with the X-Books when the next relaunch hits the X-books, but the storyline here feels like an important one. It doesn't hurt that the book is well-executed all around. Easy to recommend this one, though, as we all know, if you're an X-Men fan, you pretty much have to buy all the books no matter what.