Astonishing X-Men #16 // Review
Havok, Warpath and the Reavers attack the Office of National Emergency in Astonishing X-Men #16, by writer Matthew Rosenberg, artist Greg Land, inker Jay Leisten, and color artist Frank D’Armata. Will they be able to work together to rescue their respective teammates? What secrets are the Office of National Emergency hiding? Matthew Rosenberg has elevated this book from the worst X-Men book of the 21st century into a fun, action-packed romp, and this issue keeps that up.
Havok and Warpath are able to convince the Reavers to help them tackle O.N.E, but the Reavers want the Bastion-created nanotech in Havok’s head as payment. He gives it to them and they set out for O.N.E.’s base. At the base, O.N.E scientists are experimenting on the X-Men, and Beast volunteers to help O.N.E. in their experiments. Havok and the Reavers attack, freeing their compatriots, but O.N.E. plays their trump card…and so do the Reavers.
Rosenberg is using this book as a way to rehabilitate Havok’s character, and it’s paying dividends. Most writers have played him as Scott Summers the Second, but Rosenberg has given him his own personality finally, and it’s perfect. He’s a leader and a hero, but he’s also willing to laugh at himself. He knows what everyone thinks about him, and he also knows how ridiculous his life has been, so he revels in it. Characterization is the key to this book’s allure. Rosenberg is able to capture each team member’s personality perfectly, and plays them off each other in an entertaining way. The interplay is funny, but it doesn’t kill the tone of the book.
The main problem with this issue is how nebulous of a threat O.N.E. is. Their leader, General Callahan, is a very generic, evil government agent-type, and one of their secret weapons is rather cliche, especially for longtime X-Men readers. It’s all very standard X-Men stuff. It doesn’t make the comic any less entertaining, but, for how good rest of the writing is, it’s a little disappointing. The Reavers are only a little better, but the only one who shows any sort of personality is their leader, Donald Pierce. However, they lead to a nice little twist at the end that makes it all worth it.
The art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten, and Frank D’Armata isn’t as uneven as it has been in previous issues. Land isn’t great at drawing tech, which is a drawback in an issue where some of the heroes are being held at a high-tech facility, but there are a few double-page spreads that are well drawn and well laid out. There’s the usual deficiencies of Land’s work: the weird proportions, the sketchiness, and Dazzler’s porn faces, but it’s a step up from some of his work in the last few issues.
Astonishing X-Men #16 combines great characterization with some fun action, and thoroughly entertains. It has a few problems, but not enough to sink the book. Rosenberg’s handling of Havok is a highlight, and there’s enough little twists and surprises in this one to keep readers invested. The art could be better and the villains could be more filled out, but that doesn’t detract very much from how enjoyable this issue is.