Astonishing X-Men #8
Astonishing X-Men #8, by Charles Soule, Paulo Siqueira, Waldon Wong, Roberto Poggi, and Edgar Delgado, continues the “A Man Called X” storyline. While it’s an interesting story, it’s rendered mediocre by the execution.
The last arc ended with Professor X defeating the Shadow King with the help of the X-Men, taking over Fantomex’s body, and calling himself X. This arc began with X trying to heal the wounds the Shadow King’s attack left on London, although something seems a little sinister and off about him. Proteus, another of the Shadow King’s prisoners on the astral plane, shows up and attacks and that’s where this issue opens. The X-Men make plans to deal with him before he becomes more powerful after an unsuccessful attempt by Bishop to take him down. Logan votes on using his and Archangel’s metal weapons to take Proteus out, but Psylocke and X venture into Proteus’s mind to try and stop him in lieu of killing him. Proteus tells them about his desire for freedom, but X decides that they may need to take Proteus out. The plan backfires and Proteus strikes at Psylocke and X.
Starting with a positive, Paulo Siqueira’s art is good, if a little unremarkable.. This book was advertised as having a different superstar artist working on it every issue and while Siqueira’s art isn’t exactly superstar quality, it’s better than a lot of the art on the other current X-Men books. His Proteus looks good and is different from other incarnations, which is nice. Everything else though is pretty standard. His figure work, backgrounds, and details are all perfectly fine, yet his style isn’t distinct. Siqueira is the sort of artist who does good work that isn’t very memorable. Beyond his Proteus, nothing really stands out about his work in this issue. It’s nothing special, but it does do the job, which is more than could be said for the writing.
This title has been interesting since it started, but there’s something about the way Charles Soule writes it that has rendered most of it so ‘blah’ and this issue is no different. Soule is working with some of the most interesting characters in the X-Men pantheon and yet barely any of them really stands out. Mystique and Logan have an entertaining exchange, but Soule has had an ear for writing for Logan ever since his Marvel debut. Other than that, every other character just seems to be reciting their lines and hitting their marks with little to no soul (pun intended).
Proteus’s speech goes on way too long, but it does add an interesting wrinkle to his origin. Other than that, it feels like it’s mostly just there to pad out the page count of a rather insubstantial issue. Nothing important really happens at all. Proteus, a mutant who drains people’s life force and can alter reality, does surprisingly little to sell his threat and most of the X-Men stand around arguing about what to do or sniping at each other. The character of X seems to be inscrutable, but it feels like Soule is telegraphing his heel turn so nakedly that if he doesn’t turn out evil, it will be a bigger shock than an eventual reveal of his evil.
So far, this book feels like a collection of cool ideas done poorly and nothing about this issue changes that impression. Soule just isn’t the right fit for an X-Men book. His ideas have potential, but his character work mostly falls flat and his threats never feel very threatening, even when all the characters are talking about how dangerous the villains are. The issue’s art saves the book a little, but in the end, this issue is all filler and it shows. Little to nothing of it sticks with the reader. It moves the plots forward in an efficient way, but it’s all empty calories.