Astonishing X-Men #10
In Astonishing X-Men #10, by Charles Soule, ACO, David Lorenzo, and Rachelle Rosenberg, the X-Men confront Proteus…but can they survive against his reality altering powers?
On their way to the walled off village of Fetter’s Hill, the town Proteus took over last issue, the X-Men’s Blackbird is attacked by dragons, forcing them to crash land and battle Proteus’s forces on the ground. Psylocke realizes that the foes they are fighting are psychic projections and the more of them they defeat, the weaker Proteus will become. They’re able to weaken him enough for the wall to drop, but Proteus is able to use his still-substantial power to get the upper hand. Proteus talks with X, the reincarnated Professor X, about their shared experiences on the astral plane and his dream and if X believes that most people are good. Proteus reveals his plan to X, telling him it will be the ultimate manifestation of his dream, if people are good and want it.
The art by ACO, Lorenzo, and Rosenberg makes this issue the best this book has been in a long time. ACO eschews a typical panel grid format for each page; in fact, most of the book is done double page spreads. Each page is a feast for the eyes, whether it be dragons attacking the Blackbird, the X-Men fighting a medieval army, or Proteus just floating around in psychedelic landscapes of manipulated reality. The level of detail on each page is insane. At one point, Proteus manifests a bunch of hands to grab the X-Men, but they aren’t cliche giant hands; oh no, these are literal bunches of hands. It’s weird and frightening and awesome and in the hands of another art team, it would look bad, but ACO and company make it look amazing. Another standout is a page where Proteus becomes a giant monster made out of the bricks of the town, his appearance changing in every panel. Plus, ACO makes Archangel’s wings look cooler than any artist has since Jerome Opeña on Uncanny X-Force.
Unfortunately, the story itself doesn’t live up to the art. It’s better than the last issue, but it’s still all rather cliche. Proteus’s plan seems a bit different, but it would still end with him in charge. His motives are interesting, at least, but it doesn’t really elevate anything. This book has always had intriguing things going on beneath the surface, but the problem is that what’s on the surface is so mediocre that the cool stuff doesn’t matter. Again, Soule doesn’t take advantage of the great characters he has in the book. It’s an action packed comic and the art is amazing, but it’s all sort of…empty. Every member of the cast is busy, but they aren’t really doing anything important. They’re just fighting. Luckily, it all looks so great that readers can get lost in the breathtaking visuals and ignore the extremely lackluster script and characterization.
There’s really nothing else that can said about the book. Saying this run of Astonishing X-Men has been a disappointment would be a huge understatement. On the rare occasion that the book is worth the $3.99 cover price, it’s because of the art, and that’s this issue’s main saving grace.This Proteus story has tried to be distinct, but has failed entirely. Proteus’s motives seem almost sympathetic, but that falls apart when contrasted with his actions. It probably would have been better if ACO, Lorenzo, and Rosenberg had been working on the book for this entire arc. The story wouldn’t have been any better, but the art would have covered up for the glaring flaws in the script. They have a perfect handle on Proteus and his powers and their action scenes are crisp, detailed, and easy to follow. Even if someone hasn’t been following the book, this is a still a great issue to pick up because the art is so brilliant. In fact, the best way to read this book is to just look at the pretty pictures and ignore Soule’s insipid, cliche script. If this was a fair world, Soule would be kicked off this book after this story ends and another, better writer would get the chance to work with some of the great artists that have been on this book. If this book was being judged solely on the art, it would be getting an A, but Soule’s scripting is so bad, it drives it down a few notches.