Astonishing X-Men #11 // Review
Astonishing X-Men #11, by Charles Soule, Ron Garney, and Matt Milla, is the penultimate chapter of The Man Called X storyline. Can the X-Men stop Proteus from giving the world its dreams, nightmares and all? And what member of the team has a dark secret that could shatter the whole thing?
The explosion at the end of last issue was Proteus spreading his “Garden,” launching reality altering seeds around the world. Psylocke and X work to stop the seeds, while the rest of the X-Men take the fight to Proteus. Psylocke and X dip into the network of psychics that Shadow King had built on the Astral Plane in the last storyline, Life of X, to disrupt the reality seeds. Proteus is able to badly injure several X-Men before Rogue and Bishop are able to drain his power away. Before it all ends, though, the team is betrayed by one of their own.
This is probably the best issue of this storyline so far and one of the best issues of this book, but that’s very faint praise. As powerful as Proteus is, he has a rather glaring weakness: metal. On a team with people Old Man Logan, Archangel, and gun toters like Mystique and Bishop, this storyline should have lasted about one issue. None of those characters would have any qualms about killing Proteus, but Soule decided to drag things out and delivered an abysmal story. This issue, though, was action packed and got right to the point. It’s a breath of fresh air in what has been a drawn out, boring affair.
The twist ending is a bit of a surprise. The betrayal has been telegraphed rather blatantly for readers who have been paying attention, but the reveal of the why behind it is clever and completely fits who it turns out to be. In a book that has been, for the most part, predictable, this was a welcome change. It doesn’t exactly salvage anything, but it’s a bright spot in a book that has had very few of those to this point.
Soule also finally let the X-Men cut loose and do what they do best. The action in the book highlights the way the X-Men fight their battles, felling Proteus with their teamwork. Unfortunately, Soule still doesn’t the use the characters completely correctly. Their dialogue is devoid of the personality and flair that all of these characters usually bring to the table. That’s been a lingering weakness of the book, though. Either Soule didn’t do enough research into the actual characterizations of the members of the team or he’s just a lazy writer, but one of the biggest disappointments of this run is his failure to use the characters in a way that would have fit them better and been more entertaining.
Ron Garney’s art is weak. There’s something off about the linework. Garney is known for his crisp pencils, but everything here looks muddled. The first few pages don’t even look his usual work. Eventually, it starts to resemble his style, but but in some places, it looks like he was rushed or just couldn’t be bothered to make it look better. There’s no inker listed on the book, so maybe did his own inks or used some kind of software to darken the lines, in which case he should probably rely on an inker. Matt Milla’s colors don’t do the art any favors either. They’re all over the place, with some panels having clashing, bright-colored backgrounds, while the character themselves are rendered too dark. Maybe it’s supposed to be an effect of Proteus’ powers, but it just not aesthetically pleasing.
Astonishing X-Men #11 is a much stronger installment than any of the others before it, but it suffers from a lot of the same problems that have been plaguing the book. Weak characterization, hit or miss art, and a predictable twist damage a lot of things that should have worked. It’s still a head above nearly every other issue of this series, though, so it has that going for it.