Astonishing X-Men #13 // Review
Astonishing X-Men #13, by Matthew Rosenberg, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Frank D’Armata, and Clayton Cowles, features Havok trying to assemble a new team of X-Men. It also sports a new creative team, as Rosenberg and company take over after Charles Soule’s abysmal run on the book. With both Havok and this title needing redemption, can they succeed?
After inadvertently interfering in an Avengers mission, Havok heads to the Xavier Institute to begin recruiting a new team, but is stopped cold by Kitty Pryde, who doesn’t trust him or his return to being on the side of angels. Meanwhile, the Reavers capture Miss Sinister for the mysterious Colonel Callahan. Havok goes to Harvard, where Beast is teaching classes on genetics, and tries to get his old friend to join him. The Reavers attack, pinning down Havok and Beast until Beast unleashes a surprise on them.
Havok has long been a character who has ridden the back burner in the Marvel Universe. He was cast as an unlikely leader in Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers run and finally got a chance to shine--before AXIS happened and he was transformed into a villain by the Red Skull’s Inversion. It’s nice to see him in a starring role again, and Rosenberg is playing it rather well. No one knows what to expect out of him, no one really trusts him, and no one wants to give him a chance. This treatment of him is sort a microcosm for what the character has been through historically. Sure, he’s led teams, but beyond the Avengers Unity Squad, where he was surrounded by people like Cap, Thor, Wolverine, and the Wasp to help him out with his decision making, they were always the B-teams, the ones that weren’t as important. He always stood in the shadows of his brother Scott. Rosenberg uses the way various characters talk to him to illustrate it: Iron Man condescends and insults him, Cap talks down to him, Kitty doesn’t trust him at all, and the Beast is friendly but dismissive. Through it all, Havok keeps moving and trying because he also knows he has to prove himself all over again, and the best way to do that is by being a hero.
This comics marks the second appearance of the Reavers in the last few months and ties into their last appearance in Hunt For Wolverine #1. It’s an intriguing choice for them to be the first team of villains Havok’s team will face, especially given how they are seemingly under the control of Colonel Callahan, doing his bidding by capturing mutant geneticists for a mysterious reason. They’re dangerous enough to give the team a challenge, and, with the mystery of what Callahan has them doing, there’s enough stuff to keep readers coming back for more.
The best part of the book comes during Havok and Beast’s conversation. Beast has been going through a lot lately, what with siding with the Inhumans during the battles between them and the X-Men and bringing the O5 to the present. Much like Havok, he’s another person that his ex-colleagues don’t trust. Havok tries to use this fact as a reason for Beast to join him, but Beast shuts him down by talking about how damaged his body is from years of being a superhero. It gives readers a very rare look behind the curtain, reminding them that as cool as the adventures of their favorite superheroes are, it takes a terrible toll on the body and mind.
Greg Land’s art is better than it usually is, but there’s still some problems with it. His facial structures get a wonky sometimes and his figure work is kind of disproportionate. There’s something a little off about Havok’s face when it’s in the mask and he draws Beast’s head strangely. It’s not bad, but there are a bunch of little problems with it. The coloring is a bit inconsistent as well. Sometimes, it’s very slick and shiny in the foreground and the backgrounds are rather dark and indistinct. This might be to cover up the lack of detail in the backgrounds, but regardless, it’s noticeable enough to be jarring sometimes.
After Charles Soule’s terrible run on the book, this issue is a welcome change. Greg Land’s art hurts it a little, but Rosenberg’s script is too good to be held down by it. It’s not exactly a return to the form of Whedon and Ellis days, but it’s a strong start and a massive improvement over what Soule was doing. Rosenberg tells his story while also giving readers glimpses into Havok and Beast that they may not have had before. It all serves the plot, but it also feels organic and earned, something that Soule was never able to manage during his run. If Rosenberg can keep this up, there’s no reason why Astonishing X-Men can’t become the crown jewel of the X books.