Astonishing X-Men #14 // Review
Astonishing X-Men #14, by Matthew Rosenberg, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Frank D’Armata, and Clayton Cowles, sees Havok continuing to build his new team while trying to unravel the Reavers’ plan. Matthew Rosenberg has begun the process of redeeming this book after Soule’s abysmal run. Can he keep it up?
With the help of their returned friend, Banshee, Havok and Beast are able to make some headway against the Reavers. Warpath, sent by Kitty Pryde to watch Havok, shows up and the four of them are able to take down the Reavers. As Beast tries to get more info from their memories, Havok and Warpath go and recruit Colossus, who’s in a downward spiral since Kitty left him at the altar. Beast is able to find the Reavers’ next target, and Havok and his team show up at one of Dazzler’s shows. Depressed with how little drawing power her music has anymore, she believes they are there for her, but they aren’t, as her set designer is Forge. Forge turns down their aid, and, as the X-Men go to leave, the venue is attacked. The X-Men, with Dazzler’s help, take out the attackers, but make a discovery about their identities that complicates things.
One of the many deficiencies of Soule’s Astonishing X-Men run was the lack of characterization in the book. Unless it was Logan, X, or one of the villains, none of the characters seemed like themselves. They felt like bodies made for filling out a roster. In Rosenberg’s hands, however, that is not the case. Each character in the book feels like they should. They speak the way they should and have actual personalities. The overall plot, the Reavers hunting down mutants for some sinister reason, is rather cliche, but Rosenberg’s deft character work makes it all sing. This is a fun book, another thing which wasn’t at all true of Soule’s run. Instead of letting the plot dictate what happens next and moving the characters through it, like Soule did, Rosenberg gives them time to breath and be themselves, helping to drive the plot and make it more entertaining. Soule’s plot became a slog because even though it had some interesting turns, he didn’t allow the great characters he had any room in it to be entertaining. Rosenberg is letting the characters entertain as they discover more of what’s going on.
It’s the little things in this book that make it shine so much. Colossus is devastated and drunk after Kitty leaves him, hiding his pain behind a merry persona. This is a character move that makes complete sense in his situation. Peter is the kind of person who wouldn’t want his pain to intrude too much into the lives of others, but he can’t really help it, so he tries to mask it all behind a wall of drink and forced cheer. It’s easier for people to excuse someone who is drunk breaking down. When the action starts, he jumps into it with glee. Peter may be an artist, but Colossus solves his problems with his fists. Having something to hit takes his mind off his life. Everything he does, from the drinking to joining Havok, is a way to deal with what Kitty did. Dazzler is tired of being reminded of how irrelevant she’s become, while still craving the spotlight. Her tour isn’t working out how she thought it would, so she jumps at the chance to leave with Havok and her friends, only to find out they aren’t there for her. Forge is completely over the whole mutant superhero thing and just wants to build robots for Dazzler’s stage show. These are all perfect little character touches that progress from events in their lives, and they elevate the book.
Greg Land’s art is, unsurprisingly, hit or miss. It looks good in the bigger panels, but in smaller ones details are muddled and they look ugly. His facial expression and character acting are strong, but his proportions are frequently off. His action scenes are nicely paced and well choreographed, and the one that ends the issue includes a standout full page splash of Dazzler in action that takes all the things Land does well and puts them on blast.
Rosenberg and company aren’t reinventing the wheel with this X-Men story, but it does all the little things right. The characters are entertaining and endearing, there’s good action, and the plot, while at this point not seeming like anything special, has the potential to take some interesting turns, especially with the way this issue ended. The art isn’t consistent, which is a shame, but this book is light years better than it was under Charles Soule and deserves a look.