Astonshing X-Men #15 // Review
Astonishing X-Men #15, by writer Matthew Rosenberg, pencillers Greg Land and Neil Edwards, inker Jay Leisten, color artist Frank D’Armata, and letterer Clayton Cowles, focuses on Havok and his team on the run from both the Reavers and the Office of National Emergency. Rosenberg has definitely improved the quality of this book, and, while this issue is no barn burner, it keeps the story moving and fits in some nice character work.
Havok and his team are trying to figure out what to do, after realizing they had assaulted federal agents from the Office of National Emergency, while also dealing with having little-to-no resources. Havok tells the team the somewhat selfish reason that he brought them together. They don’t take this very well, and Havok leaves them. Beast, Dazzler, Colossus, and Banshee go to Colossus’s apartment, but are attacked by O*N*E, while Warpath goes after Havok. Warpath and Havok hear about the O*N*E attack on the news, and head out to find some unlikely allies.
The thing that makes this book so entertaining is the characterization. Rosenberg is writing the best Havok--probably ever. Most other writers write him as Cyclops lite, adding in a bit of an inferiority complex to differentiate the two. This Havok, though, has just came back from being a villain, and has a lot to prove. He also knows he has something in him that both the Reavers and O*N*E may want, and he doesn’t want his friends to get hurt in the crossfire. He uses the distrust his teammates have for him now to get them away from him, but Warpath won’t let him go it alone and tries to talk him into coming back.
His conversation with Warpath at a bar is the meat and potatoes of the issue, as both men discuss exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing. So far, Warpath has been the only character that Rosenberg hasn’t spent much time with; his stated reason for staying around up till now has been because Kitty told him to keep an eye on Havok. This issue, though, he finally opens about why he’s stayed with this assignment and why he’s trying to talk Havok into getting back with the team. It’s a nice moment, and it gives him a better reason to be around than just silent enforcer. Beyond these two and their motivations, Rosenberg does a good job with the interplay between Beast, Dazzler, and Colossus, while also building up on what’s happening between the Reavers and O*N*E.
The art is this book’s biggest weakness, but that’s not really a surprise when Greg Land is on a book. There are a few notable times that it’s easy to tell that he re-used drawings of Havok’s face, but, otherwise, Land’s linework is way stronger than it was last issue, and that might be because there’s a second artist on this one, Neil Edwards. His work isn’t particularly bad, but it isn’t great either. Edwards draws most of the scenes with the Reavers and the O*N*E, including a rather uninspiring splash page of the O*N*E’s base that’s mean to show their vast resources but doesn’t communicate that at all, and the fight between the X-Men and O*N*E. The fight scene is laid out well and it’s probably the artistic highlight of the issue. Edwards’s detail lapses a bit for characters in the background, but he draws a very cool Colossus wrecking stuff and makes sure to highlight him as much as possible.
Astonishing X-Men #15 is another successful entry in Matt Rosenberg’s continued rehabilitation of the the book, after Charles Soule’s disastrous run. The book would benefit from a better art team, but Rosenberg is able to make it all work by telling an intriguing story and using the great characters he has in interesting ways. What exactly O*N*E wants and how the Reavers play into it is still a mystery, but Rosenberg is keeping everything moving and, most importantly, entertaining. Besides characterization, that’s another big factor in separating this book from what it was under Soule. Soule’s run was all about the plot and the characters were just kind of there. So far, Rosenberg is letting his characters be their entertaining selves, while slowly, but surely, revealing what’s going on around them. This book has improved leaps and bounds over what it was, and Rosenberg deserves all the credit for that. The weak art drags it down a bit, but this books is a must-buy for X-fans.