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Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #5

Posted: Friday, February 18, 2011
By: Shawn Hill

Warren Ellis
Kaare Andrews
Omigoodness, look at all those adorable babies swooping in to vanquish the X-Men! Silly warpies, don't you know Furies are for kids?

Well, that's fitting. Ellis is picking up on a wonderfully gnarled bit of mutant continuity here, leftovers more or less from Excalibur and the corner of the multiverse peopled with Captain Britains galore. Those comics introduced us to three things that came to impact all of Marvel mutantdom: Jim Jaspers (a mutant who could bend reality to his whim), Warpies (babies born with mutations due to extra-dimensional radiation exposure) and the Furies (inexorable killing machines that adapt to end the threat of all super-powers, like Sentinels except way meaner).

As well, Ellis has revived the character of Doc Croc, a government agent injured by a warpie and now committed to protecting them. He's also the ruler of the small African country where a Jaspers of a different reality has appeared, trailing chaos in his wake, as Jaspers usually does. Doc Croc, now a cyborg thanks to his injuries, is as imposing an example of militaristic hardware enhancement as one could ask for, complicated by impeccable manners and a degree of suave self-awareness.

Simply put, the X-Men don't worry him much, but he's willing to deal with them as the best solution to a bad problem. He even takes a moment to pay homage to Storm -- not for her heroic role in the West, or even for her current status as Queen of Wakanda, but for her juvenile history as the goddess of several lands near Lake Victoria, the mutant rain bringer who was seen by her followers a divine boon. That's a nice bit of X-Men history to bring up, so kudos to Ellis for knowing exactly what he's doing (as usual). Storm nearly blushes at the attention, from so unexpected of a source.

Ellis doesn't stop there, as he also reveals a compellingly detailed usage of Emma's power-set. She doesn't just mind-zap her foes this issue; she's been at her most haughty for the entire series (despite Andrews' sexploitational costuming and poses), but this issue she backs her arrogance up with a display of just how impressive her capabilities can be.

Kaare Andrews' exaggerated art, which veers in tone between badass and ridiculous, is back on point this issue, with especially impressive sequences for the Beast (leaping around from tree to tree like the blue ape he is) and a Wolverine so injured by the Furies that he's literally holding his guts inside his body with one hand Comedy ensues as the X-Men keep killing off Furies after Scott has asked them to keep one alive. Cyclops' sangfroid on the battlefield is fun to read and a natural stance for the character, but he's dealing with a bunch of mutineers and deserters this week, poor sap. He barks orders, and they are carried out, if not always to the letter.

Some may quibble (as they did when Claremont previously revived the Furies) that this batch seems surprisingly easy to kill. But I won't, there are only so many places you can go with a truly unstoppable foe. What defeats them this time is teamwork, that old funny book staple that never grows tiresome, because it's such a pleasure to see coordinated effort at work. What Emma and the others may lack in sheer power, they more than make up for in attitude and style, and that's half of why Ellis is still writing these things.

The other reason may be the ruthlessness displayed in a predictable but powerful plot twist -- one which shows an awareness of the X-Men's traditional values even as it flies in the face of them. I'm not sure such an abrupt about-face was needed, but it's not the kind of surprise that ruins the whole story.

I had to check and see if Ellis' run on the parent title has ended, as I couldn't recall how the final arc played out. Something about a little old man trying for revenge was it? This spin-off started before that tale was complete, but now there are ads for the title's new direction all over the place. Despite his underwhelming "Ghost Box" fixation -- the mutants already have time travel and space travel, do they really need alternate universe travel as well? -- this is a rocking issue, and a huge bump-up for a mini that has been somewhat uneven. I'm probably done with the main title, but it's nice to see Ellis go out on a definite high.

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