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Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #4

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill
Plot: Is being bad ass enough to save an X-Men comic? Almost, but it's hardly astonishing.

Comments: Well, that's odd. Ellis is picking up on a wonderfully gnarled bit of mutant continuity here, leftovers more or less from Excalibur and the British mutants led by Captain Britain. In those comics we were introduced to two or three things that impacted all of Marvel mutantdom, and might have relevance to this title. 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 superpowers). Those were disturbing, scary and wondrous issues, and Ellis has revived all three concepts (as well as the character of Doc Croc, a government agent injured by a Warpie and now committed to protecting them).

The problem thus far with this series (in addition to huge delays) has been two-fold. Kaare Andrews' exaggerated art, which veers in tone between bad ass and ridiculous, often on the same page, and tedious plot complications. The X-Men have spent so much time bumping up against Doc Croc and his soldiers, they've barely noticed who their real foes are. Cyclops' sangfroid on the battlefield is fun to read and a natural stance for the character, but having him be only taciturn does nothing for plot exposition. He just barks orders, leaving Wolverine and Beast to pulverize their foes (or get pulverized), and Storm and Emma to figure out what's really happening.

Emma finally gets a glimpse of what Furies are from a very traumatized and youthful version of Jim Jaspers this issue, and immediately tells Cyclops. But Storm is still trying to figure it out (and shouldn't she already know, as she's faced them before?) and Cyclops uses her for a tactical strike that only buys them some time. The major brunt of the battle is felt by Wolverine and Armor, the latter finding her shields horrifically diverted, the former providing another excuse for the big gory gestures Andrews oversells in every issue.

It's...okay. Sometimes cool. But hampered by inconsistent art, uneven plotting, and an unwillingness to move the story forward. Not the best approach when your parent series has also been excessively delayed. Astonishing has left the building, which I think happened when I heard the phrase "human ghost box." Enough with the ghost boxes! Why is every alternate world worse than our own? Can we get a fun story that isn't all poses and climaxes? Doc Croc's character alone seems fascinating, if we could just focus in on him. Last issue's exploration of his history and motivation was the strongest of the series.

And, seriously, what is up with that cover? Is that Emma clinging to Wolverine's legs? How does Wolverine conquering Africa equate to Conan conquering everyone? And, shouldn't it be Scott's legs? And why would she ever do that? A cover like this just confuses me further about which book I'm reading. I have to accept that Kaare Andrews takes free license on the covers (and last month's was a funny comment on the Scott/Emma relationship), but again, it's another factor that would make more sense without the delays. I need a refresher course when each new issue arrives at this point.

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