ASTONISHING X-MEN #13 / Writer: Matthew Rosenberg / Artist: Greg Land / Inker: Jay Leisten / Colorist: Frank D’Armata / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles / Cover Artist: Greg Land & Frank D’Armata/ Publisher: Marvel / July 4, 2018
X-Pert Creative Team
Matthew Rosenberg (4 Kids Walk Into A Bank and We Can Never Go Home) has shown his knack for writing X-Characters in Phoenix Ressurection: The Return of Jean Grey, New Mutants: Dead Souls, and even last week’s Multiple Man #1. Rosenberg is a well-established X-Fan and it shows in each panel of Astonishing X-Men #13. The reader can see this when Havok’s in the school and an assortment of x-characters appear in the background alone: Pixie, Shark Girl, Glob, Nature Girl, even Warpath, who is supposed to join the team. They’re there because Rosenberg understands the X-Men mythology, and knows how to use the world to the fullest. Same with the bad guys: Miss Sinister, Donald Pierce, and the rest of the Reavers. These are the pieces of a world Rosenberg is working with, and he knows to use them.
Meanwhile, Greg Land (Avengers and Birds of Prey) isn’t my usual cup of tea, but he’s an X-Men standard nowadays. Having worked on major X-Men books since 2007’s Messiah Complex. Looking over the art in this issue reminded me why Land’s been an under-appreciated heavy hitter in this industry for a while. His style has been the X-Men and you can see that in Havok, Beast, and especially the surprise guest at the end. Sure, he draws the characters a little too realistic for my taste, but seeing Havok in that classic suit is worth it.
The Sixth X-Man
So, for the past couple weeks on social media, Matthew Rosenberg has been teasing fans about who the sixth member of his X-Men team would be. In particular, he’s been saying the character is one of the six best X-Men ever. I won’t spoil who the sixth X-Man is, but you do find out at the end. It’s a classic X-Man, that’s so obvious, I felt dumb that I didn’t figure out beforehand. Though, I will agree with Rosenberg. This character is one of the best.
This is a redemption story. Alex Summers has been through the ringer. He had his mind warped to be more evil than good from the AXIS event, back in 2014. He’s been in editorial limbo for four years, randomly showing up in Inhumans Vs. X-Men and being one of the major villains in the recent X-Men: Blue storyline. Finally, he’s back for real. So, Havok wants to be a hero again.
From the get-go, Havok is trying to be the hero he once was, starting on page one with Havok blasting a giant monster. It seems he has saved the city, only to be upstaged by the Avengers, the real heroes. Then he goes to the X-Men and gives a rousing leader-level speech on how mutants live in a world where people fear them and to be X-Men again, they need to astonish– cue Rockslide’s cameo to cut Havok down to size, with his great reaction to Havok’s beautiful speech:
“Aren’t you, like, a supervillain?”
Not to mention, Havok’s talk with Kitty, who tells him:
“You aren’t an X-Man anymore, Alex.”
Before Havok was turned evil, despite having a scarred face, Havok was on the top. He led an Avengers team, was dating the Wasp, and most of all, he had hope. Now, he has lost everything. Cap tells him to take a break, Kitty disowns him, but thankfully he’s not evil anymore, so there is hope again. He goes to Beast to recruit him for his unofficial X-Men team, and is ready to astonish the world again. What’s motivating him to take this path? Is this because he honestly it’s for the best, is it out of guilt, is he trying to get out of his brother’s shadow again (like he almost always is)? I don’t know, but he’s trying and I’m excited to see where that takes him.
A Book that Stands Out
There are five ongoing X-related team books out right now: X-Men Red, X-Men Gold, X-Men Blue, Weapon X, and this one, Astonishing X-Men. There’s a difference between this series and the other four. Blue, Gold, and Weapon X have the benefit of being ongoing for a while now and have a following of readers, while X-Men Red has still had that new kid on the block smell. Readers will pick it up as long as the series stays consistent. Meanwhile, Astonishing X-Men #13 is neither a new kid nor can it be expected to keep the following from the first twelve issues. Unlike those, this is a new series in the middle of an ongoing and, despite that, might already be the best X-book out right now.
So, as I mentioned before, Havok gives this speech. One about Xavier’s dream, in the middle of the book. It’s a speech that not only points out what Havok believes, but what the X-Men are. They are heroes in a world of people who fear them, so what should they do? Protect themselves? No, they need to be heroes, they need to astonish. That’s what X-Men is, that’s what Havok wants to feel again, astonishment. That seems to be the moral of the book, mutant heroes saving a world that’s scared of them. Like Havok says at the very beginning, “Even when I was little, I was never afraid to face my fears.”
This is just the first chapter in the hands of a writer that could have an all-star run. This is just the tip of Havok’s iceberg, we haven’t delved into Beast or the sixth X-Man or the other four members on the cover. Already ongoing series that pick up when new creative teams come on, have somewhat of a precedent for not selling, in recent years. Don’t let this be one of them. This is the most X-Men-feeling X-Book out right now, and you can feel that radiating off the page. You can feel Havok’s frustration, Beast’s annoyance, Kitty’s anger, and any book that remembers Shark Girl exists deserve to be read.
Verdict: 4 out of 5