REGENERATION X: Astonishing X-Men

Many would consider Astonishing X-Men to be the flagship title of the Marvel Universe, where writers like Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis take the characters and shake them around in some kind of grandstanding manner. Comics Vanguard would suggest that the title hasn’t been big news since the end of Whedon’s third arc – specifically, the point where it became clear that Emma Frost wasn’t actually returning to villainy. That specific moment signified the end of Astonishing X-Men as an important – some would say entertaining – title, and sicne then nothing important has happened. Over half the life of this series has been an exercise in treading water.

I’d like nothing better than to say Greg Pak and Mike McKone’s takeover of the series signals a return to form, and is not merely the latest in a procession of creators phoning it in. I’d like nothing better than to be able to say those words, and have it be true. I can’t.

Let’s start with the cover, which is a great tease for fans. Storm and Cyclops kissing? That’s sure to incense people and get gossip flowing. It’s a fun cover, playing off fan reaction brilliantly. It also spoils the first of Pak’s two ‘twists’, both of which are fairly obvious anyway: Storm and Cyclops kiss in the story. This is meant to come off as a surprise, I’d say, judging from the art and dialogue. Storm’s return to Utopia is meant to be business-as-usual for the characters, with nothing out of the ordinary going on. But we know they’re going to kiss, so already we’re looking for signs of flirting or anything else – which we get.

The second big twist is also fairly easy to work out. If you’ve been reading comics for more than a month and the ending comes as a shock to you… well, that’s your gain, I’d say. Spoiler coming – alternate realities are involved here. Having read the issue, I can now tell exactly what will happen in every remaining issue of the arc. It’s the definition of bog-standard.

Greg Pak doesn’t choose a character to develop, and so we don’t get any feeling of closeness to anyone. The characters feel hollow and under-developed. And the twist, let’s just point out, leaves things ludicrously vague. Which character belongs where? After reading this issue, we have no idea which characters belong to which reality. Is Storm the only one? Or are Cyclops and Emma from different realities too? This could well be part of Pak’s overall plan, but it leaves things so maddeningly vague that I can’t imagine many people will want to stick around to find out.

Unfortunately, Astonishing X-Men #44 continues the trend of Astonishing X-Men being as dull as dishwater. A real shame


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