Astonishing X-Men Invites You to the Non-Event of the Year

Partway through Astonishing X-Men #51 – “the gay marriage issue” – the bit-part character Warbird tells groom Northstar that she will not be attending the wedding. She doesn’t explain what her problem with it is, but simply states it to his face and walks away. And the crime is that WE DON’T GET TO FOLLOW HER.
The issue is really bad, guys. It’s shockingly awful, and it’s really sad to see Marjorie Liu’s name attached to something like this. Even though this was editorially mandated and forced upon her, you’d still think she’d be able to work around it and give us a few jokes, character moments, and fun beats before we head up the aisle to see Northstar and Kyle get married. But instead, here’s a quick run-through of some of the awful stuff we see:
Beast officiating. The character who most embodies science and lack of faith, and who would never get married himself. Beast has no reason to be at this wedding, as he’s made it thoroughly clear over the past few years that he hates the X-Men, will not play any part in their existence, and is actually currently sided with the ‘Avengers’ half of ‘Avengers Vs X-Men’.
Poorly chosen art. Everybody has been mentioning this in their reviews, but Mike Perkins is a fine artist assigned to completely the wrong title. Everybody in the issue looks faintly drunk – even before the wedding starts – and Northstar in particular looks like something horrible has happened to his facial muscles. At the start is a panel where Northstar says “this is the happiest day of my life” and delivers what can only be described as a grimace to the readers. 
Now – in the original script, this line this may have been either a heartwarming sincere statement or a sarcastic comment made as pre-wedding jitters. It comes across as neither. It just looks really really weird. Perkins is a good artist, but this is not the book for him.
The worst flashbacks of all time. Astonishing’s current arc has been flashing from the present to the past at random moments in time, mainly in ways which deflate any tension from the rest of the story. We’ve previously been asked to worry about Kyle’s life in the flashbacks even though he’s, y’know, GETTING MARRIED in the present. Liu has thoroughly botched the storytelling for this arc, as each time she goes back in time it undermines the events of the present, or outright spoils to the reader what’s going to happen.
Sappy dialogue. Yes, sure, weddings are a fundamentally sappy time for everybody involved, and Liu matches that when we see the happy couple deliver their – overlapping? – vows to each other. The rest of the issue, however….! Kyle and Northstar as a couple were first properly developed by Tim Fish, who cast them both as rather bland, sappy idiots. That’s the characterisation which continues here, sadly, with neither of them showing any sign of compelling character. Kyle is entirely reactive, whilst Liu’s premise for Northstar is that he ‘moves too fast’. That could be interesting, but Kyle ‘reacts’ to Northstar moving ‘too fast’ by ‘going along with it’. At first he turns down the engagement, but we’ve all seen the covers telling us that the marriage is going to happen! So how does this lead to any sort of tension? He gives in after almost getting shot on a mission, and agrees to marry Northstar. Cue nose-nuzzling.
Whatever happened to how Northstar used to be? Arrogant, snobbish and successful? He doesn’t seem to have any drive or ambition beyond Kyle anymore. Although, that’s sometimes how  marriages end up – limiting both people involved – so I’ll let that go for the moment.
Bad jokes. Seriously bad jokes, and that’s so annoying. The wedding brings together a disparate group of Avengers, X-Men, Alpha Flightinis and other heroes – and there’s barely anything witty done with it. Rogue arm wrestles Guardian, and that’s about it. There’s no banter, or strange pairings, and nobody gets any funny lines to say. The best part of the entire issue is when Storm and Wolverine reminisce about their own weddings – failures both, of course – and flirt with each other. It’s a nicely done moment, and the only time we have X-Men in the issue instead of random strangers who don’t know each other.
Karma is still missing. Yes, Northstar chooses to have a wedding whilst his team-mate has PROBABLY BEEN ABDUCTED and has at the very least been mind-controlled. She’s AWOL and nobody in the issue cares because they’re too busy playing around with flowers and saying out-of-character things. At least none of the other New Mutants are at the wedding – because otherwise this issue would be very very embarrassing for them indeed.
The cliffhanger. The issue ends with Wolverine getting ripped in half by – oh look – mind-controlled Karma. WILL WOLVERINE SURVIVE THIS? Of course he f****g will.
The issue is bland, uninspired, out-of-sync and terrible to read. The jokes are watery-weak and fall flat almost every single time. Not even cameos from Liu’s favourites Jubilee and X-23 raise a smile. The writing is singularly drab, and turns what could’ve been a big, vibrant event into a bunch of people in lycra sitting in a field, near a tent. It is the absolute definition of an anti-climax, and will disappoint just about everybody who reads it. An incredible, gut-smashing shame of an issue. 

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