Astonishing X-Men #28 (Marvel): Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi’s run of this book is better than Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s. Heh. No, not really. This run really remains a mixed bag. On paper, it should work. There’s a good creative team, an interesting cast, fun locales, and strong concepts, but the whole package doesn’t live up to the promise of the individual parts that have been assembled. The whole is not, in fact, greater than the sum of its parts. We’re four issues in now and all that’s really happened is the X-Men have encountered a dead body, found a Ghost Box, and travelled to a hidden part of China. Sure, there are some interesting bits sprinkled about, like the Chaparanga Beach spaceship graveyard, but sometimes it feels like an exercise in style over substance. After you’ve taken note of the exotic bits, there just isn’t much there there. Out of necessity, the dialogue is a little expository to catch us up on the byzantine plot about two factions of… pseudo-mutants I guess, the triploids with their artificial genetic structure, and the alternate reality mutants with the X-gene on the 13th chromosome. Umm, ok. Bianchi’s art tends to be confusing in the big action scenes; try deciphering what’s going on with Beast and the big green construct thing (oh wait, that’s a chameleonic mutant?), followed by a very confusing two page spread. In quieter times, Bianchi’s art can be downright awe-inspiring. The shot of Storm with her (assumably Wakandan) dagger is just beautiful. His layouts can be inventive, but aren’t terribly sensible. There’s one page where Cyclops’ head is isolated in an inset circular panel, but he’s talking to Beast, but his body extends to the right beyond the border of the panel, but his arm hangs down inside another panel with Emma and Storm, but they’re in an altogether different location. It’s just sort of loopy and doesn't follow any sort of internal logic or guidelines, for no particular reason. About halfway through the book, I started noticing there were an awful lot of overt Forge references; I wondered if this was going to be foreshadowing his involvement in this arc or future ones. Then, lo and behold, his name is uttered by three dying mutants, in quite a telegraphed bit of scripting. I think the last couple pages could have been edited together better. On the penultimate page, it would have been nice to flash a couple panels of all three sets (not just the Storm locale) to tie the last page reveal together tighter. The book is still interesting and I’ll ride out this story, but for some reason I seem to keep focusing on the aspects that don’t quite work. At this rate, I can’t say with 100% certainty that I’d buy another arc with this creative team. Grade B.
The Comics Journal #294 (Fantagraphics): I was going to wait and just start picking up TCJ regularly with the next issue, but I couldn’t resist this December edition featuring a lengthy interview with Norwegian creator Jason.