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Astonishing X-Men #34

Posted: Friday, July 2, 2010
By: Shawn Hill

Warren Ellis
Phil Jiminez & Andy Lanning, Frank D'Armata (c)
Marvel Comics
Plot: The astonishing ones reach a few turning points, and also converge on the lair (sorry, "James-Bond-Villain-Crazy-Man Base") of their surprising tormentor.

Comments: I'm not sure what so delayed this issue that Ellis recently began a second series recently with the same characters and a different artist, but it's a welcome installment that instantly picks up the pace of the previously uneven tale. Ellis seems to want the full story to be visually consistent. Fair enough when the art is this good. Just maybe own up to it somewhere? I still miss the old days of fill-in issues and reprints. I don't mind paying for those, but I suppose many do at today's inflated prices. Just remember, collectors, that some of those '70s fill-in issues are now worth more than the ongoing stories of the time that they "interrupted."

The cover to this issue isn't a literal depiction. It's more a symbol of Storm's mental state. Inside, I love the white variation on her old school costume (less busy than the one over designed by Bianchi), and I really love the authoritative voice that Ellis gives Ororo as she delimitates their true adversaries.

The Jiminez/Lanning version of Emma looks exactly like old friend Lord Fanny, but then that still makes sense since the White Queen is a sort of drag that she's been putting on since she was a teenager. Her personal weaknesses are the same as her strengths and Ellis knows this. He dials up effective scenes for the unlikely super-duo of Ororo and Emma, facing a creepily recognizable Brood-Sauron clone, and aided and abetted by Hisako (with cool new variations on her Manga force-field) and a complaining Wolverine. Ororo targets their familiar foe's likely weakness and Emma acts.

On another front, Scott and Hank have a leader versus scientist confrontation that speaks to their long history and makes it clear that, despite appearances to the contrary (of uniforms and pulling rank and governmental alliances and soldiers down in the field), the X-men aren't a military organization but instead a family with diverse agendas, the primary one being self development and actualization. Scott needed reminding of that and Hank does it in the manner of a brother, not a critic.

The backgrounds remain a little murky and the scene shifts from a very mechanical looking ship exterior to biological insides are sometimes confusing. D'Armata may be covering up a lot with his atmospheric shadows and blur effects, but the art still has a distinctive grace full of details of character and costume and personality. Jimenez at a high speed rush still wipes out most of the competition.

I'm not sure if I can say that this is the issue we've been waiting for, where Ellis does more with the mutants in his charge than throw insults at them. A lot may depend on the surprise semi-reveal at the end, which either picks up on some threads left by Whedon or throws a wild curve ball into the works. This issue, though, shows he at least knows who the X-men want to be.



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