Comic Reviews: Astonishing X-Men, Onslaught, Batman, Inc

Like a fun Sci-Fi Movie
Astonishing X-Men # 38 – “Meanwhile” Part One
This issue reads like a fun sci-fi movie. It’s great – it’s almost like a cross-over comic I read a decade ago where Superman ends up on the planet with the Aliens from Alien. In fact, the X-Men go to investigate a space station and the plot more or less becoems the plot to Alien. However, it’s quite compressed and ends up with a crazy ending. The character designs are a lot of fun – love the new Beast look. (New for me, at least) I don’t care that this book doesn’t fit into the timeline with the rest of the X-Men books, it’s a ton of fun to read. Another book for my ever-increasing pull list.

A Fitting Start to the Series that Revamped Marvel in the mid-90s
X-Men: Complete Onslaught Epic # 1 – Volume 1
While I know, generally, what the outcome of the Onslaught story arc leads to, I never had a chance to read it when it was new. A combination of needing to spend my meager allowance elsewhere and my mother cutting off access to the comic shop (for reasons I’ve explained before), left me stopping just short of Onlsaught. (I have a bunch of prelude comics) But this powerhouse team, including the great Scott Lobdell has made for a great experience and I didn’t care that I knew what happened at the end, I wanted to know the details.

The first issue was awesome. I loved the insight into Jean Grey’s mind. It was neat to see what a telepath has to do through on a daily basis. Also, the un-Mary Sue-ing of Professor X was a greatly needed plot point to deepen the character. Second issue also great, although Juggernaut acted really weird considering he wanted the X-Men to help him. Won’t knock on the front door. Destroys camera. Hurts Gambit and Cable. He finally gets a bit reasonable when he meets Jean and now I understand. He just didn’t want Charles to know he was there. The Proff is acting very strange. It’d be very disconcerting if I didn’t already know the story’s reveal. Next book: Traitor to the Cause: Love the Prolog. Gives you a sense of forboding. Also, the Onslaught reveal to the X-Men was awesome. Very well done. I was a huge fan of the cartoon and that ended before Onslaught so it was great to finally see Bishop realize who he’d been after all along. X-Men #335 was a great rest from action. It gave the characters a chance to collect their thoughts and make sure the reader was up to speed. I may have hated it if I was collecting them back then. But as part of the collected book it works very well. Avengers #401 was annoying because it’s one over-reaction after another. I wish everyone would just slow up a bit. Fantastic Four #415 was an amazing and action-packed issue. It was great seeing FF fight so fiercely to protect Franklin. The last two issues with Cable, Hulk and Storm were a great way to end the book, although I’m not 100% sure where they fit into the timeline. I feel like they perhaps take place a little earlier or maybe it’s just that I got confused with earlier references to Cable. While this book collects all of the main Onslaught story, there’s apparently some other stuff going on on the side in other comics.

I can’t wait to get volume TWO!

Astonishing X-Men # 39 – Monstrous, Part 3
I just jumped into Astonishing X-Men. I thought I was in luck because my comic shop had both issues 38 and 39! But, nope, in an attempt to convey that these two missions were happening concurrently, they have nothing to do with each other. So I have to admit that I’m missing a bit of what’s going on in Japan with Scott’s team other than what’s in the intro. Still, it is an interesting issue. It has Fin Fang Foom, who I haven’t seen since the early 1990s in an Iron Man issue. It has this Japanese X-Men code-named Armor who has the awesome power of using her psi powers to create a psi-mecha for fighting with. Apparently Monster Island (from the Godzilla movies?) exists. And they’ve introduced some limits to Emma due to the tech the bad guy’s using.

My only gripe is that the art’s a little wonky. I don’t know if it’s par for the course in Astonishing, but Wolverine, in particular, looks really weird. The way he’s drawn, it’s as if you took an SD image of Logan and then scrunched it for HD without also stretching it. He looks squat and overly fat is kinda what I’m trying to say here. Every panel with closeups of Wolverine, especially of his face, really took me out of the experience. And that sucked.

But overall the book was …. interesting. Not awesome or exciting. If I didn’t have issue 38 (which I really liked), I probably wouldn’t have added Astonishing to my pull list. Hopefully things pick up again in the next issue that follows this story arc.

So this is the Morrison Everyone’s Been Talking About?
Batman, Incorporated # 1 – Mr. Unknown is Dead
The way people were reacting to the fact that they though Batman, Inc would be erased by the DC Revamp (called reboot back then), you’d think this was an amazing book! Ok, ok, that was a needlessly controversial statement considering that I’ve only read the first issue. Still, I think people have talked it up so much that it ruined it for me. I was expecting the greatest thing I’d ever read and got something good, better than average, but not great.

As someone who’s been a Nipponophile for a long time, I enjoyed the fact that Batman’s first stop is Japan. He’s there to find Mr. Unknown and recruit him into Batman, Inc. Unfortunately, Lord Death Man wants Mr. Unknown out of the picture. A lot of people have complained about the name Lord Death Man, but I just view it as probably a poor translation into english. As often happens when going from one language to another, I bet it’s supposed to sound evil and bad-ass in Japanese and just comes across cheesy in English. I’m bilingual and so is my wife (but in different languages) so we often amuse each other by making the most literal translation possible. For example, in her language, lawnmower is “the box that cuts the grass”. Anyway, I loved all the subtle Japanese references like Catwoman not getting the point of hentai tentacle porn. Which makes the ending so poetic!!

I was confused with the alias Catwoman used to get into the country with Bruce and, at first, I thought it was some other woman. Looking around at other reviews here reveals that it’s an alias she used back in the Golden Age. It’s always funny when non-canon (in the current universe/Earth) like that sneaks into comics. A nice little wink/nod. Although, the way Catwoman and Batman are acting in this issue really makes me think that DC is going to have to fabricate a huge fight between the two if they want to go ahead with their plans to have Selina alone after the September reboot. They seem REALLY close in this issue. Heck, I even feel like an early panel implies that they had sex before going to find Mr. Unknown.

Overall, it’s not a baaaaad issue. I just wasn’t as impressed as I’d been led to think I should be.

Batman, Incorporated # 2 – Resurrector
I didn’t care too much for the first issue of Batman, Inc. This one redeems the series. It’s a shame Midtown Comics didn’t have issues 3 and 4 because issue three appears to involve a Mexican Batman. Anyway, I enjoyed a few things about this book:

-Catwoman’s fate re: the diamond from issue
-While Batman stays true to his rule about never killing a villian, I think what he does to Lord Death Man is infinitely worse!
-The art is great

The only thing I didn’t like was a little bit of the dialog sounded weird in some panels. Overall, a great book. I’m curious, though, how we will end up following these International Batmen. Do we have to wait for the 2012 relaunch of Batman, Inc? Do they come in and out of the other dozen Batman books? I really want to see more stories with these guys!