Among other things, ASTONISHING X-MEN #7 delivers an engaging new twist to the X-Men mythos, which is a bit of a relief considering this book could have easily suffered from an identity crisis. Where other Marvel staples like Spider-Man and Captain America really don’t change much, and if so not for long, The X-Men’s only common thread is that what defines them is not likely to define them for long; fitting for a team of characters that represent the next stage in human evolution. With easily the most dynamic stories in the Marvel Universe, fitting them neatly into Marvel’s LEGACY initiative may seem like a challenge. With so much history, what do you choose to highlight? The short answer is everything, with this incarnation featuring several time-displaced fan favorites.
In a lot of ways, the X-Men pre-boarded the nostalgia train with Brian Michael Bendis’ ALL-NEW X-MEN series, and in even more ways they’ve always been about nostalgia. It would be easy for any writer to overplay their hand with an X-book right now, get overly explain-y trying to bring the reader down a nostalgia trip that ultimately ends up being a tangled mess of plots and characters, but the great thing about the X-Men is they’ve always been a tangled mess of plots and characters in the most amazing. That means that while the X-Men don’t really need a Legacy book, they are perfect for one. Writer Charles Soule seems to know that already, and what makes this issue so great is that he doesn’t treat it like the other Legacy books, he just lets the X-Men be the X-Men.
ASTONISHING X-MEN #7 sees the X-Team of many eras introduced to a conspicuously young and not dead Charles Xavier. Aside from Psylocke’s initial skepticism, there’s nothing about this new Xavier’s attitude to suggest he’s malevolent, just irresponsible. He dubs his first actions after escaping the Astral Plane as “miracles” and it may seem at first like this new Xavier has come back with a boost to his power, but he doesn’t do anything the old Xavier couldn’t, just a lot of stuff he wouldn’t. In a lot of ways it’s a flip on the Joseph character fans got to know in the 90’s: a clone of the villain Magneto with none of the villainous tendencies.
This new Xavier, who likes to be called “X” for obvious reasons and assumedly to really drive home how young and cool he is, shares a lot with cult favorite character Quentin Quire. Both are reckless with too much power that they’re not afraid to use. X still keeps his composure and doesn’t talk much differently from the real deal, but something about the words coming from the youngest guy in the room can make them seem a bit more arrogant. Already we can taste the conflict to come: Punk Charles using his power to lead instead of his mind, two different things even if they don’t seem like it.
Where the X-Men’s history can seem a bit convoluted, the visual element by Phil Noto is anything but. Describing it as meticulous would be an understatement, as Noto seems to be hyper-aware line placement and the emotion he wants to convey in each panel. This is especially true with faces. Even in a static frame, there’s a kind of energy in the wrinkles on the elderly Logan’s face that follows the action.
Noto’s attention to detail extends to his inks, with a “less is more” approach that leans heavily into the realm of realism. Certain lines don’t seem inked at all, a move that somehow accentuates those areas where it should do the opposite, and subtle shading leaves the whole thing with a mostly minimalist vibe, save for the pencils.
This issue sets up a narrative that is bound to be both a great flip on the status quo and a story that stays faithful to what makes the X-Men great. While there’s a lot of crossover between the two, doing it right is still no easy task. If you missed out on the first arc, ASTONISHING X-MEN #7 is the perfect spot to get into the action!
(W) Charles Soule (A) Phil Noto (CA) Mike Deodato