Ever since Joss Whedon and John Cassaday left Astonishing X-Men, the series seems to have relinquished its flagship status back to Uncanny X-Men. Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez had a fun (and brief) run together, but the subsequent creative teams didn't really appeal to me. So when Marvel put Greg Pak and Mike McKone on this book, that was all I needed to give this title another chance.
The story seemingly takes place shortly after X-Men: Schism, with Cyclops in a rather foul mood after Wolverine took off with half the team. After brooding around for a few pages, Storm shows up to raise Cyclops' spirits and to get his help with some Sentinels. Storm also seems unusually interested in Cyclops, as in she can't take her eyes off of him. And yes, that moment from the cover does happen. And if Emma Frost ever found out about that kiss, then it would probably lead to a second Schism.
McKone's art is the highlight in their first issue together. The characters look great, the panels are easy to follow and McKone (and Pak) seem to know just the right times to break out the splash pages and the larger images. There's also some very strong color work from Rachelle Rosenberg, especially when Storm cuts loose with her powers and during the Sentinels sequence. In short, this is the kind of art I wish we had on Wolverine and the X-Men.
Surprisingly, the primary weakness of this issue came from Pak's script. Although subsequent issues may clear up some of the problems I had with this one, as a standalone issue this is more confusing than it needs to be. And I can't really explain what I mean without a few mild SPOILERS AHEAD!
Last chance to remain unspoiled…
There's some sort of alternate reality at play here, but it's not clear if this story is even taking in place in the Marvel Universe that we know. It superficially resembles the post Schism status quo. But when Storm shows up with a mohawk, no one bats an eye or even mentions it! If even one character had said something along the lines of "I see you're rocking the mohawk again." than it could be overlooked. Without any acknowledgement about how strange it looks now, it only makes me suspect that these aren't the characters we know.
The second thing that seemed off was White Queen's costume, which is either a visual clue as to what's going on or just McKone's interpretation of the outfit.
By the time we meet the villain of this issue, I wasn't even sure if the audience was meant to recognize who it was supposed to be. Some of the alternate reality X-Men look intriguing (one of whom looks a great deal like his X-Men: Evolution counterpart), but this wasn't the strong kickoff I was looking for. Because I've enjoyed Pak on so many other Marvel comics, I'm willing to give him some leeway in telling this story.
But for now, McKone's art is still the best reason to check out this book.
Crave Online Rating: 7/10