Astonishing X-Men, # 25

Comic books characters are like soap opera characters. They face the immense burden of decades of scripts which often span decades. They experience romance and tragedy and success and often repeatedly face death only to be reborn through one contrivance or another. With Astonishing X-Men # 25, the series reboots following the exit of Joss Whedon, who had a successful run with the titular heroes.

Writing for the X-Men is difficult. These are established characters and writers only have so much flexibility with them before they veer outside of what fans might expect and end up discrediting the characters and themselves. Often times it seems that writers will throw a curveball at a character so that their response or failures can be used as new material. This seems to be what happened with Civil War, Secret Invasion, or Knightfall.

Have Mutant Powers, Will Travel

Though these series sold books, fans didn’t necessarily appreciate the radical change in storylines. Tossing a bomb into the mix to shake things up doesn’t have the same panache of a more subtle and nuanced change. That is what happens with this particular book. The series goes in a new direction following the cataclysmic events of previous installations. With the X-Mansion destroyed and most mutants killed, Cyclops and his X-Men move to a new home in San Francisco where they subsist at the behest of numerous benefactors rather than just Professor Xavier. They’ve taken up a new cause– being used as freelance superhuman detectives, working in close concert with the San Francisco Police Department. Though this first issue begins a story which doesn’t necessarily take full advantage of this new career, it gives a tasty example of what kinds of things readers can expect in the future.

The first case that the police summon the X-Men to help solve involves a homicide that was almost certainly the work of a super human or mutant. The body is still burning long after it was killed, and the fire cannot be extinguished. The X-Men must combine their myriad powers to begin searching for a motive and a murderer. This use of the X-Men is very original. Again, this specific story winds up becoming a more traditional X-Men adventure involving aliens and global threats. However the potential for new aspects of storytelling is immense. Stories can focus in on character more rather than the foibles of super powers or mutant affairs. The implications of mutanthood can be felt at the personal, individual level rather than the sociological level that this series is so famous for portraying.

It is great to variation in these types books which don’t rock the boat so much that everyone falls off (example: Batman: No Man’s Land). Marvel Comics has always excelled at producing excellent swerves in story that challenge ideas about character and other higher ideas without tossing the entire concept of a character out the window, with the possible exception of Spider-Man’s recent reboot. Cheers to Marvel for this brave endeavor.

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