X-Men: Now A Little Less Astonishing.

14 08 2013

1376426459The most-talked-about superhero wedding of the decade. Sibling rivalry at its worst. A heartbreaking tale of an alien artist. A world shrouded in ice and on the brink of an apocalypse. These were a few of the memorable moments that Marjorie Liu has shared with us during her all-too-brief tenure on Astonishing X-Men.

What made this book so special in a myriad of comics on the shelf featuring Marvel’s band of mutants?

If comic book readers have learned anything over the past few years, it is that there will never be a shortage of mediocre stories featuring brawls between A-List superhero teams or Wolverine SNIKTing everyone and everything in every title (because, let’s face it, he really IS in every title). Once in a while, though, we are treated to a rare gem that doesn’t rely on a “This changes the Marvel universe forever!” gimmick. If you haven’t been following Marjorie Liu’s run on the Astonishing title, then you’ve left that rare gem buried in the sand.

I have always been a proponent of stories that rely heavily on character development. A story is only as strong as the characters presented in the pages. Looking at her previous work with Marvel (NYX:No Way Home and the X-23 solo series), it should not have come as a surprise to readers that Ms. Liu was going to waste no time in digging through the fluff and getting down to the emotional core of her ragtag band of X-Men.

Whether it be societal prejudices (Northstar and Kyle), familial ties and the trauma of abandonment (Karma and Susan Hatchi), a flirtatious friendship and budding romance (Gambit and Cecelia Reyes), a search for oneself (Warbird), or even the reflection on failed past relationships (Iceman), Astonishing has dealt with an entire airport of baggage that life throws out on a daily basis. An extra dimension was given to these characters which showed readers that they aren’t just swinging fists used to clobber eachother in a battle royale for the fate of the world. They become relatable and empathetic.BRfd6deCQAAIQib

This is not to say that Liu’s run on Astonishing did not have its fair share of knock-em-down, drag-em-out moments. We witnessed Bobby Drake bring about a modern day glacial age that made the Blizzard of ’77 look like a few passing flurries. It doesn’t get more action packed than that. Liu is just constantly aware that if these characters are put in mortal danger, the reader needs to first care about them. That hearkens back to the importance of developing a character and giving the audience a reason to concern themselves with the well-being of said character.  

After the series concludes with issue #68, I will truly miss having Astonishing X-Men as part of my monthly pull list. Marjorie Liu’s knowledge of continuity and passion for the characters coupled with stunning art from the likes of Mike Perkins, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Phil Noto all made for something very special that I will undoubtedly revisit time and time again.

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