Astonishing X-Men #45 by Greg Pak

Astonishing X-Men #45

a review by Nalini Haynes

In this issue of the Astonishing X-Men, several of the X-Men have been kidnapped and trapped in an alternate universe. None of these X-Men are from the same universe, so they all have different histories and conflicting backstories, including with each other. This is played for humour to leaven the plot where another mutant is trying to steal their powers and kill them. In this segment, none of our heroes are duplicated although they all experience disorientation upon meeting their friends’ counterparts. There is one particular panel that seems to reference Red Dwarf and the multiplicity of Rimmers in the graveyard, a very nice touch.

The artwork is strong black and white line and shading with colour overlaid electronically, including overlaying some of the black lines so that, for example, the black lines surrounding a glowing red column look a darker shade of red. The images are clear, well-drawn and vibrant with colour. The software I used for reading this issue via Comixology was well-done; it was not the best I’ve used to read comics, but it was easy to turn pages, to magnify and to move around the page. The colour of the artwork shows up very well on the computer screen; the comic is vibrant in this medium.

The male characters are very masculine and ripped, with six packs from clenched abs in every panel, regardless of whether they’re naked to the waist like Wolverine or clothed like Cyclops. The women, on the other hand, are overly curvaceous. The initial close-up of Emma shows her in a submissive position, head down, eyes averted, crouching in what amounts to a bell-jar for a human or mutant specimen. Emma’s first words were, ‘I don’t mean to diminish your enjoyment of this manly outburst, but you’re doing a wonderful job of fulfilling all of our enemy’s greatest dreams.’ I’m not sure if this was intended as a dramatic entrance for Emma or a double entendre. Emma’s low-cut sleeveless bodice, long-sleeved gloves, skirt slashed up to the low-cut waistline and thigh-high boots are clearly intended for the male gaze. Shadow, by contrast, showed very little actual skin but her outfit was formfitting. It was interesting to examine Shadow’s appearance in various panels because she wasn’t shown that often. When Shadow was shown, she was often partially obscured by other characters or in strange positions for someone who was running or breaking lights. One noticeable exception was a panel with Cyclops and Shadow shown slightly side on and to the rear. Cyclops’ arm was held back in what looked to be a slightly uncomfortable position for standing, thus obscuring his bottom, while Shadow’s bottom was clearly shown in her form-fitting suit as her arm was forward.

The artwork is dynamic and vibrant. My only reservation is in the visualisation of the characters; I’d like to see more realistic depiction of characters, including less sexualisation of the women: even just toning it down to the movies’ level would be good.  The difficulty I have in reviewing this comic in terms of the story is that it is issue 45 in a series that I haven’t read. The premise for this story – a clash of alternate universes – is one I am biased towards. When done well, these stories are entertaining, bringing freshness and variety into a larger series; Deep Space Nine’s mirror universe is one such example. Bringing a number of characters from various universes can create conflict and misunderstandings between characters that can be very entertaining. As I’ve read Greg Pak’s Vision Machine, I have a high opinion of Greg’s writing and high expectations for the over-arching story.