Welcome, dear readers, to X-Men: Bland Design, the weekly multi-part recap column that strives to answer the question: “What if Ed Piskor had no art skills, a juvenile sense of humor, and less classic material to work with?”
Each week, we aim to recap what happened in all of the X-books that come out that week, praise the things we like about them, and complain about the things we don’t. This week, there are seven X-Books in stores, which will make a dent in your wallet. But are these comics worth taking out a second mortgage to read?
Let’s look at Astonishing X-Men #9 and find out…
ASTONISHING X-MEN #9
CHARLES SOULE (W) • Matteo Buffagni (A)
Cover by LEINIL FRANCIS YU
NUKE-CLEAR WAR Part 3
• As a reality storm batters London and its inhabitants, PSYLOCKE must choose between trusting the mysterious MAN CALLED X and letting her beloved city fall into ruin.
• The SHADOW KING freed a brand-new threat with his dying throes, but who is this new threat?
• And how can the X-Men hope to stand against an emery that can warp reality itself?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
Charles Soule, Matteo Buffagni, Giadi Marchisio, and Clayton Cowles continue the long, slow, return of X-Men founder Professor Charles Xavier, who was trapped on the astral plane with the Shadow King for a long time. He’s back, though in a younger, possibly evil version that has taken residence in Fantomex’s body and left Fantomex trapped on the astral plane, but so is Proteus, the reality-warping, human-host-consuming son of Dr. Moira McTaggart. Last issue, Proteus asked for a second chance at being a good boy, and Xavier refused. Now the @#$% is hitting the fan.
The issue opens up with a seven-page scene before the title page as reality warps the Prof and Psylocke into some kind of jumbled mess. Old Man Logan refers to it as a “reality storm,” and Gambit notes that it’s fighting. How do they fight it? Archangel has the answer: Proteus’s weakness is metal. He can’t stand the touch of it. Archangel tries to rescue his beloved Psylocke while Logan goes in for the kill, but he’s almost repelled. He continues, manages to get ahold of Psylocke, and shelters her with his metal wings. Logan, meanwhile, does what he does best, which is stabbing people. In this case, Professor FantomeXavier, who he figures will survive it due to Fantomex’s healing factor. Psylocke uses her psychic katana, though sadly she does so without mentioning that it’s “the focused totality of her psychic powers.” Guess she figures we all know that.
It works… sort of. Xavier explains that he didn’t just take over Fantomex’s body. He used it to build a body of his own. That means no healing factor. Oops! Professor X is dead. Has this whole comic been a waste of time?! Is any comic not a waste of time? While we ponder that, time for the title and credits page. Despite taking up two pages, this one doesn’t list the characters in the book, a personal pet peeve, because it assumes that the person reading it is familiar with all of them.
Now we jump across the world to Scotland, where Proteus was born, in the village of Fetters Hill, in a pub called the Red Cat, where three locals named Erroll, Callum, and Sophie are having a drink. They notice a bright green glow coming from outside, and Erroll goes to investigate, only to find Proteus, who says “I’m here to give you what you want.”
Back in London, the X-Men are finally leaving the city, which they’ve spent the better part of eight issues trashing.
This doesn’t go unnoticed by Rogue, who wishes the X-Men didn’t do so much damage, but Gambit assures her they had no choice and the place would have been destroyed by the Shadow King and later Proteus if they didn’t intervene. These kind of philosophical questions are too big to delve into here though. Gambit asks Mystique how Professor X is doing. Mystique, with a flair for the dramatic, uses her shape-shifting powers to transform into the old school version of Professor Xavier. She points out that the guy in the medical bay isn’t him, but “X,” and they don’t know him at all.
In the medical bay, Bishop and Psylocke are taking care of X. Bishop figures it’s time for some X-pository dialogue about his character, so he explains to Psylocke that he’s constantly obsessed with the world ending, in all the ways it can end, and trying to stop it. He’s from the future. The Proteus attack in London, according to his database, is one potential apocalypse. That event leads to something called “The Mindkiller Apocalypse,” in fact, but Bishop doesn’t know anything else about it. Psylocke thinks it has to be Proteus, but Bishop is not so sure. Logan barges in and asks Psylocke where they should go next. Psylocke has a strong plot urge to head north, to Scotland.
Back in the village, Proteus has gathered all the townspeople and is granting wishes. He gives a young girl a puppy, created out of thin air, for instance. Before he can continue granting wishes, they’ll need their privacy, so he uses his powers to create a gigantic wall around the town. Great, Proteus is just a glowing green version of Trump. He also stocks the wall with an army of medieval warriors, with some monstrous cavalry on the ground. Proteus and Erroll ponder the mysteries of life as it relates to Proteus’s power. Proteus enlightens Erroll, and the entire town, in his own unique way.
At this exact moment, on the Blackbird en route to Scotland, X wakes up. He says he knows what Proteus is planning. He wants to bring the astral plane to Earth. In the village, apparently, Proteus has given people the power to grant their own wishes. Erroll, of course, is a massive dick. What he wants is Sophie. Callum is his rival. So he makes Callum explode. Ah, human nature. TO BE CONTINUED…
Since Xavier returned, this comic has been moving more quickly, even if it feels slow because it only comes out once per month, unlike the other X-books. Four ongoing core X-titles (three of which ship twice-monthly) might seem like too many X-Books, but that’s the world we live in. Of the four, only X-Men Gold annoys us on a regular basis. The story of this reborn, potentially evil Professor Xavier is compelling enough to drive the story a bit longer, but hopefully Xavier’s return is wrapped up after this arc and we can get onto other stories.