X is Big Mad: Review of Astonishing X-Men Annual
Comic Review: Astonishing X-Men Annual #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Travel Foreman
Color Artist: Jim Charalampidis
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Rod Reis
If you don’t think Charles Xavier is one of the biggest X-Men villains read this comic. X is big mad in this issue. Astonishing X-Men Annual ends up being one of the best X-men comics since the relaunch. We’ll get there, but first.
The X-Men, the OG X-Men, not the kids, reunite for drinks at a fancy restaurant. They reminisce and tell jokes and kind of do what they should be doing.
X, the reincarnated--if that’s the word, Professor X shows up.
He invites them out to stay in some weird new mansion. The team agrees and they have a nightcap at a bar. Everyone is super nice in town, so they can’t be racist right?
Whatever, it’s weird. Jean knows something is up. X is being creepy AF.
The reveal is that X lured the team here to teach them a lesson and have them do his dirty work.
An Aside, or reason number gazillion the mutant metaphor fails to address racism
Beast is going into the restaurant and held because he has fur. He’s got a visual marker of his identity, sound familiar? Oh, and he broke the dress code, you know, no hats no hoodies kind of thing.
He confronts this by being respectable AF, listing all his honors and degrees and shit. Gross. To put it simply:
If we believe that mutants are a stand in for Black and brown people of color oppressed under white supremacy, we also have to believe that respectability & playing nice is the way to confront that. The X-Men books have pushed respectability for years. Guess who writes the X books? Right, largely white men. You see where respectability gets the X-Men… NOWHERE.
This is a book that’s about nostalgia. Matthew Rosenberg respects these characters, if you didn’t know that from his work on X-Men: Red. It’s clear here. I mean, he learned to read with X-Men comics, so you know that shit is real.
The OG/O4 are funny together. They make hilarious jokes and shade each other like only true friends who have been through it can. It’s believable. It’s subtle. It’s hard to be subtle in a superhero book. But this is and it creates a wonderful tension.
If you don’t like the art, wait for it, it will grow on you (except Beast). Travel Foreman's art and Jim Charalampidis' colors are understated. This helps define the way Astonishing X-Men unfolds in a slow, but steady pace. Also check out the details, including a Hulk was Right t-shirt.
The writing by Matthew Rosenberg nearly perfect. Most of what goes on in these bubbles provide insight into the character that’s speaking. Reach into it.
This is what an annual should be.
Let’s talk about X baby
From his introduction in Astonishing X-Men after the Shadow King arc, X has baffled me. He’s so strange and un-Xavier like, but also just like Charles. He’s always scheming. Chris Hasaan, writing for AiPT! sums up the questions:
How does X have a new mansion when the X-Men control his estate? Why did he have a change of clothes for Jean in his mansion? Is he really going to finish that bottle of liquor before he helps people in need? And most importantly, as Iceman points out, why does X have hair?
He’s so one track minded and really really don't give a F-U-C-K. He is entirely dedicated to his own vision for the X-Men and his agenda.
The comics have always pit Charles and Magneto against each other. Two opposing ideas and different ways of approaching the mutant problem. Comparisons to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X respectively abound.
Another reductive comparison that's anti-Black in nature. X is nothing like Martin Luther King Jr. Reading this comic I get the feeling that there's some unresolved anger that X feels.
There's a sense of desperation in his plan for the team. He carries it out coldly. I think it's anger that propels him toward this behavior, to lie and manipulate his students. I'd like to dive into this more. But after this issue, it's hard to feel like X is on the side of the heroes. He's too unethical, too driven, to much of a liar, and too secretive.
This one's for the fans
This is a great comic if you've followed the team from the beginning. They have a chemistry together that is unable to be replicated. The creative team for the Astonishing X-Men Annual capture this beautifully. If you usually skip annuals, don't skip this one!