Warren Ellis’ “Astonishing X-Men” immediately declares itself a different beast from Joss Whedon’s. The school days are over, the X-Men are back from outer space and relocating to the City By the Bay, where they go to work as consultants for the SFPD, and, visually reversing a now-iconic panel from “Astonishing X-Men” #1, abandon the Whedon era spandex for outfits that suggest the team’s new stylist is plundering the Army surplus.
When they’re called in to inspect a body at a crime scene, it briefly looks like we’re in for “CSI: SF: X-Men Division,” but Ellis is just throat-clearing before he gets to a story almost as complex as the one in “Days of Future Past.” (Cyclops complains throughout that he’s getting a headache from the convoluted explanations by Hank “Beast” McCoy, and the average reader can expect to share in Cyclops’ pain.)
The X-Men have found a mutant-mimicking triploid, (a human with an artificial third strand of DNA). Examination of a Ghost Box helps them determine that the triploid was killed by a mutant from a parallel dimension, suggesting there’s an annihilation war to which Earth is not privy – yet. Traveling to Tian, a hidden five-mile garden of Eden in China, the X-Men run into an old friend. Or enemy. Or frenemy. It’s not always easy to keep X-Men allegiances straight.
Whereas Whedon’s run relied on humorous dialogue and almost constant surprises, Ellis settles for a straight-ahead detective story that jabbers with enough jargon to stump the good folks at the Human Genome Project. More successful are Simone Bianchi’s unconventional panels and stunning artwork.
RATING : GOOD ENOUGH