You Can Call Me X (Astonishing X-Men #6 Comic Review)

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Life, Death, and Rebirth. For the X-Men, hope is in short supply. But the game is not yet done.

ASTONISHING X-MEN #6: LIFE OF X PART 6
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Colorist: Mike Del Mundo & Marco D’Alfonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What You Need To Know:
Locked in a deadly game of winner takes all, Xavier and the Shadow King use the X-Men as nothing more than mere pawns. When one attacks the other counters. After releasing and insidious psychic disease on London, Farouk stands on the precipice of victory with Gambit, Logan, and Bishop under his control. Xavier is all but defeated with 3 pawns left in play, one desperate measure, and a plan.

What You’ll Find Out:
When Bishop falls, Angel and Psylocke are all that stands between London and the Shadow King’s deadly psychic infection. The infection quickly spreads with every touch and the Ministry of Defense deems the situation to critical to leave anything to chance and enacts a mass termination protocol that will wipe out the city. Psylocke is left with no other choice. Warren releases the Archangel and enters into direct combat with Gambit and Logan.

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On the astral plane, Xavier at long last makes his move. He has prepared the last of his X-Men for a desperate assault in a last-ditch effort to save their lives. Capitalizing on his arrogance, Rogue, Mystique, and Fantomex launch their attack taking Farouk by surprise. The king has overextended himself and underestimated his opponent. Controlling Gambit, Logan, and now Bishop, coupled with his efforts to spread his plague on the mortal plane while in an endless struggle with his oldest enemy was just enough to allow Charles Xavier his freedom, and Amahl Farouk his demise.

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The danger is not over yet. The infection grows to its climax and is about to overrun the perimeter. When all seems lost, Fantomex sacrifices himself, allowing Charles Xavier to inhabit his mind and body and return to the living.

What Just Happened?
Arrogance has always been Farouk’s calling card. Charles Soule uses the Shadow King’s malicious primal nature as the perfect vehicle to usher in a storyline which will undoubtedly be considered central to Xavier’s story. When his return was announced, some derided the move citing that it cheapened his ultimate sacrifice after his death in AvX, (Avengers Vs X-Men 2012,) while others praised the decision for being in line with Marvel’s newest initiative, “Legacy.”

Let’s be realistic. No X-Man ever stays dead. Believing otherwise would be foolish. In some way shape or form, we are never long without them. Sometimes they come in different packages like time displaced teens, alternate reality versions, or elder depictions, but ultimately the inevitable return is realized. Are there X-Men currently among the deceased? Sure. Banshee, Rusty Collins, or Thunderbird are prime examples. But the question is, for how long? You’d have to be living under a rock to not know by now that Wolverine has already clawed his way back and very soon Jean Grey will make her firey arrival. With Legacy firmly entrenched in the return of main characters, it’s only a matter of time before Marvel addresses the big ruby quartz elephant in the room.

The X-Men are not the Walking Dead. Marvel doesn’t have the cajones to kill off one character by virtue of introducing another and repeating the same formula over and over. Does that cheapen the preexisting storyline or original death? Not really, at least in my opinion because death is a relative term and “coming back” in one way or another has always been the mainstay of comics especially for the X-Men. So to expect anything less would ultimately setting unrealistic expectations.

The outcry was deafening all throughout the All-New, All-Different, and NOW! eras. Marvel took a risk by killing off or exiling characters that in some cases had been around since the 60’s and introduced new iterations. Women, Muslims, gays, or racially diverse characters donned former mantles while their predecessors departed. Fans simply wouldn’t have it.

In response, Marvel did a 180 and trekked back toward the safe path to appease those who refuse to acknowledge or realize that all stories have their end in order to begin new ones. The inevitable catch-22. Here too, fans have criticized what some determine to be defining moments for characters or a title ruined by return or resurrection. Is Xavier’s death during the crescendo of AvX at the hands of his symbolic son suggest that the legacy of the event is meaningless? No. Not for me. I’ve come to terms with the concept. But for many other readers who have repeated so frequently that “I don’t like what Marvel is doing now!” Which is it? You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

To bring it back full circle, though I prefer risks and long to see departure, permanent change, and new characters, I am clearly among the minority. So if you can’t beat em’, join em’. It’s under this premise that if the resurrection is not only expected but a given, the real judgment lies in the method in which it was done.

I’ve said before that Charles Soule has done an exemplary job with Astonishing X-Men. He was given a directive and had to determine the best means to achieve it. Starting perhaps most significantly with the Onslaught arc in 1996, the mythos of Xavier as the paternal noble teacher has unraveled to provide a character with one dimension some depth. Soule uses Xavier’s relatively new shades of grey nature for further exploration culminating in a story in which he faces one of his oldest foes who is a stark contrast yet share a significant commonalities. But Soule seemed to know one thing. He couldn’t just put the man back in the chair with his plaid vests and ties and hit the resume button. That would be cheap. It seems that the stage has been set for a new type of Xavier. Though the nature his intent has yet to be revealed, at least in some limited context with leash firmly in hand, the character may have some new terrain to explore, however restricted that may be.

Rating: 9.5/10
Final Thought:
The Life of X arc reaches its conclusion and offers plenty of spotlight for fan favorites. Soule’s work should be commended for creativity. While clearly working within the confines of Legacy’s mandates, he manages to achieve real potential and a solid springboard for Xavier’s future.

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