Well, that didn’t take long. We’re at part two of Daniel Way and Jason Pearson’s “Astonishing X-Men” storyline, and already we’ve got a fill-in artist stepping in to help get the pages done. That’s the bad news. The good news? It’s Sara Pichelli.
Pearson and Pichelli mesh fairly well here; I suspect that there are some readers who might not even notice the sudden shift from one to the other. Pearson’s art is a little more stark and clean, though, while Pichelli’s characters have more lines on their faces and a bit more energy to their bodies. Both are good, strong artists (and kudos to editor Nick Lowe for thinking of Pichelli as someone to pitch in) but it’s hard to keep from noticing an overall difference in approach. Pearson’s monster looks like a human in a suit, stomping through Tokyo; Pichelli’s monsters look like, well, monsters. I don’t think either take is more appropriate than the other, but the more you look at the comic the more interesting and noticeable it becomes.
As for the story, it’s incredibly by-the-book. Bad guy starts blackmailing the big corporation, the X-Men fight the monster, Armor has to decide which is more important between her family and her teammates. Of course, Armor’s family is the stereotypical Japanese unit too; very concerned with honor, very cold and emotionless, and of course dismissive. The problem is that it makes Armor’s decision that much less complicated. Go save Tokyo with the rest of the X-Men, or hang around your jerk of a father who is metaphorically kicking you in the face over and over again? Don’t take too long to think about this, Armor. (And yet, there’s still more character development for Armor here than in all of her other appearances combined, and I appreciate that.)
Here’s the thing about “Astonishing X-Men” though: Average story and great art isn’t a bad combination, but I’m not convinced it belongs on what’s supposed to be a marquee book. If this story was running in “X-Men” or “Uncanny X-Men” (or any of the other X-Books right now) I don’t think I’d have batted an eye. But for the title that’s supposed to be the big wowie, zowie comic? It’s playing it safe. Way and Pearson may still have a trick or two up their sleeves for us but for now, this is just all right. I’d like to see something bigger and bolder from them if they stick around.