It's strange to see the "Astonishing X-Men" name, which just a few years ago was attached to the flagship title of the X-books, having changed so much in the last year. With Joss Whedon's departure from "Astonishing X-Men" not having fixed its shipping and scheduling issues, shifting the book over to being a series of mini-series is almost certainly the better idea, and it lets creators attached not have to worry quite so much about how the comic fits in with the rest of the titles being published.
With Warren Ellis' "Astonishing X-Men" collaboration with Phil Jimenez temporarily on hiatus, we're now getting this story about the X-Men going to an African nation where a series of children that look an awful lot like mutants are being born, despite the lack of any new mutants on the planet. At this point, though, it's hard to not have a strong feeling of dejÃ vu surrounding "Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis," because to anyone who's read "Captain Britain" comics (or even the follow-ups that occurred in "Excalibur") this is feeling an awful lot like the Warpies appeared during the legendary "Jasper's Warp" story.
It's hard to say if this is an homage to that earlier story, or merely a retread; while the basic cause is similar to what created the Warpies, the exact details are different, this time connected to an earlier story by Ellis. Complicating the matter is that Ellis has also brought in Joseph N'Dingi (sometimes called Doc Croc), whose scarred appearance had to do with a disastrous encounter with a Warpy child. It's clear that Ellis knows that he's going down a similar path that Alan Moore and then Jamie Delano traveled, and the appearance of this somewhat obscure character seems to be a nod in that direction.
I suspect more people are going to be fixated on Kaare Andrews's rather different interpretations of how these characters look. Purists might find themselves horrified to see that Emma Frost now barely comes up to Cyclops's shoulder and is in desperate need of a cheeseburger, Storm has a mohawk again, and Beast looks like a comic strip cat's head squashed onto a body. In terms of a "this series is supposed to fit in with everything else being published in the X-books family" take, it doesn't work. But looked at merely as, "a different, slightly off to one side story by two big creators" project, it's fun to look at. Storm looks awfully cool under Andrews's purview, and the baseball caps look so ludicrous that they're awesome. (That said, Cyclops's face is so obviously patterned after actor James Marsden that it becomes distracting.) There are some oddities along the way (who knew that Emma Frost had to push her breasts at soldiers in order to use her powers?) but on the whole it's a neat if strange looking finished product.
"Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis" #2 isn't bad, but it's moving at a slightly slow and overly deliberate pace. I'd have liked to see some more plot progression here, considering this is only a five issue story. Still, as a strange side-step from the rest of the X-books, "Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis" is a nice way to take a break from the doom and gloom of "Second Coming" and relish in the weirdness.