False Starts, Part Two of Three: Astonishing X-Men #1

Posted by on June 15th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Previously: False Starts Part One.

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #1; Warren Ellis, writer; Kaare Andrews and Frank D’Armata, artists; Marvel Comics; 23+ pp., $3.99, Color

The first issue Astonishing X-Men doesn’t manage to astonish in the least.

It is in fact a perfectly typical kind of start to a perfectly typical kind of X-Men story:  Storm learns of some mutant babies being born in an African city, and the crew goes to investigate.  They get as far as landing the X-plane, and are immediately captured by soldiers.  That’s it.  Most of the actual action in the comic is performed by Emma Frost’s breasts, which continuously and conspicuously do improbable things.

Our mutant heroes spend most of the issue talking about how utterly fucked Africa is:

“Rwanda to the west.  Genocide, corruptions, journalists being disappeared.  Burundi to the southwest.  Civil War, child soldiers, one of the poorest countries on earth.  Uganda to the north.  A million-and-a-half people are refugees in their own country, the army abducts little girls for ‘wives.’  Tanzania to the east.  Massive drugs gateway, one in ten people have HIV. . . .”

Somehow the words “racism” and “colonialism” don’t appear at all in the discussion, and Wolverine comes to sound a bit like Rudyard Kipling:  “African heads o’ state are all the same.  Put ’em in power and they all go nuts. . . .  Ain’t no saints in Africa, is all I’m saying.”

At the same time, the X-men are also clumsily trying to sort out their own internal racial politics.  Team leader Cyclops tries to explain why he needs Storm’s help — “I’m walking two white Americans, a white Canadian, a Japanese girl and a white woman of indeterminate ancestry who speaks with a fake English accent into an African country” — while also hoping to show that he isn’t as dumb as he sounds:  “Not being completely stupid, I recognize that Africa is a continent, not a country.”

All of this makes for some uncomfortable reading, especially since Ellis introduces the Africa theme by lampooning a black family in terms that are worse than tasteless:  “I didn’t know the condom would split,” a panicky African man tells his pregnant wife.  “My father had used it for twenty years without a problem.”

We can hope, I suppose, that in the remaining four issues, this miniseries will move in a better direction — both in terms of plot and politics.  If nothing else, the second issue promises to be funnier:  a one-panel preview shows the X-men baby-sitting a gaggle of little mutant babies, and Emma Frost’s boobs are covered in puke.

That thin glimmer of hope, however faint it may seem, sets the X-Men far above either of the Avengers titles.  It does not, however, qualify it as good.

Next:  The Rape of Dazzler

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One Response to “False Starts, Part Two of Three: Astonishing X-Men #1”

  1. Joe S. Walker says:

    Shoddy writing in that last panel, with the repetition of “your life.”