Freshly Brood X-men
First off, let me start how thrilled I was when I heard of the concept for this story. While all the X-men that I personally get far too much of: Scott, Emma and Wolverine (yes, I love Wolvie but he is everywhere and it annoys me now) are off In Japan all the characters I really like get to have an adventure together in a small team (seriuosly if they could have only worked rouge in here somewhere it would be perfect for me) So basically I was sold from the get go. How well Marvel's promise that Astonishing will finally fit clearly into main continuity is yet to be seen.
The Story(spoilers will be light, but there none-the-less)
Out in space we see Agent Brand and many SWORD members fighting off a swarm of Brood on a spacestation called Pandora's Box. SWORD's team is quickly dropping in numbers when Brand orders the last survivor to leave without her.
Back on Earth, Hank (Beast, tho I shouldn't have to tell you that) has come to the X-men for help. However the only X-men still there are Storm, Colossus and Kitty. He tells them that this spacestation was working on a proceedure to remove a brood larvae from it's host without killing the host. They were successful, but the brood queen they had in captivity for the tests escaped and freed her offspring. As the results of the reaserch are considered very valuable, SWORD will allow Beast to try and save the results, equipment and any survivors. However, if he fails the station will be obiltorated to prevent Brood spread.
The team quickly agrees to aid him and before they head off to Pandora's Box they stop at The Peak to pick up Lockheed. When they arrive at the all too quiet space station They follow Hank's nose untill they find a safe room with Brand and the station's scientist inside. She informs the X-men that she and the scientists only survived because they have been infected. Hope remains tho, as Brand explains that the equipment should all be intact as the Brood wish to use it theirselves. The brood hopes to use the tech to allow their larvae to mature, then be removed so another larvae may take inplace, Using one living host to eventually grow several Brood offspring theriselves before dying.
The X-men and survivors then go off to retrieve the equipment and fight off a swarm of brrod in the process. Yet in the end thay are all abel to escape with all the tech and survivors, leaving the brood stranded on the space station ready to be blown up by the Peak. But before they are abel to get to a medical center to use the equpiment and cure the survivors, Brands infection begins to take control.
I felt the that this issue was very well written. The past of all the cahracters involved was obviously kept in mind (Hank's falling out with Scott, Lockheeds experience with the brood and so on) so research was obviously present. Also even with a heavy threat of parasitic alien invasion, the title was able to get a great deal of emotion and humor through. Particulally noteworthy was Kitty's reunion with Lockheed. Hilarious and yet very sweet. We got a few more subtle glimpses of Hank and Abigail's relationship and how it has pregressed since the ill-fated SWORD title. My only real complaint here is that at times, Storm's speech and phrasing seemed somewhat off. Something about the way she spoke just felt weird at moment.
This was kind of the wild card for the issue. The art generally had agood feel and fit the atmosphere of the story quite well, but the best way to describe it overall would be to say it was inconsitant. There are alot of great backgrounds, scenes, expression and angles in this book, but every now and then something would look a bit off. The quality of Kitty's face in particular varies noticably from frame to frame. But overall the really good panels make up for the less-than-stellar ones for me. My only real grievence with the art is how Beast is portrayed. Not only does his appearance change drastically frame to frame, but aside from one or two images he looks terribly odd throughout. only in a few panels does he really look like his cat-like self, the rest of the time he mainly looks like some blue cross between a Klingon and those yeti creatures from the Darkstalker series. This is a somewhat small complaint, but as Beast is the main reason I picked this title up, it did cost them in the overall score.
This certainly wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it was a far stretch form the worst and I certainly didn't feel bad for having bought it. The title set up the exposition of a story in a very entertaining way (many set up issues do far worse and rely on later issues for the real quality of the book to come about) Having already established a good dynamic of both mood and character in it's first issue, I imagine the rest of this story will only be better.
If you like these characters, you will probably enjoy this issue as well ass they are all portrayed very true to character (aside from the few afeomentioned blips with Storm) Overall this issue was a great introduction for a story that will allow some of the lesser exposed characters some time to shine without the bigger names around to steal the spotlight.