An Ambitious Occasion
Because I'm so excited for the upcoming Northstar wedding, along with hearing postive things about the writer Marjorie Lui, I decided to pick up Astonishing X-Men #50, a book I quite back around issue 36. I am glad to see Northstar receive a character evolution much like those received by straight counterparts like Spider-Man and Mary Jane, or Cyclops and Jean Grey. Northstar has been an openly gay character for around 20 years, and it makes sense that it would be time for him to take the next step. Even though Marvel has been out promoting this milestone event, it doesn't feel like a gimmick or a money grab to me. Because of this story I will continue to support this book for the next few months, but I don't see Lui's writing winning me over to stay with her run for the long-haul.
The largest weakness of the book is Lui's writing. She is clearly a talented young writer, but has either not yet had enough experience with team books or just does not understand the superhero genre very well. The main plot of this book, which has nothing to do with the wedding, is highly underwhelming. It's another one of those, we have to find the enemy hideout stories that are so common and forgettable. Also, Northstar's husband-to-be gets kidnapped...for at least the second time this year (see the most recent Alpha Flight 8-issue mini-series), yawn. It is never outright bad, but it is nothing that stands out as thought provoking or high stakes.
The dialogue also leaves much to be desired. It is certainly never outright bad either, but it feels very much soap opera speak. Bobby's characterization is spot on, but everyone else seems way too focused on talking about their emotions while in the heat of battle. I love for my characters to have emotional depth, but it makes for stiff speech, and I feel like Marjorie Lui doesn't yet understand that to show is better than to tell.
Deathbird's appearance in this team doesn't make much sense to me either, even if Wolverine does want to keep her away from the kids, she's just as much a liability in the field as she would be at the school. Besides the character has never been interesting or more than one-dimensional, and Lui doesn't do much to improve upon that.It almost feels as if this character was included as an editorial mandate, and Lui is trying her hardest to find some way to shoe horn her in.
The art in this issue has similar problems. It is self explanatory by looking at his art that Mike Perkins also has a lot of talent, but consistency is lacking in the characters, and anatomy sometimes feels off. My guess would be that this was due to a rushed schedule, because the faults are so minimal that they seem like the thing that would usually be edited out by the end of inking. With a more exuberant color pallet, I may not have even noticed, but the dull, greyish hue throughout this book add an extra lens to scrutinize Perkin's art.
Overall, this issue is only really satisfying as a set up for next issue's wedding. If that doesn't interest you, then skip this book. Lui and Perkins are both talents to watch, but neither seems ready to be placed on a book with this magnitude of press, nor do they provide work that I think is worthy of the additional price of the $3.99 price tag usually reserved for the well-vetted cream of the crop like Geoff Johns, James Robinson, or Brian Michael Bendis.