Call to Arms
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Brandon Peterson (penciler), Tim Townsend and Dan Panosian (inkers), Liquid! (colors), Jon Babcock (letters)
Summary: Following the dissolution of the X-Men, only Cyclops, Phoenix, and Wolverine remain. When Nina of the Mannites sends a distress call, Phoenix calls upon Cable, X-Man, and Archangel for help. They travel to Bastion’s former headquarters in New Mexico, only to discover that all of the government agents stationed there are dead. Inside the complex, the team finds the Mannites, along with the dismembered head of Bastion. When a mystery figure wrecks havoc through the facility, Nina teleports the Mannites away and then leaves with the team. Eventually, Death emerges from the rubble, holding Bastion’s head.
· Cyclops questions how Bastion is still alive, following the events of the Machine Man/Bastion annual.
· The Mannites have returned to Bastion’s former base because they couldn’t deal with the outside world. No mention is made of Renee Majcomb, who was last seen caring for them. As for the Mannites that go missing in the final pages of the story, Nina claims: “They didn’t want to be here, Jean. They had to go…somewhere else.”
Review: Astonishing X-Men was hyped months in advance as a mystery project that would have massive repercussions for the entire X-line. Long before its release, Marvel ran a series of house ads, teasing all of the potential members of the all-new X-team. Polaris? Sunfire? Forge? Longshot? Sabretooth? Blink?! What did it all mean? All the audience knew was that Brandon Peterson was assigned as the artist, and Magneto Rex aside, this indicated at the time that Marvel was pretty serious about the project. Then Howard Mackie was announced as the writer. And then the readers saw that the team consisted mostly of current members of the X-Men, or other mutants with their own books. Plus, the story centered on the Mannites. And the collective response seemed to be “Forget it!” (or any vulgar variation of that phrase you can think of.)
So, yes, Astonishing X-Men turned out to be largely filler, designed to run simultaneously with the “Shattering” crossover. There is a “major” event during the miniseries, one that could’ve easily run in the regular titles, and it was hardly a great surprise by the time the story was actually published.
The first issue of the book sets up the premise, as clumsily and blandly as you might expect a Howard Mackie story to do the job, reintroducing us to Bastion and Mannites. Bastion’s back to life without explanation, and the Mannites have apparently returned to the facility that created them with barely a reference to their ongoing subplot in Uncanny X-Men and X-Men. Apocalypse’s Horseman Death seemingly wants them dead, and somehow they’re able to hide from him during the numerous hours it takes the “new” X-Men team to assemble from across the globe and arrive. Conveniently, he returns right after the team lands, and this time manages to destroy the entire facility. That’s not much of a plot, but it could’ve been salvaged if Mackie could somehow create an entertaining dynamic for the team. Instead, they’re generic heroes just going through the motions, waiting for the shocking event that’s allegedly going to justify this miniseries. Even if Brandon Peterson was at the top of his game (and, judging by that cover, he clearly isn’t), he couldn’t do enough to save this.