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Astonishing X-Men - Volume 5: Ghost Box Paperback – Dec 9 2009
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One of the few things I found interesting about Astonishing X-Men Ghost Box would be the 4 mini-stories put at the end of this TPB. They are most definitely worth a read if you have finished reading through the Ghost Box arc.
Before I mention anything about the art, art style is a personal style so take this with a grain of salt. The art style also takes some getting used to. Simone Bianchi's style is quite unique and a fresh way of colouring comics but the character models are unrealistic in a disturbing way. Every single character has their ribs literally popping out of their bodies with absolutely no muscle or fat which makes them all look a bit sickly.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Those familiar with Ellis' writing will instantly recognise the wild sci-fi elements and snarky dialogue that are his trademarks, but he manages to find the characters' voices pretty well from the get-go -- seeming to have the most fun with the acid-tongued Emma and the hyper-intelligent Beast. The snappy banter, weird science and alternate reality mumbo-jumbo come thick and fast as the X-men investigate a bizarre murder and follow the ensuing trail of destruction around the world, finally discovering a familiar face at the heart of the mystery.
Bianchi's painted artwork is often beautiful to look at, and his darker palette matches the tone of the story well. However, his figures are occasionally caught in quite awkward poses, or suffer from an almost Hellenistic tendency to over-gesture or over-emote. Fight scenes, too, can be hard to follow, thanks in part to the aforementioned dark colour scheme, but mostly due to Bianchi's framing, which stays close in on the action and leaves little in the way of breathing room. In quieter moments, Bianchi's unconventional framing is eye-catching and inventive, but once the action hots up, things can get a little claustrophobic and confusing.
At the original time of printing there were complaints of the storyline moving too slowly, but the main issue, I think, is in the story's climax, which seems a little rushed and lacking in weight. To illustrate: the main story is supplemented by four short "what if" style tales that focus on alternate realities and what might have happened if things had played out differently, and it is only here that we see the full scale of what the X-men were facing. It's a shame that the same threat wasn't conveyed more strongly in the main story, as there is a bit of a lack of "wow factor" there, despite the explosive finish.
Still, all told, there is plenty of good stuff going on here, and fans of Ellis or the previous Astonishing X-men books should give this one a read.
Ghost Box has an interesting concept behind it (spoiler: parallel universes) and throws in some interesting details about how the X-Men work, like telepathically learning the native language of the foreign country they happen to be in. There are maybe two moments of brilliant dialogue. Plus, it has original panel/page layouts at every step, mostly enjoyable since you don't see them very often - but here the positive aspects end.
The art is, well, let's call it "unrealistic" and leave it at that; by the time you're halfway through the volume, you will have grown tired of seeing everyone's mouths open as if shouting. The concept is tackled only superficially, pretty much like the Dangerous volume, while the "What If" stories present much more interest than the main one. The are contradictions with previous volumes (so at the end of the day, how good is Beast with computers?) as well as previous personality traits (is Armor shy-"I don't know what to do" or extremely cheeky to her teammates? Is Emma really saying "I shall simply..." on every page?!).
So: if you're into the series, by all means do add this to the collection. Just don't expect it to blow your mind, because overall it looks like a good idea gone bad somewhere along the line. I'm giving it the fourth star only for Abigail Brand's appearances, which were well-written, and the "What If" stories.
The Ghost Boxes story ends quickly, halfway through the book. This turns out to be a plus, as the latter half of the book is devoted to what could have happened had the X-men not dealt with the problem. It's a cool concept, and I find myself re-reading this book over and over. And that's the best endorsement. Great job, X-team!
In fact, that seems to be the problem with almost the whole book. This kind of threat, the kind of humor, the kind of emphasis on sex, etc. seems like rehashes of old Ellis ideas forced on the X-Men. These kinds of ideas can work in other contexts; Ellis has proven that. But this whole book feels phoned in, and it is certainly not a worthy successor to Whedon/Cassaday.
That said, I did like the idea of Cyclops being the "best super-hero on the planet." It is, after all, what he's trained for since his teens, and he should be a professional. His self-confidence here was a nice change from the angsty, self-doubting Cyke I've suffered through in the past.
Still, this one will be donated to my public library very soon.