In the East African city of Mbangwi, a new-born crackles with electricity and explodes, taking out an entire hospital. The X-Men – in this incarnation, a team comprised of Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Emma Frost, Storm and Armour – soon learn this isn’t the first manifestation of possible mutation; there have been a spate of similar births. Could this be the mutant rebirth the X-Men have been praying for since their kind was decimated on M-Day?
ASTONISHING X-MEN: XENOGENSIS can be read as a standalone, but Warren Ellis dips into subplots he’d sparked in his earlier run on Astonishing X-Men, specifically relating to Ghost Box technology. He introduces Joshua N’Dingi, whose militants have been charged with executing the babies to protect the population, much to the obvious chagrin of the X-Men, who believe they have the facilities to care for these children, and want to find an amicable solution. But N’Dingi is accustomed to the West’s idea of ‘help;’ as he says, “What happens when you good people inevitably get bored of aiding an African country? What happens when you give my people hope and you fail, and they learn of their child’s slow, agonized death?” N’Dingi’s methods are brutal, but he can live with that burden, with that young blood on his hands, if it means the civilian population is safe. Before the X-Men can argue the point, a paranormal threat emerges, and both sides are forced to work together…
Kaare Andrews’ art is polarizing: his over-sexualisation of the female characters is irksome, because he’s a superstar artist, and his renderings of the X-Men in action are fantastic. All of his characters are exaggerated – nobody is as broad-shouldered as Wolverine, just as nobody’s waist is as thin as Emma Frost’s – but when her breasts are font and centre of several panels, it becomes a problem, and a distracting one, because draws focus away from the narrative. But he works well, overall, with Ellis’ script, which is punctuated with plenty of sci-fi jargon and dialogue that perfectly encapsulates the personalities of the cast.
There is nothing ground-breaking here, just a solid X-Men comic that might not stand the test of time as a monumental storyline, but is a good, fun distraction, and worth dipping into if you’re after an X-Men story without the baggage of long-winded continuity.