There’s a lot of interesting meta-stuff going on in Marjorie Liu’s short tenure on the book Joss Whedon started. First of all, this arc involves two of Marvel’s most prominent LGBT characters - Karma and Northstar. Second, while Wolverine’s around to make sure this book actually sells, the book is focusing on a lot of much less popular X-Men characters. And, finally, Liu is Chinese and the main villain of this arc, Karma, is Vietnamese. (Not exactly cordial neighbors historically) All those things alone would make this an interesting ride. But it gets even crazier.
I’ve never read Liu’s romantic novels and I’ve only read her work on X-23, so I don’t know if she’s exploring the concept of telling this arc out of order or if it’s a trademark of hers that was absent on X-23. I find it to be both a very interesting way to tell a story and a very frustrating way to read a story. I think the problem is that, unlike most of the other X-Men titles, Astonishing X-Men only comes out once a month. That’s great for my pocketbook, but it sucks for the way Liu is telling this story. To put it concisely, this arc will probably be a great read when it’s collected into a trade, but every month I have no idea what in the world is going on with this story. If it wasn’t for the opening summary in all the Marvel books, I wouldn’t have even remembered that Wolverine was having stomach issues or any part of the timeline in this crazy arc. Again, I think it’s leading to an interesting style where we find out little tidbits and then the story moves forward and we learn some more. I just don’t think it works so well for a monthly book.
Liu continues to excel in dialog and in presenting the relationships between the characters. That’s always been a great strength of hers and I think it works even better than before now that she has a team of characters rather than just X-23 and a couple people. It’s the biggest reason I stayed with Astonishing X-Men, which I had been planning to drop before Liu was announced.
I’m torn because I really enjoy what Marjorie Liu is doing with this book. I need to reduce the number of comics I collect per month so I wanted to trade wait on this book. And, as you can see from this review, Astonishing X-Men (at least this arc) would work better as a trade anyway. But if too many people trade wait, the sales drop and Marvel will either cancel the book or take Liu off. I think you should be reading this book - it’s one of the most undersold X-Men books out there. But this is not exactly the best issue to jump on. See if you can grab the last few issues at your local comic book shop and see what you think.