Astonishing X-Men #31 review

Abigail Brand, Agent of B.O.R.E.D., is retreating from a Brood-bashing mission when something or other goes wrong, sending her plunging into Earth's orbit in an escape pod. Luckily the X-Men have six minutes to save her. Which they do, before confronting a mystery at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.

No, the mystery isn't how the heck do folk eat chowder in a bowl made of bread? Buy the book and find out. You won't regret it, new penciller Phil Jimenez and inker Andy Lanning seem to have influenced regular writer Warren Ellis to turn in a straightforward script that breaks a fundamental rule: the X-Men have fun.

Yes, they're fighting to save Brand's life but they're having a good time doing it; the X-Men have spent so many years facing non-stop apocalyptic crises that anything less than Mr Sinister eating a coachload of orphans counts as a hoot. So Scott, Hank, Emma, Logan and Ororo get to be dry, bitchy, black . . . all the while remaining focused on saving Brand.

The super-agent is my only problem with this issue, hogging the first seven pages with her inappropriate jabbering. I'd have been fine with page one being the X-Men hearing that Brand was incoming after a tough mission. Of course, it was good to see the Brood getting blasted, but they were gone by page 4.

Oh, I'm also sick of people proving how 'badass' they are by speaking in $!*?@%? Shiftlock. It detracts rather than lends authenticity.

And could X-editorial please give up on the story titles starting with X sounds? X-tinction Agenda was OK, X-cution Agenda clunky. Here we get eXogenetic, proving that they've long since run out of useful X titles.

The art by Jimenez, Lanning and colourist Frank D'Armata, kicking off with a striking wraparound cover, is splendid. Brand's race through space, tedious as it is to read, looks fantastic, the Brood are horrific and the X-Men are themselves . . . which is far from faint praise; you can read their personalities on their faces, in their body language. I hope this is the time previous X-Men guest artists Jimenez and Lanning stick around for a decent run.

I've high hopes for this latest run on Astonishing. If only they'd do away with Agent Brand Echh.