Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 (of 2)
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Alan Davis with Mark Farmer and Rob Shwager (Part 1), Adi Granov (Part 2)
From: Marvel Comics
With the introduction of the Ghost Box, an interdimensional travel device, in Astonishing X-Men, it seemed apparent that the idea of alternate universes would be taking front-and-center in the X-Men’s lives again. Wasting no time, Warren Ellis takes us directly into two possibilities with this issue that shows how the recent events could have gone much differently.
The first part shows recent X-foe Subject X reporting on the successful emergency annexation of Earth-616. In this story, he defeated the X-Men in their battle. Alan Davis, no stranger to the Marvel multiverse, does a great job with a darker tone to his art than he usually provides. It turns out this is something Ellis specifically requested, as shown in the included script at the back of the book. He wanted it to obviously be the standard Marvel universe, but with something “off” about it. Davis and his art team do this wonderfully. The story itself is initially a little off-putting, until you remember that the Ghost Box is all about alternatives. It gives us a glimpse into the minds of these universe-conquering enemies, and perhaps foreshadows the main title’s story a bit, making this alternate reality tale more relevant. It also lends the enemies some strength and power, making them a more viable threat for our heroes, and has a link to the second tale.
The art by Granov in part 2 is simply stunning. I know his interiors take a long time, but I can’t think of another artist whose work would fit as well with this story. The steampunk style X-Men (or X Society) is an alternate world I’d love to see more of. This story moves much faster, which is unfortunate, because the unique characterization used within it is very entertaining. As with any good alternate reality tale, the world and characters are similar enough to the one we’re used to so that the differences are more pronounced.
The inclusion of the scripts for both stories as back matter is interesting, and shows how much detail Ellis provides for his artists. It also shows where the artists deviate, and how they interpret certain directions.
I didn’t quite know what to expect from this book. I knew of the introduction of the Ghost Box, but not really where this particular book was taking the new device. Finding a cool, exciting pair of alternate-reality tales was thus a pleasant surprise. I hope we’ll see Ellis tackle more of the Marvel multiverse, as he has a great hand for tweaking age old characters. Any fan of the start of Ellis’s run on Astonishing, or even of his other works like Planetary and even his straight sci-fi work should feel right at home. A great read with great art, this is worth the read for all fans of the X-Men, hardcore and casual alike. I can’t wait to read the second issue.