The idea behind the "Meanwhile" storyline in "Astonishing X-Men"—a second creative team tells a story of what else is happening while Cyclops and company are in Japan, giving Jason Pearson a little more time to work on the series—isn't a bad one. It offered up a solution to a potential scheduling problem, and opened an opportunity for a strong story to appear in those off-months.
What we got, though, is charitably described as disappointing.
Christos Gage takes Beast, Storm, Shadowcat, Colossus, and Lockheed up to the S.W.O.R.D. space station to try and save Agent Brand from the Brood; a simple enough plot. And the idea of the Brood finding a way to not kill their living incubators is an interesting one, both making them easier to spread but also diminishing their nastiness (and also Alien-rip-off-ness). It's a bit of a mess, though. It's a story with a lot of talking, but not the interesting sort. Lots of, "This is why we need to do this," and not enough actual doing. There's a cliffhanger that is so non-shocking (we're already told it half an issue earlier) that it made the book feel like it just stopped, rather than a moment that you want to see more of. And as for Kitty and Lockheed...
I'll admit I never read the short-lived "S.W.O.R.D." series that Beast, Brand, and Lockheed starred in. As a result, I don't know if the blame should be pinned on Gage, "S.W.O.R.D." writer Kieron Gillen, or a combination of the two. But Lockheed as a huffy, snide, whisky-drinking, talking character? It's painful. Just painful. Like I said, I don't know for certain whom to pin the blame on, but this is a development that should be quietly ignored in the future by any other creators.
Juan Bobillo's art is not quite what I was expecting. It's an interesting style, but I'm not sure it works. Kitty's thick-lidded eyes and receding hairline makes her look like she's the oldest member of the team, not the youngest by far. Poor Beast appears to have lost his nose in many pages, and alternates between a Predator, a Thundercat, and a hippopotamus. (No, really. That panel where he shouts, "They're here!" is totally hippo.) And Storm? She looks like a slutty teenage anime character. It's not all bad—I like the Brood even if they look nothing like their old appearances, and Colossus looks suitably solid and metallic—but on the whole I'm not impressed.
I hate to say it, but this story is helping diminish the "Astonishing" brand at Marvel from its intended marquee of big-name, high-quality creative teams. And at an extra dollar an issue, the insult is a little higher. This is a big disappointment; I can't see myself reading the other "Meanwhile" issues here.