"Astonishing X-Men" #48 heralds the return of a regular creative team to its pages as Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins take over the title. It's been a while since this series has had any sort of definable purpose or even a regular cast of characters. The latter is finally happening this issue but only time will tell on if we get the former.
Liu cherry-picks some lesser-used X-Men characters for "Astonishing X-Men." Any team that has Northstar, Cecelia Reyes, Warbird, and (according to the cover) Karma is certainly not going for all marquee-level names, after all. Sure, it's balanced out with Wolverine, Gambit and Iceman, but for now I'm cautiously intrigued by Liu's choice of cast.
Liu spends a lot of her first issue focusing on the domestic lives of the characters; Northstar and Kyle moving into an apartment in New York together, Cecelia visiting Gambit's home away from the X-Men. It's something I'd like to see a lot more of as the series progresses; with the two core titles set at the Jean Grey School and Utopia, there isn't much in the way of an outside world or space away from the team. Cecelia needing a new apartment isn't necessarily the most flashy of character notes, but it's not one that we've seen in an X-Men comic for quite some time.
Ironically, it's the action portion of "Astonishing X-Men" that didn't work so well for me even though it's what more of the readers will probably be looking for. The attackers are out of the blue and while that on its own isn't a big deal, the lack of any apparent motivation makes it uninteresting at the moment. Liu seems to try to mitigate this by starting the issue slightly in the future with Northstar being attacked by several of his own teammates, but for now it feels like it's missing a spark. Part of the problem in that scene appears to be Perkins' art, which feels a little unanimated. Colorist Andy Troy doesn't help matters; Troy and Perkins' work together in places looks flat. Something isn't coming together quite right in those scenes and it's odd; the earlier moments with the non-superhero scenes manage to mesh together much better.
"Astonishing X-Men" needs a strong focus, considering it's the one of the four X-Men titles that appears to be largely forgotten these days. Can Liu and Perkins provide a purpose for the book? Right now, it remains to be seen. The first half of the issue gives me hope that it's possible. The second half -- well, let's hope things get a little livelier next month.