The daytime television show "The View" on Tuesday announced "Astonishing X-Men" #50 would feature Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle getting engaged with their marriage in the next issue. (I suppose we should be thankful that they didn't bring up Northstar's history. I suspect that the idea of "Alpha Flight" probably would have boggled their minds even more than the time that Northstar was retconned into a faerie from Asgard, or the time in "Wolverine" that the main character stabbed and killed Northstar, until he was later brought back to life.) What the show didn't tell you was that in doing so, Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins temporarily replaced Northstar with an evil twin.
Well, that's not quite true. But it's preferable to the idea that she wrote the character to be a bit of an idiot. I understand that we've seen very few of Northstar's boyfriends in comics; Kyle is only the second or third, depending on how you interpret one character in an early "Alpha Flight." Liu appears to have taken that idea and turned it into Northstar having no idea how relationships actually work. It's a bit puzzling, to be honest. The scenes with Northstar and Kyle together reminded me more of stories where there's an alien trying to understand human feelings, leading to the most awkward and slightly ridiculous proposal scene you'll ever read. Those expecting to read a happy, joyous occasion will be a little surprised.
And then, halfway through the issue, Northstar's brain apparently reboots and he realizes he's been an idiot. (It's too bad he flies head-first into the hill right after this revelation instead of just beforehand, because that would have gone a long way towards explaining what the heck was going on.) The problem is, in doing so, Liu is more or less admitting to the readers that she'd just written Northstar to be an idiot. It's throwing out characterization for the sake of convenience of the plot, rather than letting the character's personality help dictate the plot's direction. As a regular reader, it's frustrating. For a new reader? It must be bewildering.
Of course, there's another storyline already progressing in "Astonishing X-Men" #50 (and which will continue into next month's), as we finally meet up with the flashforward from "Astonishing X-Men" #47. The plot with the Marauders has been dragging for four issues now, and unfortunately this does nothing to pick up the pace. Liu did some strong work on "X-23" but her introductory storyline on "Astonishing X-Men" is not inspiring a lot of confidence.
Add in some slightly uninteresting art from Perkins and this issue is a bit of a dud. The art feels overwrought and cluttered most of the time, and colorist Andy Troy needs to lay off on the blues for a while. While the art isn't bad, it's not fun or even that enjoyable. Maybe the subject material isn't clicking with Perkins, but right now it feels like the art is dragging down the overall feeling of this comic.
There are a couple of nice moments (I laughed at Iceman pointing out the wrongness of asking Gambit for relationship advice), and the "Next Issue" page certainly gives away what will happen with Northstar and Kyle's relationship, even if "The View" hadn't done so already. But on the whole, I feel bad for anyone who rushed out to buy "Astonishing X-Men" #50 because of the engagement. It's not a very good comic, and I fear it's going to turn them off of reading any others. On the bright side, it's still better than Northstar's coming out comic (the infamously horrible "Alpha Flight" #106).
I wanted "Astonishing X-Men" #50 to be a great comic; I'd have settled for a good comic, but the result is just disappointing.