Astonishing X-Men #25–30 and Ghost Boxes #1 & 2 by Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi
For someone who is supposed to dislike ‘pervert suit’ comic books, Ellis can write an excellent superhero story. Ghost Box is no exception: starting with a murder mystery, it leads to pre-stages of invasions from parallel dimensions and mutants with the mutant gene on different chromosomes and someone engineering new mutants with triploid chromosomes. All of this happens organically within the context of an X-Men story, with the characters acting within the parameters of their natural limits and using the history of X-Men (Forge is perhaps a natural choice for Ellis, what with Forge’s engineering and body modification) while revealing new things within the Marvel universe (the Chinese location of Tian; Chaparanga, ‘where spaceships go to die’).
The other thing that Ellis does effortlessly is to include the character bits and humorous banter that are essential part to an entertaining story – his dialogue is funny, clever and also revealing of character. His Emma Frost is particularly perfect, and steals most of the best lines. And it’s nice to see some of his choice phrases and expressions being allowed to find their way into a mainstream Marvel comic book (‘Xenophiliac experimentation partner’ was my favourite).
Bianchi provides covers and art for the main story and it looks great. I love the style and the composition – some of the panels are works of art, and the characters look something special (if a little artistically exaggerated – the costume Storm wears looks particularly improbable and uncomfortable). However, the storytelling flow and panel transition can seem a little harsh and ungainly at times, disrupting the flow sometimes; it’s not a deal breaker, but when the pages look so beautiful, you expect perfection.
The supplemental stories in the extra issues (which caused such a fuss at the time, when the sixteen pages of actual story had been advertised to contain more and cost $3.99 – I’m so glad I waited for the trade) are tales from parallel worlds where the invasion plan resulted differently, telling alternative versions of the X-Men with different artists (Alan Davis and Adi Granov do especially good work). As a complete package, this is a really enjoyable and entertaining collection of great superhero comic books.