Astonishing X-Men #51
Written by: Marjorie Liu
Pencils: Mike Perkins
Inks: Andrew Hennessy, Mike Perkins
Is it weird that I opened a bottle of champagne before reading this very special issue of Astonishing X-Men? I didn’t go so far as to wear a tux or formal wear, mainly because it’s 100 degrees in New York, and I don’t have Bobby Drake here to surround me with ice sculptures. Truth be told, I don’t get invited to a lot of weddings. Honestly, you out one closeted bridegroom during a toast and put it on YouTube, and suddenly you’re persona non grata every weekend in June and September. So I’m thrilled to be attending (in the virtual sense) such a significant union (in the fictional sense).
If the wedding of Jean-Paul (Northstar) and Kyle feels a little rushed, that’s because it is. If you recall, in last month’s issue, Jean-Paul proposed, thinking it would prove his commitment to Kyle, and he was quickly rejected. Cut to: wedding. Writer Marjorie Liu is smart to acknowledge this and make it part of the cold feet and uncertainty any nervous groom would experience before the ceremony. She also wisely uses shifts in time to help set a more believable pace. Can you really throw a wedding in a week? If your friends are superheroes, then probably, yes.
In between wedding preparation scenes, we get some resolution to last month’s cliffhanger. The team and Kyle find themselves under the control of some mysterious entity and attack Northstar. He subdues his teammates before having an emotional standoff with Kyle. Kyle tells him he can’t control what he’s doing, and Northstar should run. But sending Northstar packing is no easy task. He stands his ground, determined to free Kyle from whatever forces are controlling him. I can totally relate. Every time someone tries to break up with me, I refuse to accept it. That’s why I still park outside my ex boyfriends’ houses late at night and make inappropriate speeches at their weddings. Northstar won’t give up, and neither will I.
Both men seem determined to sacrifice themselves for each other, and Northstar proves, pretty definitely, that no matter what they may face, he’ll stay by Kyle’s side and see it through. This is exactly the breakthrough the boys need to set the date for their wedding.
So, as various mutants and supers do a bit of prep work, Jean-Paul deals with the sudden realization of the whirlwind wedding and what it means. First, Warbird takes off, telling him she just can’t support the validity of his vows. Then why did you even come, Warbird? You don’t go to a party to tell the host you’re not coming to the party. Jean-Paul is far more diplomatic than I would be and tries to get her to stay, even though her costume is clearly an attempt to upstage the grooms.
Next, Wolverine’s advice is short, but heartfelt. “This day…it won’t come again. Take it from someone who knows.” Of course, you could also interpret that as a warning not to get too attached to Kyle, because superheroes don’t have spouses for very long. But I’m choosing to take it at face value. Enjoy the moment…while it lasts. Good advice, especially for comic book fans.
Finally, Aurora offers Jean-Paul an escape plan. “It’s not too late to back out,” she tells him. It’s the last temptation of Northstar, but he stands his ground. “You’re right,” he tells her. “This has all been fast. Maybe for Kyle, too. But moving fast has never let me down before.” What works so well here is how genuine and sympathetic Jean-Paul’s emotions are. This could be any couple, of any sex, defining for themselves what their commitment means. It’s deeply personal, and yet universal at the same time.
My only disappointment, if you can call it that, is the lack of big names from the Marvel U in attendance. There are lots of cool group shots to examine closely here, but I really wanted a bigger “who’s who” of characters present for such an important event. Liu does have a nice single panel reunion with X-23 for a cute throwaway joke, but it just left me wanting more. Of course, this could have easily been a 50-page book, and it’s clear Liu keeps it focused to the most logical and emotional steps to the altar. Of course, as Quentin Quire predicts at the start of the book, superhero weddings tend to attract wedding crashers, and this one is no different, as a surprise guest shows up at the end and takes on Wolverine.
Obvisouly, there was a lot of hype preceding and surrounding this issue, which tells you just how much further we have to go, to get from “that’s revolutionary” to “that’s nice.” The wedding of Jean-Paul and Kyle does an excellent job of creating, not a spectacle, but a genuinely emotional and human story about two people in love. And that, dearly beloved, will be the legacy of this issue.
P.S. Guess what? I’m going to be interviewing Marjorie Liu and a host of fabulous special guests for a panel on Northstar at Comic-Con next month (details coming soon!), so if you have any questions or comments about the issue and the wedding, feel free to share them in the comments section!