Astonishing X-Men (Volume 1) by Joss Whedon
(Art by John Cassaday)
Genre: Comic book, snark, drama, FUN
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Summary: Amidst an increasingly mutant-hostile society (and an increasingly difficult-to-follow plot continuity) Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Beast, Kitty Pryde, and Colossus decide that they’re just going to ignore whatever the hell is supposed to be going on in the X-Men universe and form a new superhero team that actually does superhero things. They even have new outfits! Volume 1 of “Astonishing X-men” takes us through the formation of the new team, a conflict with a crazy mutant-hating alien called Ord of the Breakworld, the creation of a “mutant cure”, and a battle with a new (old?) enemy called Danger.
I have no idea what is going on in X-Men right now. Although I have long considered myself an X-Men fan (I bleached out the front part of my hair in high school so I would look like Rogue), when it comes down to it I really haven’t read that many actual comics.
I’ve read a couple compendiums of comics from… the 80s? Maybe? And a few other issues here and there, including the very first one (which is HILARIOUS). But mostly I’ve enjoyed the films and an AMAZING cartoon show called X-Men: Evolution, not to mention obsessively read online encyclopedias to learn about all the characters and story arcs.
I gave up on all that research after a while, so at this point I really just don’t know. There was some kind of huge event called M-Day where basically all the mutants lost their powers except the main characters. I assume this is because there were TOO MANY CHARACTERS (TMC) and it was just getting too damn confusing. And some other things probably happened. I assume several people died and came back.
But here’s the thing: IT DOESN’T MATTER. “Astonishing X-Men” doesn’t really care about all that stuff either. As long as you have a basic grasp of the X-Men characters (all of the central characters have now been featured in the movies, although Emma is woefully insufficient in “First Class”) and the world of X-Men, you are good to go!
The main strength of “Astonishing X-Men” is its Joss Whedon-y goodness. As has been previously discussed on this blog, the man knows his way around snappy dialogue. He also knows how to reveal what is most funny and most tragic about any character, often at the same time. The character dynamics are awesome. Loved Kitty’s musings on her past and who she has become. I especially loved the tension between Kitty and Emma, also Scott and Wolverine, and how they get over it and manage to work as a team anyway! YEY TEAMWORK!
I didn’t even remember Colossus had died, but when Kitty first runs into him in “Astonishing”–her face, oh my god the DRAMA! I guess I should take this time to also point out that the artwork is perfect.
So one of the main problems we’ve got going on is the creation of a “cure” for mutation. You may recall, this was also a major plot point in the horrendous movie threequel, “X-Men: The Last Stand.” And just like “The Last Stand” (from what I can remember of that movie, which isn’t much) we are shown that while many mutants consider the cure to be an attack on their existence, there are just as many who consider it to be a blessing.
However, while “The Last Stand” pretty much affirms that the cure is A Bad Thing, “Astonishing” offers some startling evidence to the contrary. For example, while the X-Men are invading the lab complex searching for information on where the cure comes from (it looks like it may have come from some horrible experimentation on mutants–specifically, it seems to have something to do with Jean Grey, who is otherwise dead in this series… so far), they are rushed by a crowd of mutants crying out for the cure. One dude doesn’t have a head, and has a face on his TORSO. One glowing, whispy boy who floats like a ghost grabs Beast and says that he “needs a whole body.” So sad. Mutation isn’t always pretty, or useful.
Ord of the Breakworld manages to be scary and kind of hilarious at the same time. He hates mutants because it was prophesied that one, probably an X-Man, would destroy his entire planet. It’s his alien technology that allows for the creation of the mutant cure. He’s extremely threatening until he gets totally pwned by LOCKHEED. (Did I mention Lockheed is there?? SO MUCH LOVE.)
After the cure plot is semi-resolved, the X-Men go on to battle a much more fearsome enemy which calls itself “Danger.” I would talk more about who Danger is and where it comes from, but it’s seriously awesome and I don’t want to spoil it for you! I will say that the question, “Where am I?” has never been more dramatic. Also, Professor X is a dick, surprise surprise. But there is also more going on that has yet to be revealed!!
-premise requires minimal information about the current X-Men universe
-amazing characters and storyline
I literally cannot think of anything I didn’t like. The only bad thing is that I haven’t had the chance to read Volume 2 yet.
“Astonishing X-Men” is everything you could want from an X-Men anything. Some of the best characters facing adversity and internal struggles with an endless supply of sassy comebacks. Scary bad guys, and ambiguous-morals-guys, and cool action sequences. And I love the spirit of the book, the fuck it, let’s pull together and DO this attitude. X-Men, I don’t really know what was going on with you, but I’m so glad you got Joss Whedon-ed.
And just because… remember this??