Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Astonishing X-Men


Frak let me borrow some of his Astonishing X-Men issues a while back, and after reading them I immediately added the first hardback collection to my Amazon wishlist. I just got it last week, and I love it. Joss Whedon writes, and John Cassaday handles the art. It's perfect!

I didn't realize until I read the first arc that this is where the storyline for X-Men 3 came from. The whole "mutant cure," Beast's struggle, and Kitty Pryde's importance to the story are all present in the comic.

I have apparently been out-of-the-loop from the X-Men storyline for quite a while now, because I had no idea Jean Grey was dead, that Emma Frost could turn into diamond, or that Colossus had died defeating the Legacy Virus. Or that Xavier had taken off.

Whedon's humor is very present in these books. Once in a while one of the funny comments seems out of place, but I think that's because I was just used to the heavy-handed dialogue from the years I subscribed to X-Men (back in the mid-90s). I think it was Fabian Nicieza back then. With Andy Kubert (meh) handling the art.

I like Whedon's treatment of the characters. There's this great sequence where the X-Men are fighting a giant monster coming out of the ground in Manhattan (the FF show up later and The Thing is all mad that the X-Men are stealing their shtick), and several pages in succession highlight one of the X-Men and their thoughts as they fight. First, Colossus, who is thinking about returning from the dead and his feelings for Kitty, but then chastises himself for not focusing on the fight. Then, Kitty, who is thinking about Peter (Colossus) returning from the dead, her feelings for him, her return to the X-Men, and then also says she should be focused on the fight. Then, it goes to Wolverine. His mind is silent until the final panel, which just says "I like beer." Cracked me up. I'm used to Logan being this deeper, more cerebral character (very talky when Larry Hama was scripting back in the day), and Whedon writes well enough to make him an individual. EVERY character was talky and introspective in older comics; Wolverine just added "darlin'" and "bub" every now and then to separate him from everyone else. Whedon allows for there to be more going on in Logan's head than we know, but, appropriately, we're not always privy to that, nor does Logan talk about it all the time. Logan's a very different character here compared with the movies, and while I wouldn't change anything about Hugh Jackman's take on him, I think Whedon does some great stuff with him in the book.

Cassaday's art is just as awesome as the writing. Look at that hilarious cover up there! I love his redesigns for several of the costumes, Wolverine's in particular. Wolverine actually looks 5 feet tall now, and his "ears" have been appropriately scaled back to make him look more compact, more Wolverine-ish.

Nobody, have you read this series?

1 comment:

Nobody said...

You rang?

I loved the first six-issue arc (Gifted) when I read it a year or two ago but I don't remember the details except that the invention of S.W.O.R.D. was clever.

The primary image that pops into my head when I think of it is a conversation between the X-Men as they sit around on the islands of a giant 3-dimensional map, with their feet in the water. (It must have been in the Danger Room.)

I also liked the characters' brief mention of their decision to wear team uniforms again after the black leather jacket wardrobe implemented by Grant Morrison (but probably editorially dictated thanks to the 2000 movie).

One of the highlights is undoubtedly Cassaday's costume (sorry, uniform!) design -- Cyclops' is my favorite but Wolverine's is also a nice variation on his classic togs and I agree with you about his "ears". Cassaday actually made the stubby ears of Wolvie's first appearance against the Hulk look cool!

I was less impressed with "Dangerous" (#7-12) if only because it felt like one fight stretched over several issues (my recollection anyway).

I thought the "Torn" arc (#13-18) was much more interesting but I had to read it twice to figure out what was happening. I think my unfamiliarity with X-Men history might have been a hindrance as well.

At any rate I eagerly anticipate the conclusion of the Whedon-Cassaday collaboration when "Unstoppable" is finally collected in softcover format, and hope the Ellis-Bianche collaboration is just as satisfying. The last three comics I've read have been three very different Ellis titles (Desolation Jones, Nextwave, and Iron Man: Extremis) so his X-Men could be a worthy follow-up.