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Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon - "Astonishing X-Men" Comic Book - Issue 01 - Bureau42.com Review

Saturday 29 May 2004, by Webmaster

General Information

Title: Astonishing X-Men #1

Author: Joss Whedon

Illustrator(s): John Cassaday

Original Publication Date: May 26, 2004

Cover Price: $2.99 US, $4.25 Can


Cyclops builds a new team of X-Men with the plan to get out into the world and prove that they really are super heroes, recreating Xavier’s dream. The team includes himself, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Beast, and Shadowcat, in one of the smallest X-rosters we’ve seen in a while.

As part of this month’s X-Men: Reload promotion, this is a new title that is trying to strike out in its own direction. For the record, here’s a quick recap of the changes due Reload: Astonishing X-Men (written by Whedon) picks up where New X-Men left off (written by Grant Morrison) Uncanny X-Men picks up where X-Treme X-Men left off, both written by Chris Claremont X-Men drops the "New" as Chuck Austen takes over, continuing what he was doing to Uncanny X-Men Exiles gets a creative team change New Mutants becomes New X-Men: Academy X, and then simply New X-Men District X launches as a new title, probably in response to DC’s well-received Gotham Central. It’s about Bishop’s work with regular law enforcement. Excalibur launches anew with Claremont at the helm, beginning with the reconstruction of Genosha. Mystique gets a new creative team. Alpha Flight seems to have been included in the promotion to increase awareness of the newly relaunched title. Sure, the team first appeared in an issue of Uncanny X-Men, but the book has little interaction with the X-universe.

If I missed anything, let us know.

High Point

"I was busy remembering to put on all my clothes."

Low Point

The last panel. The "fade to black and bring up credits" is a great way to end an episode of a TV show, but it’s not well suited to the comic book medium. All it says to me is that Whedon hasn’t quite figured out all the ways comic and television writing need to differ.

The Scores

So far, I haven’t seen a lot of originality in the title. It’s setting up a return to the classic types of X-Men stories, but so far, there’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I give it 3 out of 6.

The artwork is excellent on the characters you are meant to pay attention to. In some cases, the secondary characters that aren’t meant to be the focus suffer a little. (Take a good look at the ladies when Cyclops says "So think about it.") Still, the highs are extremely high, and the lows aren’t particularly low. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is all set-up, but it’s a good set-up. The villain looks to be perfect for this story. Just as the team gets ready to prove itself to the world with actions, a villain steps up who can likely only be faced down with words. Excellent choice. I give it 5 out of 6.

The characterization is generally good. We’ve got tension within the team that’s easy to understand, as well as some comical interactions. I don’t remember Beast being this goofy, though. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response was primarily a peaked interest with a few chuckles. As I said, this issue is all set-up. We have to wait at least a month to see how this team and this villain are going to start interacting, and that will be when the story gets going. In the meantime, I’m more than willing to stick with the title and see where it goes. I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow is well done, with the transitions from one scene to the next working well. It’s still very sequential, with a huge number of vertical panel arrangements, and only a few pages that use the "rows and columns" arrangement that is more common to this medium. I suspect Whedon’s scripts dictate the panel arrangements, and he’s picturing it in his mind as a TV show and then adapting it a little too directly. It doesn’t quite give that comic book feel, which holds back the flow a bit. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a good comic, despite the feeling that it was envisioned as a TV show. The core of any comic should be the story, in my opinion, and this is shaping up to tell a good one. I give it 5 out of 6, and recommend it to anyone who already collects any of the X-titles.

In total, Astonishing X-Men #1 receives 30 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

I’m hoping to get through my backlog of reviews soon. The current backlog includes Ultimate Six, Ultimate Spider-Man: Hollywood, Ultimate X-Men: New Mutants, the first two volumes of Alias, issues 38-45 of Exiles, JLA: Heaven’s Ladder, issues 509-513 of Fantastic Four, Calvin and Hobbes, all four Get Fuzzy collections, and four Essentials (two Captain America, and the latest X-Men and Tomb of Dracula volumes.) If you have any preference about which you want to see first, speak up now.