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Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon - "Astonishing X-Men" Comic Book - Wizarduniverse.com Review

Mike Cotton

Friday 24 November 2006, by Webmaster

ASTONISHING X-MEN - CREATIVE TEAM: Writer Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday

THE 411: Whedon’s tales mix classic X-Men stories from the Chris Claremont and John Byrne era-powerful villains and unexpected twists-with snappy, modern dialogue and detail-driven, contemporary draftsmanship. Team Astonishing has turned the X-Men’s Danger Room into a deadly enemy, made the Hellfire Club relevant again and resolidified the X-Men as comics’ No. 1 franchise.

STRENGTHS: Whedon’s biggest strength is his ability to blend the best of yesterday’s stories with his unique, oftentimes unconventional take on characters. In fact, one of the strongest points in Whedon’s run has been his sparse use of Wolverine. While other creators leap at the chance to use the feral loner, Whedon delivers the classic berserker rage along with believably subdued and even comical moments-such as in the recent “Torn” storyline, in which Wolverine spent several issues acting like his younger, daintier self.

Bridging the creative gap between fans of the classic tales such as “Days of Future Past” and “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and current revolutionary runs like “E is for Extinction” and Deadly Genesis, Whedon’s drawn in and delighted fans of all kinds with concise characterization, big action and even bigger moments. Possibly the biggest goosebump generator so far came in 2004’s #4, when Whedon and Cassaday brought back Colossus after his death in 2001’s Uncanny X-Men #390. Reuniting the steel-covered X-Man with his long-lost love Kitty Pryde made readers giddy and injected some much-needed heart back into the X-titles.

Another huge plus for the title is, of course, Cassaday’s detailed and masterful artwork. Acting as both penciler and inker for the series, Cassaday lays out the most perfect X-Men pages imaginable, and there’s no difference in the care or detail given whether the page is a quiet, subdued moment with the X-Men sitting around the kitchen table or the entire team fighting a giant monster side-by-side with the Fantastic Four.

Also not to be forgotten is Whedon’s killer dialogue. Some wondered if Whedon could really adapt the quick, witty speech he used on television for comics, but the “Buffy” and “Angel” creator has yet to disappoint. It doesn’t matter if Whedon’s writing humorous dialogue or dramatic moments: His tightly written scripts ensure it’s all good. And the characters, from Kitty to Cyclops to Emma, all sound and feel like the classic versions, a tough task with so many different writers trying to tweak and manipulate each one of these heroes and villains over the years. If Whedon and Cassaday stay the course, when they finally cap off their 24-issue run with a planned Giant Size Astonishing X-Men issue, the entire run will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest in X-Men history. And you better believe the debate over which is better-the Claremont/Byrne Uncanny years or the Whedon/Cassaday Astonishing years-will rage for years to come.

WEAKNESSES: The complaints about this top-selling title are few and far between. Outside of delays between issues, the biggest concern surrounding the book has been the lackluster response to the second arc, “Danger,” in which the Danger Room was revealed to be a sentient life form. Luckily, the action picked up before the hiatus between issues #12 and #13, and now the third arc, “Torn”-featuring an Emma Frost-led Hellfire Club taking down the X-Men one by one-has the book back on track and doing what Whedon and Cassaday do best: delivering unexpected yet classic-feeling tales that still seem fresh and new to all readers.

UPCOMING: “Torn” comes to a close with #18, and finally reveals where Emma truly stands. Is she back to her former role as White Queen of the Hellfire Club, or is there a chance there’s still a hero inside her worth saving? After that, the final arc, “Unstoppable,” begins, and the X-Men finally travel to the Breakworld, which Colossus is allegedly destined to destroy.

“It’s fun, and it means that when [the X-Men] get off-world and get their sh— together, [they’re] going to be the best superhero team in the universe, which is pretty cool,” boasts Whedon of the finale to the duo’s 24-issue run.

FOR THE FAN WHO LIKES: Comics. Seriously, if you’ve ever read and enjoyed a superhero comic, you’ll love Astonishing.

THE LAST WORD: It’s simply the best X-book in years (maybe decades), and while Uncanny will always be the flagship title, this book is currently the one X-Men series every mutant-loving Marvel fan should read.