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Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon - "Astonishing X-Men" Comic Book - Issue 02 - Mediasharx.com Review

Scott Cederlund

Sunday 27 June 2004, by cally

Astonishing X-Men #2

Published By: Marvel Comics

Written by: Joss Whedon

Art by: John Cassaday

Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos

Colored by: Laura Martin

What you should know: The leather outfits are gone and the costumes are back. Jean Grey is stil dead. Kitty Pryde is back at the school. The school is rebuilt and the X-Men have a new mission— to astonish humanity. The first challenge Cyclops, Kitty, Emma, the Beast and Wolverine have to face is Ord— a new and unknown threat.

What happened: Whedon uses his second issue to try and establish a brand new villain for the X-Men, Ord— and if someone could explain to me what his threat is, I’d be eternally grateful. So far, all they’ve done is create a generic villain that doesn’t seem to have a specific purpose yet. It’s only the first full issue that Ord has appeared in but he already seems as any villain created for the X-Men during the 90s (Mr. Sinister & Apocalypse, I’m looking at you.) If this book is going to astonish, the villain has to be absolutely incredible. Ord isn’t even interesting yet.

On the other hand, Ord may just be a diversion. The true threat could be Dr. Rao and her cure for mutations. While the X-Men are battling the latest “threat,” Ord, Rao is holding a press conference telling the world that mutations are just diseases like cancer or a cold and that she has found the cure. She can cure mutants and just make them regular humans. Understandably, the X-Men and their students don’t take the idea that they’re just a disease that easily. Emma says, “Then I guess I’ll have to kill her” and no one but Kitty seems to have a problem with this.

Even if Ord is lame, there is so much more happening in this issue. Whedon’s strength as a storyteller has been allowing his characters to move through the story. In BUFFY and ANGEL, no matter how inconsequential or silly the villain and plot were, the characters were given opportunity to evolve throughout the story. In ASTONISHING X-MEN, he manages to continue this with the X-Men as they adjust to their new status quo. Cyclops and Wolverine try to figure out how to be costumed super-heroes in the spotlight. Emma’s every instinct is to do the easy thing first, even if it isn’t the right thing to do. Surprisingly, Emma has requested Kitty to be part of the team, to act as Emma’s conscience. This sets up an fascinating dynamic between the two when you remember that Emma was the first villain that Kitty met.

John Cassaday provides the usual great artwork he’s known for. His characters seem much more realistic than the usual figures in comics. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but I see a lot of Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) in his Emma. Beast seems to have gone through another evolution, appearing different than any of his incarnations in the past. His version of the Beast works better than the Quitely version, seeming a slight bit closer to the classically blue-furred beast.

The cover to the book is also striking. For the past couple of years, Marvel’s covers have from time to time appeared to be pin ups that have little to do with the story. On first glance, this cover with Emma and Cyclops seems that way too. But Emma’s restricting Cyclops. She’s covering his eyes, containing his optic blasts in ways that he wouldn’t have before. This is an aspect of Emma and Cyclops’s relationship that Whedon is exploring in the book, how their new relationship is changing Cyclops.

Two issues into Whedon’s X-Men run and I think we’ve got an idea of what to expect. Whedon’s run seems like it will be more traditional storytelling than what Grant Morrison spent the last couple of years doing but Whedon is being given the room to tell the story he wants (something it doesn’t sound like Chris Claremont or Chuck Austen are being given.) In two issues, he’s established his takes on the characters and now he’s got ten more issues to actually astonish us.