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Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon - "Astonishing X-Men" Comic Book - Issue 12 - Comixfan.com Review

Brian Wilkinson

Friday 2 September 2005, by Webmaster

The end of the world (again): by Joss Whedon

Written by: Joss Whedon
Penciled/Inked by: John Cassaday
Colors by: Laura Martin
Letters by: Chris Eliopoulos
Assistant Editor: Cory Sedlmeier & Stephanie Moore
Editor: Mike Marts
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley
Published by: Marvel Comics

This isn’t the first time that Joss Whedon’s characters have faced armaggedon. At last count, actually, I think the tally is closer to 10 times or so. Each time, the stakes (pardon the pun) were raised, the cost greater, but somehow the mood lighter.

This book seems to herald the end of the X-Men as no other book as done before, except for perhaps Chris Claremont’s legendary battle on the mood for the life of the Phoenix. The landscape is barren and hopeless, the odds stacked enormously against them, and even the sky is colored a blood red. These are all significant signs for what was to be the end of a remarkable twelve-issue run and is satisfying in a bleak and visceral sort of way.

After all, this is the way you’d expect heroes fighting impossible battles to go out, isn’t it? One last gasp saves the world while everything else is laid to ruin and hopefully something better will rise from the ashes.

Yet for all of this stark imagery and plot build-ups, the first few pages seem surprisingly glib. You have Cyclops asking Emma to join in the battle during a panel that seems ripped from an Archie comic book. Scott’s head and upper shoulders are visible on the far right and he quietly asks "Honey...? War?"

It’s funny, and it’s gallows humor, but somehow it feels a touch out of place. It’s right up there with Wolverine’s game talk that while true to the characters and the story, seems almost more shocking than what they’re facing. The entertainment value is at an all time high, and having seen everything Whedon has to offer (even Serenity) I’m used to Whedon’s uncanny (again, pardon the pun) knack of taking any moment and twisting it to the opposite end of the emotional spectrum.

It makes for brilliant viewing and reading, but may be too jarring for an audience unprepared for what seems like spontaneous emotional changes.

The crux of the issue is one that I won’t reveal for fear of spoiling those who haven’t read it yet. Suffice it to say, the nature of Danger’s origins and what they mean to the team are revealed, along with a very impressive fight that is slightly too easily resolved. At the end of the last issue, it seemed as though there was too much to get into, but Whedon wraps it up nicely.

There are great moments in this issue that prove once again how gifted Whedon is at characterization. A few panels with key characters give them more depth than many writers are able to get in several story arcs. We see a lot into the mind and heart of Colossus with this issue, as well as the dedication of some of the other members of the team.

Some of the mystery surrounding Emma’s ’dealings’ with an unseen force are revealed in one form, and the team heads off to the mansion worse off than ever in terms of moral.

Astonishing X-Men #12 Sadly, that’s what makes any scripted drama good. Happiness doesn’t really sell or interest people. Rather its adversity and strife, and how they deal with it, that really forms the crux of any form of entertainment worth enjoying. While this arc isn’t as good as Whedon’s first six issues, it still provides more than enough bang for the reader’s buck and leaves me, at the very least, itching to get more as soon as possible. Sadly, that’s at least four months away.

Still, there is a lot to love about this issue and this arc. If you’ve strayed from Astonishing X-Men for whatever reasons, picking up the trade in a month or so is highly recommended, as is sharing with your non-comic reading friends.

The art in this issue is some of Cassaday’s best. He manages to take elements of the script and tweak them to provide some stunning visuals. Danger’s wings are wonderfully ornate, and the swarm unleashed by the mega-sentinel is fantastic.

The true highlight, however, is in his Colossus. While I’m still not a fan of metal-Colossus’ coloring, Cassaday shows the most emotion and feeling from this character when he’s powered down. Colossus has two faces in this issue (metal and human) that are unmistakeably the same person, but from two different emotional perspectives. Emma also gets a lot of fine-tuning, and the final few pages are gut-wrenching.

This is the best I’ve seen of the X-Men books that I’ve seen in years. While I still read and enjoy a large variety of Marvel books, there are few that I eagerly look forward to as much each month. The other key book being Mark Millar’s The Ultimates Vol. 2, with each and every trade of Brian Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man making its way to my shelf as well.

Everything here is great, from the cover to the resolution, and should not disappoint those who have been loving this series from the start. Yes, there are still a lot of questions and a lot left unresolved, but a good series should never reveal everything, but leave fans guessing. That’s part of the reason the new Star Wars trilogy was disappointing. We used our imaginations to figure out how Vader went bad instead of having it laid in front of us.

There’s more to come... another year’s worth of stories... so take the time to relax and reload until Joss and John return. I know I’ll be there.