To My Astonishment

10:16:13 pm

Wow, I was going through my posts and found this one that never went live for some reason. I think I wrote it originally back in August, but it could have been even further back than that. Enjoy!

I realize it’s been a while since I did an actual comic review. I’ve been reading mostly newer stuff lately and trying to catch up on more recent books that I missed, but I did grab all four Astonishing X-Men trades from the library the other day after. I had read the first three and part of the fourth, but wasn’t really seeing what all the fuss was about and got pretty displeased with the incredible lateness of the book, so I stopped reading. And while I did like the series a little bit more the second time around, I’m still not blown away like everyone else.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Whedon crafted a good story and I like Cassaday’s art enough. But neither one of those excuse the lateness of the book. I know it doesn’t matter now that the whole thing is out in trade (and probably an omnibus at some point), but it still bugs me when creators make a splash with a book, get fans excited and then keep you waiting for four years to finish a 25 issues story. It’s the kind of book I would have dropped if I was buying it and didn’t get to read them for free at work.

Okay, aside from that, I did have a bit of a hard time not seeing shades of Buffy in every issue of the book. Em and I just finished watching the series again (look for something Buffy-related coming soon) right before I started re-reading the first trade. Sure these characters stand on their own and maybe Cassaday even took some of his cues from the show (the way he draws Beast with his glasses, instantly makes me think of Giles). But, after the first few pages of the first issue, all that kind of fell away. I still saw elements of his Buffy characters in the X-Men, but it’s obviously not a direct lift or transference. Even though certain bits of dialog brought me right back to Buffy episodes. It could also be argued that the Buffy characters were influenced by the X-Men. Who’s to say?

Also, I do have to say that I’m not much of an X-Men fan. As my faithful reader(s) know(s), I was a DC kid growing up, so my experience with the X-Men were the occasional grocery store comics I’d pick up and the cartoon (and reading Wizard back in the day). Because of this, I find their history nearly incomprehensible at times. That being said, I think this is probably the most accessible X-Men book I’ve ever checked out. Whedon and Cassaday both boil the characters down to their basic natures, both in content and appearance, so that you can figure out what they’re all about in just a few panels. I even handed it to Em after the first two trades were out and she loved it, though I did have to hear her continually ask about the next trade for like two years. She has also re-read them and, with the exception of a few questions about the Legacy Virus and Cassandra Nova, didn’t have any trouble with the plot.

I also appreciate the whole “let’s make the X-Men a real life superhero team” idea that gets a bit lost in the middle of the series, but then comes back later on. One of the many things that has bothered me about the Marvel Universe is how bigoted the general citizens can be toward mutants and not towards the Avengers. How do they know that Cap isn’t a mutant? Come on, get over it already. And for his part, Whedon tried to get people over it, by getting the “feared and hated by those they’ve sworn to protect” bit out of the way after the first arc. Kudos for that. And double extra kudos for leaving guns all over the different issues and firing them off in the end (most specifically, the big giant weird sentient Genosha-killing Sentinel). And super kudos for putting some genuinely funny moments in the book. The scene with Kitty falling thrown the floor into the TV room while her and Pete…celebrated his return, made me actually laugh out loud (yes, that an LLOL, a literal LOL).

I also appreciate how Whedon adds to the mythology without muddying up the already cloudy world of the X-Men and the Marvel U in general. You’ve got Danger, the Breakworld, Agent Brand, S.W.O.R.D. and maybe Armor? I’m not sure if Morrison invented her in his New X-Men or not, but Whedon obviously took a shine to her and gave Wolverine another Kitty Pryde/Jubilee girl partner to pal around with when X-23 gets to be too much of a psychopath.

All in all, like I said above, I think this is a good X-Men story. It almost reads like “All-Star X-Men” because it basically glosses over everything that happened in the Marvel U in the four years it took to tell the story. There’s no mention of the Decimation and only one line about Civil War. Now, I’m not one to say that these big events MUST interfere with a big-time writer’s story, but it would at least make sense to get a mention of the 198 or something. And, I’m sorry to say, but I don’t see what the big deal about Cassaday’s art. My friend Rickey Purdin has promised to sit down with me and go through the trades to try and change my mind, so we shall see. And really, I’m only disappointed in that because I think Whedon could have done some really fun things with those events AND I think the Marvel U and the X-books could have benefited from a more timely involvement.

We (Comic Book Detective Matt Powell and King of the Internet Jim Gibbons) were all talking about this book at lunch the other day and came up with the idea that it would be cool if Whedon “executive produced” X-Men the way he does TV or the Buffy comic, writing the important stuff, letting other writers flesh things out and approving everything that gets done. We all felt that, given a more regular shipping schedule, Whedon’s run would feel a lot fuller and more well-rounded like our favorite seasons of Buffy.

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