Monday, January 24, 2005

Astonishing X-Men #6
writer: Joss Whedon
artist: John Cassaday
published by Marvel Comics

You know...I've been reading X-Men comics for over 20 years (closer to 25!!! -- jeez, I'm old). And every once in a while, I despair for the characters I love so much.
Once in a while, I almost give up on the X-Men.
Almost invariably...they pull something like this. And I remember why I love these characters and why I've had such a long-standing relationship with them. Astonishing X-Men is the comic I've been wanting to read all these years...and on a few occasions, have gotten out of the X-books.
Comics fans love the X-Men for one primary reason. They're outsiders, just like the readers themselves. In spite of all the comic movies out there, comic fans are still looked on like they're some kinda dirt. Buy a comic book, sit in a public place and open it up. Watch the eyes that drift your way. Revulsion? Disgust? Contempt? You ain't seen nothin' yet, baby.
Where Grant Morrison's New X-Men was a celebration of the affirmation that freaks will inherit the earth...Joss Whedon's Astonishing is a reminder that the normal people won't let us.
Bleak as that may sound, keep in mind that this is the X-Men. Their goal isn't conquest. It's coexistance. It's understanding. At it's root, the story of the X-Men is a parable about racism and equality.
Whedon understands that. And he's a skilled enough writer that he can take the old notions about it, turn them on their ear and still entertain. The X-Men have readopted costumes, thanks to Whedon. They've integrated more fully into the superhero community. And they're still takin' care of business when mutantkind is threatened.
That's the case here. A clinic is offering to cure mutants, and using alien technology from a dude called Ord and DNA from Jean Grey to do it. When the X-Men raid the lab, they find Colossus...ALIVE (jooooooy) and begin to tear the place up (previous issues). Then, SHIELD shows up. And SWORD (kind of like an offworld SHIELD). Turns out they're not gonna let the X-Men deal with Ord.
Ord's race has a problem with mutants from earth. They can see into the future...and they know a mutant is going to destroy their race...probably an X-Man, even [not that they didn't just give said mutant a reason!!!]. SWORD let him come to earth and do his thing to prevent an all out war. Complicates things, doesn't it?
You wanna talk greatness? Don't even get me started about the dialogue. Joss Whedon proved on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and Firefly that he has a master's understanding of how dialogue is paced and used to effect. Couple that with one of the most insanely brilliant artists working the medium in John Cassaday and you've got pure magic in your hands. The spash pages depicting the return of the Fastball Special? I damn near wet myself. Even if I wasn't reading comics any more...Astonishing X-Men would get me to the store once a month.
I can't give up on the X-Men. They're like two-dimensional family to me.
Thanks, Joss.

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