Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1 hardcover (Marvel Comics)

But the beauty of Whedon and Cassaday’s run is that amidst all the insanity, the alien terrorists and the fighting, there is genuine humor and little moments of character development that shows this book is the byproduct of two of the best professionals working in the business today.

(Marvel Comics; 320 pgs FC; $29.99)

(W: Joss Whedon; A: John Cassaday )

The title for Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s first twelve-issue run pretty much sums it up: Astonishing X-Men is simply astonishing. Collecting the six-part storylines "Gifted" and "Dangerous" from the superstar creative team—Whedon is the superstar writer/director/producer behind TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Serenity, while Cassaday’s art is a fan favorite from his runs on Planetary and Captain America—this newly released hardcover beautifully shows what an X-Men comic should be. Whedon and Cassaday get the characters. Their run is classic X-Men and deserves to be put right up there with the Claremont/Byrne run of the late 70s, what many people think of as the series’ definitive run.

Gone are the multiple teams and an overload of second- and third-tier characters. What Astonishing X-Men gives you is a core group of X-Men: Wolverine, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost (White Queen), and Colossus, outcast and fighting against the whole world, which is when the X-Men are at their best. The cause for concern in the first storyline, "Gifted," is the unveiling of a drug that "cures" mutants of their mutant ability and changes them back to regular old Homo sapiens. If that sounds familiar to anyone, it was lifted wholesale for the movie X3: The Last Stand. Only here, "the cure" isn’t the only thing concerning the X-Men: Jean Grey is dead, Magneto only recently had taken over New York and turned Manhattan into a human concentration camp and Professor X is nowhere to be found. If that’s not enough fuel for the fire, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. now view the X-Men in a less than favorable light, Beast is seriously considering testing the cure on himself and, oh yeah, there is a crazy, super powered alien who has traveled to Earth to personally eliminate the X-Men and he’s working in conjunction with the U.S. government. All of that pales in comparison to the next "villain" that the X-Men face in the second story arc "Dangerous." It kind of makes you rethink your bad day, huh?

But the beauty of Whedon and Cassaday’s run is that amidst all the insanity, the alien terrorists and the fighting, there is genuine humor and little moments of character development that shows this book is the byproduct of two of the best professionals working in the business today. And while we’re at it, colorist Laura Martin brings a whole new dimension to Cassaday’s work with her palette of hues. Whedon and Cassaday show the X-Men for who they truly are: a family of outcasts who have come together to the one place where they can be accepted.

Scott Summers is Cyclops, the fearless leader, always in control, whose greatest fear is ultimately losing control or losing a fellow X-Man in combat. The Beast is a brilliant scientist whose genius and intellect are at constant odds with the furry, blue Cat-like creature he has been slowly mutating into. Kitty Pryde is the youngest, who has never quite felt like she belonged or her powers were good enough for the "A team". Emma Frost is the former enemy, the cold hearted psychic who feels as if she should run the team and does by manipulating Cyclops. Then there is Wolverine, the runt who sticks around because the X-Men are the closest thing to family that he has got. Plus, there is always certain to be a fight or two with the X-Men involved and Logan is always down for that.

They stand as a family. They stand as X-Men and they are truly astonishing.

 

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