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Astonishing X-Men #1

Posted: Friday, May 28, 2004
By: Ray Tate



"Gifted"

Writer: Joss Whedon
Artists: John Cassaday
Publisher: Marvel

No matter how many times I try to break away from The X-Men Marvel insists on waving more carrots to lure me back. After the claustrophobic mutant goddess Storm decided to wear tight leather and shave her head, I felt I had no reason to read any more of their adventures; clearly Chris Claremont had lost whatever remaining marbles were in his possession.

It took Grant Morrison to bring me back, and even then it was a reluctant return. Mr. Morrison with Frank Quitely turned the X-Men into a team of readable super-heroes, but the welcome change did not take. Morrison added to the core team more members--something that should be in the X-Men's case declared illegal. He went and killed Darkstar in what appeared to be a rejected JLA script. So, once again, I snatched the stone and left the order. I was happy not to look back.

I kept hearing this persistent rumor about Joss Whedon writing an X-Men title. I simply grinned and thought the rumor-monger just may have been struck by a tiny meteorite fragment that bore a pin-hole through his brain. Then, I heard John Cassaday of Desperadoes fame would be joining Joss Whedon on the X-Men title. I suspected that shard had done more damage to this rumor monger's brain than originally I had thought.

I didn't believe Joss Whedon and John Cassaday combining forces to produce the first issue of Astonishing X-Men would happen even minutes before I entered the comic book store. I expected some kind of cruel joke with The Astonishing X-Men being actually written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Rob Liefield.

Lo, and behold!

It was real. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday on the X-Men. What does Joss Whedon bring to the table? The best dialogue ever spoken by the mutants and an interesting beginning to a plot that has a science fiction backbone.

The science fiction involves the very concept of mutation. Mutations exist. They occur regularly throughout nature. Most have little to no effect. Some are beneficial. Others are deleterious. Replacing one gene can lead to a major change. Such a change can be seen by the famous peppered moth experiments prior to and during the industrial revolution. Some of the scientifically minded may balk at the definition of mutation in the comic book becoming synonymous with disease. In story context, as a politically motivated, loaded word like "mushroom," the mutation of the definition makes sense.

Mr. Whedon is actually known for his realism as it pertains within a speculative genre, and he does not disappoint the high expectations of his fans. For instance, Marvel told him to return the X-Men to costume, and Whedon finds a practical way to explain the move. Whedon's team composition makes sense, and I for one am glad to see Kitty Pryde back on the team where she belongs. Nothing interesting has been done with this character since she left Chris Claremont's and Alan Davis' Excalibur.

John Cassaday as expected beautifully illustrates the first issue. He's like the Anti-Liefield. With Mr. Cassaday it's about graceful, natural movements even when the characters are fighting, realistic backdrops, facial expressions you can see in a mirror. The artist adds softness to the inks and the coloring that aids in the representation of living, breathing human beings who just happen be blue and furry or feral and ticked off. On occasion, cute and petite.

I have no real affinity for the X-Men. I'd be sorry to see them die in the cultural consciousness or in the comic books, but I don't really care about them as much as I care about the Justice League, the DC multiverse, Buffy and the Scoobies, Angel and his firm or Mal and the crew of Serenity. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday make me care about the X-Men just a little bit more. I'm impressed by the way these literally two-dimensional characters come alive on the pages.



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