Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday
The X-team gets a new member -in the form of Kitty Pride- and a brand new (sort of.) set of duds. Meanwhile in a press conference a scientist reveals a discovery that could have serious effects on mutants everywhere.
Hot-dog, a new creative team on a new X-book! As if that wasn't enough, this is one of the most anticipated books since Loeb and Lee's Batman run. Does Astonishing live up to its title? Can it live up to the hype? On both writing and penciling fronts, yes it does, and yes, apparently, it can.
No review of this book would be complete without a mention of what's causing all the buzz - that 'what' is a 'who.' Yes, your favorite television writer and mine, the witmeister himself, Joss Whedon. You'll recognize him as the Buffy guy. And if you're cool, you'll recognize him as the Angel guy. And if you're the coolest, you'll recognize him as the Firefly guy. If you're just into comics, then you'll recognize him as the Fray (Dark Horse) guy. If you couldn't tell, I'm a fan. Not only of his TV shows, but of what I've read of his work in comics as well. While it wasn't a masterpiece, Fray was quite a good read. But for Whedon to get Astonishing to live up to the hype, you need better than 'quite a good read' you need 'a damn good read.' Lucky for us, that is what he's brought to the table.
The story begins with Kitty Pride coming to the school in a nice scene that includes flashbacks to some older character moments that will no doubt come into play as the series unfolds. Right off the bat Whedon sets the tone and pace of his writing. It is conserved, with short sentences and brief dialogue, and it is a tribute to him that he manages to say so much with only so little. He also has great trust in Cassaday to make us feel whatever the relevant emotion may be. Whedon's wit is ever-present. There is some funny stuff in here, especially in the brief tussle between Cyclops and Wolverine, and in the verbal sparring between Kitty and Emma. The serious stuff is good too, it manages to be poignant without sounding preachy. The writing is great all around. And wait till you get a load of the bottom of the last page - that whole part had great pacing and the final lines of the issue get you pumped for #2. Whedon really knows how to write good hooks.
Cassaday's art, as usual, rocks. The detail he puts into everything, from the characters, to the backgrounds, really brings things to life and lends the book a certain level of credibility and realism. I like all of his characters except for Cyclops who looks sort of old and.I dunno, fat? But much like the new costumes, I think it's something that you can get used to.
If there was one complaint I had about the issue, it is for the splash page 'strut your stuff' scene. It's a good bit and drawn very well, but Scott's 'We have to astonish them' line just felt sort of weird. Partly because 'Astonish' doesn't sound right in that sentence and partly because it's just a word that nobody really uses, it just felt off. Even so, I recognize that they wanted to put the word 'Astonish' somewhere in the book, and I suppose the unveiling of the new costumes combined with the 'strut' splash page is the place to do it, but it just didn't work for me.
Are you an X-Men fan? Are you a Whedon fan? Are you a comic fan? Are you alive and breathing? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions you have to pick up this book, no debates and no maybes. It is a great start to what will no doubt be a landmark X-Men run.
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