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Astonishing X-Men #2

Posted: Wednesday, June 30, 2004
By: Kelvin Green



Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday

Publisher: Marvel

Well, I remain decidedly non-astonished, but this is a bit more like it. The first issue was slow and dull, and not at all the big exciting event that we were all told it would be, but this is a solid and capable second issue. Iím still annoyed at the costumes, and the capitalised lettering and all the other signs of Marvelís decision that even though everyone loved it and it brought readers back to the company, and saved the company from going bust, and made people think that perhaps Marvel was a House Of Ideas after all, all the cool stuff of the past few years was in fact an aberration, and should be quietly discarded in favour of Making Everything Like It Was In The Nineties.

Ahem.

Putting aside the fact that this comic is a brochure for Marvelís current idiotic editorial policies, itís pretty good. The plot advances in an interesting manner, and thereís a nicely understated, but still exciting cliffhanger. The big fight scene is well done, effectively showing the strengths and weaknesses of both sides, and ending in a pleasantly surprising way as a surprise guest pulls the X-Menís arses out of the fire (thereís a pun there, I think). The dialogue, now freed from the shackles of explaining why Grant Morrisonís recent run should be forgotten, is more of the quality that weíd expect from Joss Whedon, and the characterisation is similarly polished. Whedon has particular success writing Kitty, Emma and Beast, although on the other hand Wolverine has been left to run on autopilot (Show tactical nous. Smash stuff. Be grumpy. Repeat.), and Cyclops is beginning to revert back to the boring one with the eye beams. Iím also not particularly impressed with the villain. Ord is another of those extraordinarily competent figures who has no problem dealing with the X-Men, and will undoubtedly be revealed as some kind of super-mutation or example of the next evolutionary leap. You know, just like Vargas and Cassandra Nova. I hope to be proved wrong, I really do.

Cassaday turns in fine art, but I canít help but wonder whether the publicity stunt of getting him on an X-book is really worth it. Already, the backgrounds have disappeared, and things are getting a bit rough around the edges, especially his depiction of Emma Frost. Similarly, Ordís character design is terrible (is that a bra?). To be honest, Iíd much rather he get a few more issues of Planetary out than mess around here. There are hordes of artists out there whoíd be more suited to this book than Cassaday is, and none who could do Planetary as well as he can.

This review seems more negative than perhaps it should. This issue is a vast improvement over the first in terms of writing, and Cassadayís art, though unsuitable, is attractive. On the whole, itís an above-average comic, and worth reading, but itís hard to get excited about this being the next stage in the X-Menís evolution (pun sort of intended) when what came before was so much better.



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