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Astonishing X-Men #9

Posted: Monday, April 4, 2005
By: Kelvin Green



"Would it really be that much of a hassle to put the story title on the recap page?" Part Three

Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Well, it's still Star Trek, isn't it? Whedon gamely tries to redeem the "Danger Room has gone mental" plot, but technobabble didn't help the withered remnants of Roddenberry's legacy, and the result is similar here. Admittedly, there's some interest in the Danger Room's references to its creator, but none of the characters seem to pick up on this, so it goes unexamined. Instead, the X-Men decide to spend the entire issue trying to remove a ceiling tile, which ultimately leads to an utterly bizarre ending in which the Danger Room's CPU, after being hacked at by Wolverine, transforms into Porno Grip Ultron.

It's a tremendously schizophrenic issue, which reads like Whedon has pulled a Straczynski, and is actually sunning himself on a beach while a "protege" writes his comics for him. I'm looking forward to the next issue, if only for an explanation of what the chuff is going on.

And at the end of the day, it's just that "Cerebro has gone mental" plot from Uncanny X-Men #362* again, just with a different piece of disgruntled technology. Really, the X-Men should probably make sure that their appliances don't have a homicidal tendencies before they install them; I expect that in five years' time the X-Men will be facing a legion of murderous self-aware toasters, intent on revenge after the neglectful mutants fail to empty out the crumb tray again.

Even the characters suffer, as instead of interacting with each other, they're lumbered with the task of trying to explain what's going on. Kitty comes off particularly badly, since she's forced to listen to a broken-necked corpse spout the same kind of "meaningful" bollocks that infested The Matrix Reloaded. Worse, she has to translate it for the rest of the team and fails miserably. I'd guess she doesnt teach English at Xavier's then.

Luckily, John Cassaday is there to save the day. He still draws the worst Colossus I've ever seen, but everything else is top-notch. He has great fun with the nightmarish imagery in the Danger Room, in particular a wonderfully gruesome Lovecraftian double page spread, and his design for Porno Grip Ultron is quite impressive. The action scenes work very well, and Cassaday also admirably captures the characters' personalities. I still consider him to be overrated as an artist, and this isn't a patch on his Planetary work, but his art goes a great way towards making this comic worthwhile. A worse artist may not have been able to redeem this mess, and without the superb colouring from his frequent collaborator Laura Martin, Cassaday may indeed have failed, but the visuals just about manage to save this.

I'm becoming more and more convinced as this series goes on that it was a mistake. If Marvel had sent Whedon and Cassaday off to do an X-Men graphic novel or two in their own time instead of holding them down to a "monthly" (hahahahaha) title, then we'd perhaps get something more representative of the talents involved than this inconsistent mess. One issue it's great (though never astonishing-wed need nudity, ninjas and midgets for that), the next it's bilge. Unfortunately, this is a bilge month.

*Im very embarrassed to know this, especially as it seems to demolish my claims that Im not an X-Men fan. In my defence, this issue just happens to be one of the roughly seven X-Men comics I own.



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