Friday, May 28, 2004

[Astonishing X-Men #1 cover]

Astonishing X-Men #1

Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday

If the goal of Marvel's bringing in Joss Whedon to write an X-Men series was to recapture lost readers, they accomplished it with this one anyway. I hadn't been to a comic shop in well over 4 months at least, and except for the first Grant Morrison X-Men issue, I haven't been a follower of the titles since the very early 1990s.

Yet I really love Joss's TV shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Firefly, and just out of sheer curiosity had to at least see what his take on these very old characters would be like. So I ventured into the shop and nabbed a copy.

Now comes the real test though, after the name and PR have got me in. Will the product be good enough to make me want to stay?

So far so good. After a kind of icky and hard to follow two page prologue that seems to be setting up the next big threat, we get to the X-Mansion where things are really hopping.

Kitty Pride makes for a great returning reader point of view character, as she too returns to the mansion after years of absence. She's grown and changed, a lot apparently since I last saw her as a teen, just as I have grown and changed a lot since the last time I was an X-Men reader.

She remarks on how somethings at the mansion never change. Which gave me as a returning reader a sense of comfort in knowing that though I may not have been around for a while. There were some familiar things that I could hold on to, and not feel lost about.

Yet as Kitty learns, there have been some changes, which is also refreshing because as a returning reader I want the familiar to a degree. Yet I also don't want to feel like I'm just reading a rehash of someone else's story.

Cyclops and Emma Frost dating is a strange pairing, I'm sure previous writers established it before I returned yet Joss setup all I needed to know in a few pages. I did keep waiting to see why Beast looks like a huge cat now, but I think I may have heard something about that a while back so it isn't anything new either.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of the big deal the team made out of changing costumes back to the original look, rather than the movie version tight leather. It seemed a bit more like author decree rather than story reason, yet if that's what it takes to make Joss have fun then that's fine.

One of the more refreshing things about the book, was a real playful spirit. In this day of gloom and doom comics, it was nice to see a comic that can maintain the balance of telling a serious story with the right mixture of humor to keep things from getting too glum.

There is a bit too much a sense of setup in this issue though. Which is to be expected I suppose with a new series, and the expectations of readers (like myself) who need to be caught back up on things. And I did really enjoy the character bits sprinkled through out.

Yet I got very little sense of what the direction of the series will be, I like characterization and know that is Joss's strong suit. Yet there will hopefully be a very compelling enemy for me to root for our heroes against.

Art wise, Cassaday's figure work is pretty and his big action panels work very well. Yet there isn't a really good flow from panel to panel, and seems more like collections of various scenes stuck together. Which made me have to use my imagination a little more, to follow what happened inbetween the panels.

Still I'm pretty happy, and will check out the second issue of the run in the same fashion as I did this. Which given that I haven't followed any monthly pamphlet comic on a regular basis in over a year, is a win for Marvel's gambit of bringing in such a big name.

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