December 14, 2010

Getting Graphic: "Astonishing X-Men: Gifted" by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday

Astonishing X-Men (Volume 1): Gifted
written by Joss Whedon
illustrated by John Cassaday
Marvel Comics (2004)
ISBN 0-7851-1531-5

A couple months back when I was on my Joss Whedon kick (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Volume 1, Serenity Volume 1, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog), I saw that he'd written for Marvel Comics and their X-Men franchise. I liked the movies, though the third one I'd rather forget, and figured I'd check this series out.

The trouble for me, as someone who doesn't follow the continuity of the Marvel Universe, I had no idea what was happening or why.

Cyclops and Emma Frost reopen the X-Men Academy in the wake of some averted apocalypse. The world is saved, though there is a lingering stigma against mutants. Since Professor X is galavanting somewhere else, Cyclops and Frost--who are having an affair, I guess--decide to get the ball rolling again to improve human/mutant relations. Joining their reformed group are Beast, Kitty Pryde, and Wolverine. A pretty disparate bunch if ever there was one, and it shows as Cyclops and Wolverine immediately get into a brawl on school grounds, and the once villainous Emma Frost is the ethics teacher for the academy.

School is the least of their worries though, as a scientist and one-time colleague of Beast reveals a cure for the mutant gene. At the same time, a new villain rears his head in luring the X-Men into confrontations. Some toady looking badass named Ord from some other dimension, or planet, or whatever.

The action is great and the quieter scenes between different members of the X-Men as they contend with the thought of losing their superpowers--or cured of them as some see it--but as a guy who isn't a devotee to the series, I was generally lost. Jean Grey is apparently dead at this point in time because of her turn as Phoenix, and Magneto is in exile somewhere licking his wounds, and Nick Fury is borderline malevolent in his scenes with the X-Men (I thought he was supposed to be a good guy).

I think if I'm to continue reading the Astonishing X-Men and enjoy some more of Whedon's trademark storytelling, something tells me I will have to find a Marvel Universe almanac or some damned thing, just so I can have half a clue as to what's going on. Fans of the characters likely enjoyed this incarnation, but if you're new to this bunch then you'll probably want to find a shallower end of the pool to dive in.

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