He gave us a solid opening salvo, introducing us to exciting new X-Men villains like Ord and Danger. But can he and John Cassaday keep the stakes and quality high as they bring their run to a close?
Published by: Marvel
Written by: Joss Whedon
Art by: John Cassaday
Collects: Astonishing X-Men #13 – 24 & Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1
PLOT: The Hellfire Club comes to the X-Mansion as former supervillain Emma Frost finally makes her true allegiance known. What does Emma want, and why has she chosen now to strike against her teammates and the supposed love of her life?
But the altercation with Emma is just the beginning of a far greater threat, as the X-Men team up with Abigail Brand and S.W.O.R.D. to stage an attack on the alien planet Breakworld.
There, it is prophesied that one of the X-Men will destroy their world, and so they have prepared a missile to destroy Earth in kind.
But who is the breaker of Breakworld, and will the prophecy come to fruition? Only one thing’s for certain – not all the X-Men are coming back from this mission alive.
REVIEW: I remember when I first read this run years ago, thinking that it was a shame that Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s time on the X-Men seemed so short.
In truth, there are shorter runs. Twenty-five issues is a decent amount to tell a story. I just wanted more.
Now, I realise that this is probably for the best. Joss Whedon’s personal stuff aside, a writer and an artist getting the chance to come in, tell their own contained story as they want to tell it, and then get out before they overstay their welcome or run out of good ideas is all you can really ask for as a comic fan.
Yes, ongoing series that last years can be great, and the interconnected narrative of Marvel stories is what makes them stand out, but having that tapestry be made out of shorter, stronger stories is perhaps the way to get the best out of the writers.
And while, I think, at times parts of this book aren’t as strong as the previous one, for the most part, this is a perfect example of getting the best out of the talent.
For instance, the first half of the book, Torn, seems a bit convoluted at times, but even then, it makes for an interesting character study of Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde.
It contains some language and insults that are less a part of today’s nomenclature, and as a result I could see some people disagreeing with its usage (same for the first book, in hindsight), but I think the context works well enough (with some exceptions, it’s usually bad people saying bad things).
Unstoppable meanwhile, ties everything from this 25 issue run in together perfectly.
It’s got high stakes and a suitably climactic feel. There’s heaps of emotion, shocking twists and turns, excitement and a fair few guest appearances to boot.
The character work is particularly key to bringing that emotion. The X-Men on this particular team are some of my favourites, and in hindsight, I think it may be from reading this comic years ago.
For me, Cyclops is a particular stand out, as through both Torn and Unstoppable, Whedon analyses why this man – one of the X-Men’s seemingly lesser-powered members, is deserving of the title of leader, and with every character he analyses (in this book) the payoff is not only great but gloriously depicted by Cassaday.
There are some beautiful two-page spreads on display here that act as the money shots. Several characters get them. Each as spectacular and impactful as the last.
It’s a great comic, and combined with Book One makes for an excellent, contained X-Men story that is, in a word… Astonishing.
All-in-all, I give Astonishing X-Men a…
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