Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Astonishing X-Men: Torn

This feels like three issues padded out to six.

That's my general thoughts on this trade paperback, which collects together issues 13 to 18 of the Astonishing X-Men comic book by Joss Whedon (writer) and John Cassaday (art). It's a good TPB, especially if you like the X-Men (like I do), with an interesting story and impressive art. But it seems short, lightweight and an easy read. After you zip through it you feel the writer could have easily done this in half the space.

The story goes something like this. Emma Frost, who used to be the White Queen, now accepted - albeit reluctantly - into the X-Men, has been in contact with a new Hellfire Club made up of some old faces (Sebastian Shaw and Cassandra Nova) and some new. With Emma's help, they have managed to infiltrate Xavier's school and plan on taking down the X-Men. Which they do by turning Wolverine into a scared boy, unleashing Beast's wild side, and mentally trapping Cyclops in his "bug room".

Meanwhile, Ord of the Breakworld - who was captured by S.W.O.R.D and held on their space station - is freed by Danger, the sentient danger-room. They now know which mutant will destroy Breakworld and so both of them head to the X-Men's mansion to stop him. In the end there's a fight (this is a superhero comic book after all), the X-Men beat the Hellfire Club but Cassandra Nova gets what she was after, just before everyone is beamed aboard a S.W.O.R.D ship heading for Breakworld.

Joss Whedon produces a good story, full of twists and fan-pleasing surprises. Again, he shows that he's excellent at dialogue - just like on Buffy. He's also not afraid to let the art explain what's going on - he doesn't fill the page with tons of exposition. It's just a pity it's so decompressed.

Cassaday's art is clean and attractive, full of thin lines and often lots of detail - see the image I posted on Friday as an example. However, the art also relies a lot on the shaded colours to give a sense of depth and add life to some of the faces. The art is good, just not as amazing as some people seem to make out. Sometimes - such as with the S.W.O.R.D ship near the end - things just don't quite look right. Still, overall, I like the art.

Generally, Astonishing X-Men feels like a carry on from Grant Morrison's New X-Men, using many of the same characters and a similar feel with the mansion and students. So, if you liked those stories then this is a fitting continuation. Of course, it helps if you've read the earlier Astonishing X-Men issues or TPBs. And the ending of this TPB is a bit of a cliff-hanger containing threads not completely resolved, which means it also helps if you read the TPB that follows this. But with decent artwork, Whedon's humorous scripts and an engaging - if light and decompressed - story, this is recommended if you're a fan of the X-Men.

Grade: Fine.

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