[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run. For more posts click the Astonishing X-Men label.]
Cassaday does a really knockout job here, especially rendering the monster the little girl gives life to, and all the X-Men attacking in separate panels. Also the cover is just stunning, especially Laura Martin's colors. Ord is a little weird looking, with that metal thing across his nose. I wonder if Whedon thought up the design, because it seems like something from Buffy, something from a medium where you have to think about practical issues with monster design.
We begin here to see one of Cassaday's worst habits, that will become more prominent in future issues -- though he is incredibly talented, he can be lazy. Give him a chance to use the same drawing twice, and he will take it. Case in point in this issue -- the cop's face is copied exactly from on panel to the next, there are three panels in a row of one of Ord's henchman that are again nearly exact copies, and a group shot of the X-Men talking is almost exactly recopied a panel later. So is a panel of Kitty and Emma talking. This is used for dramatic effect, and it is not awful, but it does not make it any less lazy. It does not seem too bad until you see how many times Cassaday resorts to this device -- stay tuned and I will grab all the ones I see.
Whedon's trademark serious-silly combination -- his main device that for some reason I simply never tire of -- is used to great effect here in the battle with Ord. His serious, violent, and nearly successful battle with the X-Men is ended by Kitty Pride's pet dragon, who appears for the first time simply breathing fire on Ord and saving everyone. "You are the best X-Dragon ever" says Kitty. "I think we should make him team leader," says Wolverine. You just don't get this kind of scene in Morrison, or anywhere else, and I am a sucker for it. I can, in all fairness, understand someone who thought it was lame. The press asks Kitty "Do you have a license for that bat? What is your relationship with the bat" and she replies "I don't even know what that means." Whedon, you had me at hello. My critical powers fail me, and I just swoon.
We have a great scene between Emma and Kitty, where it becomes clear Emma wanted Kitty on the team to keep an eye on her, which is interesting. She wants to be good, but it not sure she will. The team debates the virtues of the mutant "cure" in a well written and mercifully brief conversation -- Whedon provides a good mix of action and talking, though many people found this first arc too talky. Finally, Whedon, ever the master, finds that perfect ending beat as the Beast confronts Dr. Rao and wants to know if the cure really works -- presumably for him.