[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run issue by issue; for more of these posts hit the Astonishing X-Men label at the bottom.]
In this issue the team deals with the ramifications of the "cure" for mutant abilities. Whedon does spot on conflict, which comes from a tremendous understanding and love of these characters.
Kitty councils a kid about the cure: her heartfelt speech about standing together and everything will be ok gets from the kid "Miss Pryde...are you a fucking retard"; end scene.
Kitty and Emma argue: Emma gives a big speech about the horror of the situation; Kitty picks up on an incidental phrase in it and comes back with "Oh my god. You teach ethics?"
Ord and Dr. Rao argue over her giving a sample of the cure to the X-Men; you can feel the tension between these two very uneasy allies who have just nothing in common -- he might kill her at any moment, and she is a serious woman, above being scared.
Cyclops and Fury have a very tense square off -- one of the best Whedon has written. Cyclops demands help and Fury won't be lectured. Fury says no one is worried about mutants losing their powers -- just look at Manhattan he says, referring to Morrison's Planet X. (Whedon is very respectful of Morrison's run, when he can be). The core of the conversation, and Whedon's ability to write conflict, in in the next lines.
Cyclops: The X-Men saved Manhattan, Colonel.
Fury: After your boy Magneto turned it into a pretzel.
Cyclops: Our "boy"? What exactly makes him our boy?
Fury: He taught at your damn school --
Cyclops: Years ago. When he was a lot more stable --
Fury: -- and just recently?
Cyclops: He was in disguise. What makes you think we would knowingly harbor a dangerous criminal?
Fury: How's Miss Frost?
Cassaday gets a small shot of Scott's face in a long panel, and nothing else, for this last line -- just a perfect beat. And Laura Martin makes the conversation more visually engaging by coloring solid red behind many of the panels. This is one of my favorite moments in the run. And Cassaday, by the way, draws a stunning Shield carrier. He is amazing here.
Wolverine and the Beast have an argument over the Beast's thinking of using the cure on himself that turns into a big fight, crashing through walls. Respecting Morrison's run, Whedon brings up Nova telling the Beast he is devolving. Martin, again, tries out a bold color background, yellow. So simple, it should not be as effective as it is.
Many of these conflicts are dealt with in the danger room as the team touches base with each other. We are told for the second time the danger room is on the fritz, foreshadowing the next arc.
And that pitch perfect ending beat, as we learn Dr. Rao has been experimenting on someone they love.
Find the conflict in every scene, find that great hook to end on, put in great jokes ("So, what -- the teachers spend all their time here trying to kill each other? This place is so cool."), and make the art amazing (Cassaday does a great job on everyone, and Martin does some fantastic color work). Whedon makes it all look effortless.
Cassaday repeats a drawing: a zoom in on page one, a triple repeat on page three, Cyclops and Fury get a zoom, Fury gets a double take, a pair of students get a double take, those same students and another get a double take, Emma and Scott get a triple take. Like it or hate it, these are facts. I don't mind it now, but it will get on my nerves before the run is out.
Cassaday background watch: most of the scenes have a background; when it disappears it is acceptable. Later in the run this will become a problem.