[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run issue by issue. For more of the same click the Astonishing X-Men label at the bottom of this post].
In this issue we learn that Ord is from a planet he believes is destined to be destroyed by a mutant; that is why he is trying to destroy all mutants. He tries to get away, and the X-Men stop him.
Wolverine goes nuts with a string of censored curse words. His "Diplomatic #%$@ *#%$@ *#%$@*#%$@ *#%$@* immunity?" starts the issue, and is a nice piece of exposition. You just pick this conversation up in the middle and know what is going on, and are also entertained by it. When Fury calls Wolverine "tiny" you simply KNOW, with a single word, that this guy is in control of this situation. You can never have read a comic book before and you will get the power dynamic in a single word. Whedon knows what he is doing. The guy tells a solid story.
Whedon told an interviewer he spent more time coming up with the acronym SWORD (Sentient Worlds Observation and Response Department) to match SHIELD than he did writing the issue. That is an exaggeration to be sure, but he did a great job.
Cassaday draws some really funny mutants who attack Benetech looking for the cure. Look in the background -- I think one of them might be Rorschach from Watchmen.
There is also a nice chiming of SHIELD knocking the mutants outside out with sleeping gas dropped from ominous flying contraptions and Agent Brand's story about how the Breakworld is destined to be destroyed. It actually took me a moment to realize the image was not of the Breakworld's future she described. Whedon does this to make the conversation more visually interesting and he succeeds well. Whedon is so talky that it is important that he does this kind of thing (as he has done before in the two danger room scenes) so it is not all talking heads.
Also elegant in this issue is the fastball special. The fastball special -- in which Colossus throws Wolverine -- is a classic, but dated and corny. Whedon gets to eat his cake and have it too by having Wolverine give a knowing look to both Colossus and the reader; turn the page and you get the two page splash image of Wolverine in the air and Colossus finishing the arc of the throw. Cassaday draws swirling clouds to show how the air is effected by Wolverine flying. The moment is possibly the best in the run.
Whedon will not wrap up his arc without that Whedonesque final beat, the hook to keep everyone on board (it is any wonder Whedon fans are so rabid: he made us like this): a voice tells Emma that when the time comes, they will deal with Kitty first.
With a few problems here and there Whedon's first arc is in the final analysis very good.
Cassaday repeat/background watch. Fury gets a double take, Emma gets a double take, Fury gets another double take, Brand gets a double take. Ord and Rao have a two page conversation in a white matrix, much of the conversation between the X-Men and Fury takes place in green matrix, Brand and the X-men have a conversation in a blue matrix, and in the end Kitty and Peter just get blue sky white clouds. That last one is fine with me; the other ones not so much.