[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men issue by issue. For more of the same click the Astonishing X-Men label at the bottom of this post.]
In this issue the team does a stand alone thing, taking down a monster with the Fantastic Four; meanwhile Wing dies in an ominous way suggesting that it means bigger things.
We are hooked immediately by a mysterious voiceover -- change is coming -- and Wing on the edge of suicide because he has been depowered. Cassaday does an amazing job with the background for a specific reason -- this will turn out to be the danger room. If Cassaday skimps here people will go back and say Oh that's why it was so empty. And someone will suggest many scenes were in the danger room. Before we know this is the danger room, we are shocked to discover Wing's friend Hisako suddenly wants him to commit suicide; after we will have to completely reevaluate what we have seen: a great fake-out. Someone with fortelling powers confirms that this death is a big deal. Something is coming, and whedon knows how to make us care, in part because we have spent time with Wing. He matters to us.
The title page spread is fantastic and elegant: Colossus surfs on top of the X-jet; below is the title. below that the team discusses how he seems psychologically. They are literally below him, and so their panels are below him, discussing what is going on beneath the surface of their friend.
Colossus, Kitty and Wolverine each get a page fighting the monster. Each page has an internal monologue. This is Whedon's thing: action reflects psychological states. Colossus and Kitty are disturbed. Wolverine is pure concentration, thinking only, after three panels of silence "I like beer." Action reflects psychology can be a bit of a cliche -- Whedon makes light of the device, and so it stands well. We get some great banter between the X-Men and the Fantastic Four: The Thing making fun of Wolverine for being Canadian; Wolverine messing with Johnny (who responds "Reed, can we be evil now?").
Brand gets an amazing character moment, standing up for herself at her performance review. This character gets our respect from now on. She is a bad-ass. Whedon is building for his final story. Again -- if we like a character early, they will matter more when they play a bigger role.
I have not been talking about themes. I do not have much to say in this department. Weigh in. These Whedon posts may be too thin to continue with, though I like that they are easy to do.
Cassaday repeat/background watch. Wolverine's face is used twice, Emma and Scott are doubled in separate panels. This is better than his last issues. Worse is the use of photographs for backgrounds: photos of New York fill in for New York for pretty much no reason; they tank the aesthetic integrity. It is especially bad because no where else in this issue does Cassaday skimp on the backgrounds as he has a tendency to in earlier issues, as I have pointed out.