Thursday, July 26, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 7

[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.


neilshyminsky said...

One of the reasons that this issue is my favorite in the entire run is because it signals the failure of Cyclops' ostensible mission as he laid it out in the first issue - the X-Men can't go back to being superheroes, putting on the costumes is not enough.

It's an important moment for me because the X-Men have always been too white, too male, too straight - they're assimilationists, not activists. But this issue shows that they can never actually assimilate - that Emma was right when she said that humans will never trust them. And worse, we'll subsequently find out that their efforts to earn that trust came at the cost of another mutant's liberty.

Elijah Fly said...

agreed. I wondering how much of that is intentionally subverting the editorial mandate. (I LOVE that Cyclops is effectively wearing his New X-Men uniform in the current Breakworld storyline. I also hope that he has control of his powers by the end of it.)

This issue proved that a little bit of Wolverine goes a long way. I seriously like the Wolverine as Jane route. He's funny. He shows up, does something badass and complements the team as other characters take the forefront. "I like beer." Is great.

James said...

elijah: My fingers are crossed so hard for Cyclops finally being able to control his optic blasts. I've been waiting for it since Uncanny X-Men #332, when (during the height of Scott Lobdell editorially-driven Onslaught madness) he receives a blow to the head that we are told "restores bloodflow to a part of his brain that has lay dormant since surviving a plane crash as a child..." My fanboy gland exploded when I read that, only for it to never be mentioned again. Imagine my frustration.

Elijah Fly said...

This is why I disagree with the other guy about how the dream sequence a few issues ago is just about making fun of the 90s. No it isn't. While I love that remark, the whole sequence of, "do you like my pockets?" is a comment upon Scott Summer's inability to grow up, or be a worthwhile leader. He always plays this ridiculous second fiddle to every single character, yet he shines through if the writer gives him half a chance. It just feels like every single writer on X-Men immediately backpedals the moment Scott Summers becomes too cool.

If I may go off on a rant: the treatment of Cyclops pisses me off. He's was the only character kept on for the all new, all different X-Men for a reason. He can stand up to anybody. He is shown constantly being in charge of the situation, until clay feet are forced upon him until he achieves ridiculous emo levels.

The third issue I ever read of the X-Men (after Wolverine saving his fiance, who then deemed him unworthy, natch) is Cyclops vs. the entire X-Men WITHOUT HIS POWERS. He beats them down, and on top of that, gets over the death of Jean Grey (this is the second time, right?). At this point I think, what a badass, he took down everyone, including this wolverine asshole.

I forget when exactly it happens, but it feels like 30 issues later, Claremont himself writes a powerless Storm* (whom Cyclops handily defeated already) takes over leadership after beating down a whiny Cyclops of the X-men. Cyclops goes back to whining, whining, whining.

That is what I especially hate about the X-Men movies, Cyclops can (and should have) shoot Wolverine's uppity self through the side of a building.

I guess my crazy love for this character comes from the X-Men cartoon. The coolest things I still remember from it is this: I think the X-Men save some people and CYCLOPS stays behind to take on Master Mold (or something). He commences boreing a tunnel through the earth with his eye powers. Coolest point here, we look through his visor, and see he has TERMINATOR VISON. targeting, GPS, and everything a mutant needs. Next coolest thing I remember of the same episode is the dude takes on a pitch black room of a hundred and a half Sentinels, and the action sequence is only lit by the use of Cyclop's own optic blasts. This was awesome times a billion to me as a kid, outside of the two second cameo where I freaked out upon seeing spider-man's HAND in an X-Men episode. (this is before the "new" Spider-Man series, I grew up post spider-man and his amazing friends, THUS the only time I ever saw Spider-Man ever move was when I watched the marvel productions logo over Muppet Babies.

I forgot what I was talking about. I've been drinking. You're welcome.

Nights of Cydonia is ridiculously awesome. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I like Muse now.

Noah said...

Well said Elijah, Cyclops is one of the greatest X-characters and few know it. I believe one of the prefaces of the Morrison New X-Men run was that ‘Cyclops is cool, really he is’ and everyone laughed at the time but Morrison really did make Cyclops cool and showed what is so cool about him. One criticism of Whedon is he could really have taken advantage of that more. I do think most writers hate the Cyclops character and that really is just a testament to there short sightedness.

James said...

noah, you think Whedon hasn't followed-up on Morrison's mission to make Cyclops cool? Re-read Astonishing X-Men #18, friend!

Matt Brady said...

#18, is that the one with the gun? That WAS awesome. I remember this issue (#7) being decent, along with the next one or two. But somewhere in the "Danger" arc, the story went off the rails. Strange. I think it just took too long to finish and seemed stretched out to fit into six issues. There were good moments (Wolverine "using up" a kid with healing powers, Xavier crashing a truck into Danger), but it just seemed to take too long. And maybe the villainous robot version of the danger room is kind of lame. The next arc was better, and the current one is pretty good too.

Matt Brady said...

Oh, and sorry for getting ahead of you there, Geoff. I should try to restrict comments to the issue being discussed, I guess.