Monday, July 30, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 8

[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run. For more of the same click the Astonishing X-Men label at the bottom of this post.]

The team deals with a reactivated Sentinel and discovers the Danger Room is the new enemy just after the children are locked inside with Kitty.

Three separate beats, three different scenes, on the first page, perfectly handled. A shot of the danger room on the second page foreshadows the conclusion. Whedon is good at foreshadowing. Within this issue we hear more of the dark voice that speaks to Emma without learning anything. This is important because this will not bear fruit until the next arc like 8 issues down the line. Set this stuff up early and do not lose track of it, and your story will stand better when the time comes. Brand gets a page here as well -- there is a mole in the mansion. She might get a page every issue in this arc. Ord takes out Wing, Wing releases Danger, Ord Danger and Emma's voice come to get revenge at the same moment and they all end up on the Breakworld. 24 issues tied tightly together.

Whedon does some cool stuff combining a classic sentinel with religious talk -- he crawls toward the mansion with "I come... I hear you, Lord...Praise be to Lord is watching you... she tells me the children will pay for the father's sins and I must not fear death." The classic Sentinel "Destroy" is revised by Whedon into the intriguing "Destroy the oppressors." "I want this thing off my lawn" says Scott and one amazing large red panel later it is down. If Cyclops gets a better moment in Morrison, or anywhere else, I cannot think of it. Even Wolverine says "Sometimes I remember why you are in charge." Whedon rehabilitates Scott much better than Morrison did, though Morrison layed the groundwork.

Wing is back as a twisted zombie ready to murder the children locked in the Danger Room with him. That is a great moment and I am hooked.

Unfortunately that is not where the issue ends. Two twists can be even better sometimes. But here, Whedon's second twist is a mess. Emma says "Our enemy is not in the danger room." Beat. "It is the Danger Room." The "its not IN x it IS x" is such a cliche, one devastated by the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode about Mothman (the third episode): Mothman parks a school bus in front of the house; Shake, scared out of his mind by nothing but his own fear thinks (for little reason) that there is a vampire in the bus, before shifting into "It's not IN the bus! It IS the bus! The bus of the undead!" When Sara and I read this issue together in a coffee shop in Oxford when we went to turn to the last page, before we even saw it, we were already saying together in our best Master Shake voice "It IS the danger room." That is not good. That is not the effect that is wanted.

Cassaday repeat/background watch. The farm guys get a triple take zoom, Emma gets a triple take, Cyclops gets a triple take zoom. Backgrounds are solid throughout. No problems here.


Brian G said...

I absolutely love the sequence with Scott removing his visor and obliterating the sentinel. Cyclops has always been my favorite X-Man and I feel that a lot of people don't understand the complexity and the potential of the character. So many people simply dismiss him as a dick and an uptight leader character, and while I understand that these are elements of his character, I think it's a shame that so many people act as if thats all he is. The perfect example of this would be his portrayal in all of the X-Men movies (I'm a huge fan of the first two regardless of this problem), I can see how Synger was trying to simply communicate the love triangle with Scott, Logan, and Jean having Scott be a jerk but he still deserved a bit more character development. I do still really enjoy the scene in the Statue of Liberty, in which Wolverine calls Cyclops a dick (one of the only Whedon lines to make it into the final script of the first film). Along with Whedon and Morrison, I feel that Millar did a great job with Cyclops in his Ultimate X-Men run.

Mikey said...

Geoff - great, great catch re the Aqua Teens riff. I think I spat my coffee when I first watched that scene, and pretty much just did the same now remembering it.

Count me in, also, to the 'Cyclops deserves more scenes like this' camp, where the character is allowed to breathe a little.

The casting of a doubt-prone figure for a leader chimes with the overall mutant condition, all neurosis, latency and potentiality, which I seem to remember Morrison referring to as 'cosmic soap opera', something Whedon has experience with.

Morrison moved the character forward right away, pretty much discarding the Scott-Jean-Logan triangle. However - two steps forward, one step back - he chose to immediately replace it with the newer Jean-Scott-Emma triangle, suggesting that Cyclops can never stand on his own, which some people may like to see for once (although, God forbid, not in a spin off series). Also - surely people are bored of love triangles by now? Albeit in a remixed form, this quickly reinstalled the conflict and self-doubt that seems to be an unavoidable aspect of his character for writers. I wonder why that is?

Morrison's run attempted, in part, to explore it a little more (literalised as the Black Bug Room) and get at why this might be. Cyclops running down the corridor of the Shi'ar ship, grinning, springs to mind as the foundation that Whedon takes up here. I think it takes someone like Whedon, a little more versed in and concerned with the 'traditional' story arc and character beat, to bring it out. Which is not to say that Morrison can't write that way, it's just that when it is there, it's part of the constantly moving background noise and effervescence that we love about him.

What a long, strange comment that was. Hell. The upshot of this is I'm going to have to go re-read Whedon's run now, and pick up the issues I don't have.

Dante Kleinberg said...

I agree. Greatest Cyclops moment ever. Think about the 3rd storyarc when Cyclops returns as the cavalry and you should know what I'm talking about. (Don't want to spoil it for those playing along with Geoff at home)